Whether flying domestically or internationally, staying connected is the expectation of most business travelers. The thought of flying without Wi-Fi is unbearable and it does make you wonder why airlines are still charging for what seems to be a necessity.  Delta may have just turned free internet in the sky into a reality by recently testing free Wi-Fi on domestic short, medium and long-haul flights. Experts say Delta’s move will set the expectation of free Wi-Fi for the future and competitors will have no choice but to follow suit.

The Value of Mobility

Connectivity is highly valued and has moved from an optional amenity to a must-have service in a traveler’s world. With access to free Wi-Fi onboard, business travelers can enjoy the benefits of seamless communication, just as they did while waiting at the airport.  A recent survey by  Inmarsat found that onboard Wi-Fi leads to more productive business trips, as 87% of business travelers would use inflight Wi-Fi to continue working onboard and 51% would use the technology to keep in contact with family and friends on the ground.

Price and Customer Satisfaction

There’s another level of customer satisfaction when the word “free” is used. Currently the price of Wi-Fi on board varies and can range upwards to almost $30 for 24 hours of Wi-Fi. This price can be seen as an inconvenience and does not satisfy a customer’s needs. Free Wi-Fi could be the determining factor of choosing one airline over the other and customer satisfaction ultimately leads to customer loyalty. Inmarsat found that Wi-Fi is now so critical to passengers that 67% would be more likely to rebook with an airline if high-quality Wi-Fi was offered. Global passengers ranked Wi-Fi as the fourth most important factor, behind airline reputation, free checked baggage and extra leg room.

What’s Next?

This stage of Delta’s free Wi-Fi service is in its inception.  According to Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Delta’s director of onboard product, “Testing will be key to getting this highly complex program right — this takes a lot more creativity, investment and planning to bring to life than a simple flip of a switch.” Dimbiloglu added that due to the complexity of the project, it will likely take several more test phases and lots of listening to ensure the free product Delta delivers, adds value.

If added value is seen, free Wi-Fi is sure to be the expectation rather than the exception in the near future.

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