Staying connected – Asia Pacific air passengers show increasing confidence to travel

16 November, 2022

It has followed much later than the rest of the world, but the removal of restrictions means that air travel is now recovering well across Asia Pacific (APAC) from the COVID-19 limitations of the past couple of years.

Positively, three quarters of airline passengers across APAC now feel confident about flying again, a new study from satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat shows, a significant rise on the 6% who recorded the same outlook in last year’s edition of its Passenger Experience survey.

And staying connected does not just refer to flying but also to technology with three in four survey respondents (74%) valuing the availability of inflight WiFi and even more (83%) willing to rebook with an airline if high quality connectivity was available on the flight.

The results of the Inmarsat Passenger Experience Survey 2022 are based on global research conducted by Censuswide in Aug-2022 and Sep-2022. Over 11,000 travellers who had flown by air in the past year from across ten countries responded. The APAC results are based on over 4,000 responses across Australia, India, Singapore and South Korea.

A renewed confidence in flying across Asia Pacific…

With the general easing of travel restrictions, there has been renewed confidence in air travel. These were reflected in findings across the surveyed countries in APAC, with India (88%) topping the list, followed by Australia and Singapore (79%), and South Korea (53%).

… and a heightened desire to stay connected

As appetite for travel rebuilds, airlines are now enhancing efforts to create the best possible flying experience. Inflight connectivity remains one of the leading factors that influence which airline is selected by APAC passengers, with more than four-fifths (83%) more likely to rebook with an airline if quality inflight Wi-Fi was available, an increase from 78% in the previous year.

The heightened desire to stay connected while travelling is also evident with almost three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed saying it is important to connect to Wi-Fi when flying, up from 39% in 2021.

Creating more meaningful and compelling digital experiences

The greater zest for travel and increasing demand for connectivity presents an opportunity for airlines to create more meaningful and compelling digital experiences for travellers beyond just inflight connectivity.

Inflight connectivity is a prime example. Passenger demand for fast and reliable Wi-Fi has never been higher, so providing access to such services is absolutely essential for airlines, according to David Coiley, Asia Pacific regional vice president, Inmarsat Aviation.

This serves “as the foundation to enhance the overall onboard experience through digitalisation,” he says. The 2020 survey results indicate that such practices will not only be embraced by passengers, helping to drive their future brand loyalty, but also unlock even greater revenue generation opportunities, according to Inmarsat.

Digital device deployment high on Asia Pacific flights

The latest survey shows the volume of APAC passengers using digital devices on flights remains high at 96% – mostly for entertainment and administrative tasks. In addition, 78% have connected to inflight broadband when available on a flight, more than double the percentage from the previous year (38%).

This demonstrates passengers continue to value top-notch inflight connectivity, suggesting airlines “should prioritise the availability of reliable Wi-Fi and simplify the signing up process for travellers to stay connected,” advises Inmarsat.

Travellers across APAC are willing to trade for connectivity

Travellers across APAC are also willing to trade for connectivity.

“Passengers are even telling us they would go without an alcoholic drink or a seat to ensure they get good inflight Wi-Fi," adds Mr Coiley.

More than a third (36%) of respondents to the Inmarsat study said they would be willing to view advertisements and 32% claim they would even give up alcoholic drinks inflight if it means having access to quality and consistent connectivity.

Interestingly, close to one in three (29%) travellers from India said they are willing go as far as standing for the entire duration for the flight if it meant access to reliable Wi-Fi onboard.

Watching downloaded movies or TV shows was the most popular onboard activity passengers would engage in while connected – a figure that is unsurprising, considering that 32% indicated they would pay more to access exclusive inflight entertainment content while flying. In addition, 28% would pay more for both unlimited downloads and social media usage.

Cost remains the single most prohibitive factor to being connected

Although the Inmarsat results show APAC passengers are willing to pay for better or more connectivity-enabled experiences during their flights, cost remains the single most prohibitive factor across all markets, with Australian passengers (56%) feeling the most strongly about it.

Four in five (80%) APAC passengers also believe that Wi-Fi should be free on long-haul flights, with fewer than half (49%) saying the same for short-haul flights.

Travellers value and even prioritise staying connected

Like their peers around the world, the survey indicates today's APAC post-pandemic travellers clearly value and even prioritise staying connected throughout their entire journey, including while in the air. As the demand for travel continues to recover and climb further, Inmarsat says “there are clear opportunities” for airlines to tap into the demand for connectivity and offer passengers a richer inflight experience.