By Dennis Jones
As a generation, Millennials already stand out for distinctive business travel preferences. According to a recent American Express corporate traveler study, for instance, they travel more than older cohorts (38 percent versus 23% and 8% for Gen X-er’s and baby boomers respectively), focus more on deriving personal satisfaction from that travel, and are more dependent on digital technology and mobile capabilities throughout the travel journey. That is to say they research and book travel (hotels and flights) online, while also pioneering the adoption of share-economy accommodations in the enterprise. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that that same digital-first approach to travel pertains when Millennials are up in the air. As a recent Gogo study demonstrates, Millennials demand inflight connectivity. In fact, they expect to have the same mobile experience up at 30,000 feet that they do on the ground.
Let’s look inside the numbers. Gogo’s “The Travelers of Tomorrow” study surveys 4,500 respondents from 15 countries, spread out across six regions. What’s the study’s fundamental surmise? Just that the travelers of tomorrow will shape the inflight connectivity experience of the future. And those future travelers, defined as young travelers huddled around the ages of 18 to 35, expect “couch to cabin connectivity,” because they are more mobile and more mobile dependent than any previous generation.
One of the study’s many eye-opening statistics is the fact that future travelers use mobile devices for inflight connectivity twice as much as current travelers. Even more surprising, this vast, generational differential in inflight mobile device use doesn’t correspond at all to the likelihood that both sets of travelers will bring a mobile device on a flight. Both current and future travelers bring mobile devices on planes at roughly the same clip, although future travelers almost always bring smartphones on (89 percent of the time), where current travelers mostly bring them on (76 percent of the time). It’s when they get inflight that the mobile practices change, as future travelers are far more likely to access inflight connectivity than older cohorts.
Similarly, future travelers are more likely to use inflight Wi-Fi on more devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) for more activities (eg. accessing entertainment content) than older cohorts.
These numbers sound a clarion call to airlines. As the study’s authors note, future travelers will shape the connectivity practices of tomorrow; and those travelers are proving to be more loyal to inflight Wi-Fi than they are to inflight carriers. Though future travelers have strongly expressed preferences for certain airlines, Wi-Fi trumps those affinities, as almost half of respondents say that Wi-Fi is the deciding factor for booking travel.