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Expect More and Better In-Flight Wi-Fi in 2018

“From British Airways in the U.K. to Qantas in Australia, Wi-Fi at 32,000 feet is now more ubiquitous than ever before.”

That’s one of the key takeaways from Routehappy’s just-released report on the availability and quality of onboard Wi-Fi.

Other notable findings:

  • In 2018, in-flight Wi-Fi is available on 82 airlines, a 17% increase from 2017
  • But only 43% of available seat miles (ASMs) feature Wi-Fi
  • U.S. airlines offer Wi-Fi on 86% of their ASMs
  • Only 3 airlines offer Wi-Fi on 100% of their flights: Icelandair, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic
  • The 3 airlines that feature Wi-Fi on the most ASMs: Delta, American, Emirates

It’s not just availability that’s improved; Wi-Fi quality has been trending upward as well. Routehappy breaks down Wi-Fi speed among Basic, Better, and Best. Basic (sufficient for web browsing but not for streaming media) is only offered on 27 percent of worldwide ASMs, a 16 percent decrease from 2017. Better Wi-Fi is most common, found on 57 percent of ASMs. And while Best Wi-Fi is only currently offered on 16 percent of worldwide ASMs, it’s the fastest-growing category, up 129 percent from 2017.

The trend is decidedly in the direction of higher-speed Wi-Fi. That’s a win for air travelers, who can look forward to streaming their favorite TV shows and movies on their preferred electronic devices. But it’s also a win for the airlines, which are increasingly opting to forego seatback entertainment systems, choosing instead to let passengers provide their own entertainment. That’s a money- and weight-saving move for the airlines. And of course, most airlines charge for Wi-Fi, so it’s a revenue-generator as well.

Reader Reality Check

Has your experience with in-flight Wi-Fi been improving lately?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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