Following up a survey that found dissatisfaction with airport and airline tech offerings, we asked frequent fliers and a pilot if the survey reflected the reality of the tech-unfriendly skies.
“Wi-Fi exists in all airports but should be free and unrestricted, like air and water.” That common sentiment was voiced by Michael Liebow, CEO Foretuit, an enterprise mobility company. Liebow is the kind of customer you might expect the air industry to bend over backwards for. He has racked up more than a million frequent flier miles on both Delta and American Airlines.
Of course, tech amenities such as Wi-Fi vary from airport to airport. And travelers aren’t just demanding free and reliable Internet access. These days the tech-savvy traveler wants better mobile boarding options and more push notifications about travel alerts and delays, according to a survey of 2,600 travelers released this week by FlightView, a provider of real-time travel information.
Among the survey’s key findings:
- Only 31% of travelers are satisfied with current in-flight Wi-Fi offerings, and only 42% are satisfied with airport Wi-Fi.
- 93% of travellers want flight status alerts, 73% want boarding alerts and 57% want seat upgrade info.
- 80% of travelers want to board with an electronic pass, but only 50% have had the opportunity and less than 60% took advantage of it.
- 37% of travelers use a tablet in flight while only 38% are still using laptops.
Europe Outpaces The U.S.
While the survey covered U.S. airports and travelers, international travelers told us that tech amenities are generally better both in non-U.S. airports and on airlines based in other countries. Liebow noted the highly touted tech offerings of Emirates, including mobile, curbside check-in, while Jennifer Haack of Berlin-based tourism startup Waymate gave high marks to Scandanavian SAS Airlines.
“As with many things, Scandinavians are ahead of the curve," she said. "SAS offers free Wi-Fi on all its flights. Stockholm airport offers up to three hours of free Wi-Fi, and the new terminal has plenty of outlets to easily charge your devices."
Delta Tops Domestic Carriers
While the FlightView survey didn’t drill down to offerings from specific airlines, travelers we spoke with mentioned Delta as the U.S. airline that offered the most tech amenities. At Delta’s terminal in Laguardia Airport (New York City), the airline offers free iPad stations to all customers - not just Delta SkyMile members.
“This is an excellent example of an airline embracing technology to meet the demands of travelers, particularly in a notoriously congested airport where any relief is welcome,” said Pete Meyers, a vice president with EuroCheapo.com who flies in and out of LaGuardia on a regular basis.
Evaluating Wi-Fi Service At Top Airports
Brian Hooks is a captain with American Eagle, a commuter fleet owned by AMR, parent corporation of American Airlines. He sees his fair share of airports in any given month. Hooks said service “is pretty poor across the board.”
Here’s how Hooks rated some of the airports he frequents:
- Raleigh/Durham International: Boingo provides Wi-Fi in the brand-new terminal, but it is among the worst Hooks has encountered. “It still drops out constantly and is slow when it does work, plus you pay,” Hooks said.
- Reagan National (Washington, DC): Just “okay,” according to Hooks. The service is free, he said, “but the signal won't extend to the end of the concourse.”
- Toronto: Free and decent with good range, according to Hooks.
- JFK (New York City): Another Boingo-serviced airport, and another airport with “poor and pricy” Wi-Fi. The exception, Hooks said, is the JetBlue terminal, where the Wi-Fi is free and works well.