A passenger browses the internet on a flight from Beijing to Chengdu in Sichuan province. (LI DONG / FOR CHINA DAILY)
The three Asia Pacific airlines with the highest customer expectations of high quality in-flight Wi-Fi are all from China－Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines.
A report released last month by Inmarsat, a London-based leading provider of global satellite communication services, said these airlines would lead the industry as they recognize the value of making in-flight broadband available to passengers, who are increasingly seeing it as a necessity and a major factor when choosing an airline.
Otto Gergye, vice-president of Inmarsat Aviation Asia-Pacific, said: "In fact, those three airlines have already offered free in-flight Wi-Fi for some of their flights. The in-flight connectivity sector in China is expected to pick up given the demand from Chinese passengers."
"In order for Chinese airlines to edge out the competition and lead the connectivity market in the Asia-Pacific region, ensuring the availability of high quality onboard Wi-Fi is imperative. This would differentiate customer experience and foster loyal customer relationships."
Currently, adults in China spend an average of 1 hour and 38 minutes daily, with their smartphones, according to data provided by consultancy eMarketer.
The report found that 55 percent of respondents from China said they were willing to give up their preferred airline in the next year if poor quality in-flight connectivity was offered.
With airlines in every market racing to install or upgrade their Wi-Fi offering, passengers will have a choice to opt for an airline that offers high-quality broadband, and will soon turn their back on airlines not offering this, according to the report, which surveyed more than 9,000 passengers worldwide in February.
"Specifically, passengers in China are most conscious of the quality of in-flight Wi-Fi. Passengers in China look forward to the flexibility and freedom to continue the lifestyle on the plane as they would on the ground," Gergye said.
"Good quality Wi-Fi in the air is changing the way people think about flying. Whether using the time to work, to connect with friends and family, or to pass the time shopping or viewing entertainment, the availability of in-flight broadband has become a major factor when choosing an airline. It's clear the opportunity that connectivity presents to airlines cannot be underestimated."
Meanwhile, passengers in the Asia-Pacific region are among the most willing-to-pay group globally for in-flight Wi-Fi, with 91 percent of them willing to pay on long-haul flights and 79 percent on short-haul flights.
The report also found that more than half of passengers in the Asia-Pacific region would take advantage of the ability to purchase items from the plane and collect them on arrival at the airport, and one third of respondents said they would choose to have in-flight purchases delivered to their home.
Finnair has enjoyed the benefits of its onboard connectivity. Since June, passengers have been able to use Alipay and Wi-Fi on all routes between China and Finland.