Bemoan the service, fees, and food, but nowhere will your Wi-Fi gadget be as connected as on a U.S. airline flight.
When it comes to working at 40,000 feet, Americans have fewer excuses to slack off than their peers around the globe: American, Delta, and United lead the world in having most of their fleets equipped with relatively decent Wi-Fi.
Almost three-fourths of U.S. airline “seat miles,” an industry measure of capacity, now have Wi-Fi, according to the “Global State of Inflight Wi-Fi” report from Routehappy, a company that tracks airline amenities.
“Basically, when flying in the U.S., unless you are on the smallest regional jets and turboprops, or an ultra low-cost carrier, the chance of having Wi-Fi is almost certain,” said Jason Rabinowitz, data research manager at the New York startup.
Emirates, the largest airline in international service, ranks fourth on the Wi-Fi-connected list, followed by Southwest, according to Routehappy’s annual report, released Thursday.
Outside the U.S, only 53 airlines offer Wi-Fi. The three fast-growing Middle East airlines — Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar — rank among the top 10 globally. Lufthansa, which now offers Wi-Fi on 100% of its long-haul fleet, and Singapore Airlines are also among the top 10. JetBlue Airways has fast Wi-Fi on its entire Airbus A320 and A321 fleets and is rapidly adding the service to Embraer jets.
Of the 10 long-haul routes with the most service, the best connected route is New York-Dubai, the report found, owing to the technology equipage on Emirates’ superjumbo A380, used for its three daily flights. (Emirates is rapidly catching up to U.S. carriers when it comes to offering Wi-Fi fleetwide.) The least connected long route is Hong Kong-London, where only 13% of the seat miles have Wi-Fi. British Airways and Cathay Pacific dominate the nonstop service on that route.
Around the world, the airlines with ample Wi-Fi access represent a hodgepodge of different business models. Scoot, a low-cost carrier based in Singapore, offers Wi-Fi on all its flights, for example. And on long-haul routes, where Wi-Fi could prove most critical to a businessperson, Russia’s Aeroflot, Aer Lingus of Ireland, and Garuda Indonesia have almost as much Wi-Fi coverage as Lufthansa.
“Some airlines see it as a way to secure the leisure traveler and offer live TV,” Rabinowitz said. “Others see it as vital to the business traveler. It’s all very varied.”