Surprise! Wi-Fi Alliance Says Travelers Want Wi-Fi on Planes

[qi:___wifi] The Wi-Fi Alliance, the groups that certifies Wi-Fi devices and markets the wireless technology, has conducted a survey, released today, that found that 76 percent of people would choose an airline based on whether or not it offers in-flight WiFi-based broadband. However, only 31 percent of those surveyed have actually used Wi-Fi on planes, and once they try it out, their expectations of the service’s utility could get crushed like an open laptop crammed between your knees and the reclining passenger in front of you.

Still, of the 480 travelers surveyed by the Wakefield Research on behalf of the Wi-Fi Alliance, 55 percent were willing to move their flight times by one day in order to catch a plane with web access. Seventy-one percent would rather have Wi-Fi than a meal. For those who have not used Wi-Fi in-flight, 87 percent expected they would use it to tackle email, and 63 percent said they would to sign into other online productivity tools for work.

However, among those who have hopped online in air, the reality was less likely to match up with corporate expectations. Among survey respondents (all of whom who were business travelers) who have used in-flight Wi-Fi, 72 percent use it to check personal email; 68 percent check work email; 49 percent browse the web; 35 percent stream videos or music; 28 percent shop online; 25 percent play online video games, and 22 percent use social-networking applications.

My guess is that unless they were flying first class or using a tiny netbook, those road warriors trying to get $8 or $12 of utility out of the service while wedged in between the seats in the economy section of the plane, may have given up on laptop-style productivity and tuned into their iPod touch or iPhone’s compact computing for a little R&R. I don’t blame them. I’ve had the opportunity to try in-flight Wi-Fi and found it altogether miserable. If airlines really expect this to be a multimillion-dollar-a-year revenue stream, maybe they can help users find a few inches of room as they travel those miles.

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