In-flight wi-fi takes off

In-flight wi-fi is more important than meals or movies, according to a survey of business travelers.

Those polled by Wakefield Research for the Wi-Fi Alliance claimed they’d be willing to make significant sacrifices or change travel plans to ensure wi-fi access in the air. More than three quarters said they’d choose an airline on the basis of whether it had wi-fi or not.

Over half said they’d shift their flight by a day if it meant getting Wifi, and 71 percent said they’d opt for a flight with wi-fi access over one that provided meal service.

“In-flight wi-fi will become a major productivity tool for business travelers, a retention benefit for frequent flyer programs and a major revenue generator for the airlines, all during a downturn in the global economy,” said Berge Ayvazian, Senior Analyst for Yankee Group. “This survey demonstrates the pent-up demand for broadband internet access in-flight and the wide range of potential business and personal applications.”

According to the latest figures from Instat, over 1,000 new wi-fi products were launched last year. The biggest growth areas, though, were stationary devices like televisions, digital audio players and digital photo frames. Hewlett Packard’s going great guns: it had the most wi-fi enabled new product introductions in 2008, three times as many as it launched in 2007.