56% of Australians want in-flight Internet

Angus Kidman 30 May 2017

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Not great news if you happen to favour a laptop ban.

I've been drooling with excitement ever since learning that both Qantas and Virgin will be rolling out in-flight Internet on domestic flights this year. Even the odd glitch on Qantas' demo flight for journalists hasn't quashed my enthusiasm. But occasionally I've sat down with a glass of merlot and asked myself: Is everyone else actually that jazzed about it? Is there a silent majority which wants planes to remain blissfully disconnected?

Fortunately for me, new research suggests the answer is no. A survey of 2,010 Australians conducted by finder.com.au found that 56% of us are looking forward to being able to connect in-flight. A quarter of potential fliers simply don't care, and only 19% actively dislike the prospect. I'll wager that the figure would be a lot lower if people realised that you can't make voice or video calls using the service. The prospect of sitting next to some talkative jerk yapping to his mates for the entire flight is understandably disheartening.

The reasons why people do want to get online aren't surprising either. The top choice wasn't to stay connected and to get work done, but to have access to more in-flight entertainment options. While both Qantas and Virgin have decent in-flight entertainment as it is, the key disadvantage of those systems is limited choice. In an era where not having seen the latest Netflix series can be social death, controlling your own choices is clearly preferable.

The enthusiasm for Wi-Fi also serves as a reminder that any ban on taking laptops into carry-on luggage will be deeply, deeply unpopular. Right now, the proposals to do that from both Australia and the US are only looking at international flights, so the Qantas and Virgin domestic Wi-Fi services wouldn't be directly impacted. But it would be naive to assume that those bans might not be extended.

In Australia, we've been lucky in that respect. For instance, there's no ban on liquids over 100ml on domestic flights, though there is for international legs. In many other countries, including the UK and US, that ban applies whenever you board a commercial flight. Let's hope we don't see a similar logic applied to the laptop ban. Come to that, let's hope we don't see a ban at all.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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