Mobile Device Use and Air Travel

Smartphone, Mobile Device

Smartphone for travel

Mobile devices, which include smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices, have become a must have accessory during the 21st century. As mobile device ownership has expanded, so has the perceived importance of mobile devices to air passengers before and during travel. Studies related to mobile device usage demonstrate the frequency of mobile device usage related to air travel.

Mobile Device Usage Surveys

Mobile device usage habits have been the subject of multiple surveys. Below is a summary of key statistics on air travelers’ behavior and opinions from studies published by Google[1], Amadeus[2], and TripAdvisor[3], respectively.

  • 69.0% of business travelers and 52.0% of leisure travelers have downloaded a travel-related app.
  • 43.0% of business travelers plan to research or use peer-to-peer sharing alternatives to traditional transportation or lodging options.
  • 19.0% of leisure travelers have booked air travel on a smartphone.
  • 36.3% of passengers would like to use smartphones during flights.
  • 59.0% of U.S. consumers use social media travel-related sites.
  • 69.0% use mobile devices to check flight status in 2014, up from 56.0% in 2013.
  • 55.0% use mobile devices for flight check-in during 2014, up from 38.0% in 2013.

A separate study by DePaul University examined mobile device usage during air travel and other modes of travel. Presented below is a summary of the findings from this study.[4]

  • 35.9% of travelers used such devices during air travel in 2014 versus 17.6% in 2010. Note: the study did not specify what portion of the flights studied offered in-flight Wi-Fi.
  • By comparison, 52.4% of travelers used such devices on Amtrak trains in 2014 versus 34.4% in 2010. Amtrak passengers, unlike in-flight air passengers, benefit from the ability of passengers to connect to cellular networks for voice and data.
  • The inability for travelers to use their phones for communication or connect to the internet during taxiing and takeoff/landing remains a deterrent to the use of smartphones during flights.

Influence of Wi-Fi on Mobile Device Usage

Wi-Fi availability positively influences mobile device usage. In addition, since in-flight Wi-Fi is typically not free, the willingness of passengers to pay to access in-flight Wi-Fi also positively influences mobile device usage. Based upon a 2014 survey of U.S. internet users, 27.2% of air travelers indicated that they had used in-flight Wi-Fi services.[5] Of passengers using in-flight Wi-Fi, 48.0% used it for entertainment purposes, 39.8% used it for work purposes, and 12.2% used it for communicating with friends on the ground. Reasons for in-flight Wi-Fi use vary by age and income brackets, respectively. For example, the greatest frequencies of use of in-flight Wi-Fi for work purposes were reported by air passengers between 35 and 44 years old (51.9%) and air passengers with annual income between $75,000 and $99,000 (63.2%).

Mobile Device Potential

Mobile devices offer a unique opportunity for airlines and others to fulfill the on-demand needs of air travelers. The below quote from the research firm Amadeus addresses the importance of mobile devices to serving the needs of passengers.[6]

“Mobile commerce is all about immediacy and ancillary sales on mobile devices provide the passenger with the ability to instantaneously alter their travel experience…Related to this instantaneous change is the ability to allow consumers to buy impulsively…Mobile commerce is all about allowing the consumer to buy what they want, when they want it on any device. Triggering impulse buying should be a part of all airlines’ mobile strategy.”


We believe that the information and survey data related to mobile device usage by air passengers reflects positively on the potential demand for apps targeting the air travel vertical market. Greater availability of Wi-Fi in-flight will also support the potential for such apps. Business travelers and other air travelers who are willing to pay for Wi-Fi can take advantage of apps that enhance the air travel experience. A growth in mobile device usage during air travel increases the potential for Seateroo as a market for airline seat swaps.

[1] “The 2013 Traveler”, Google, November 2013.

[2] “The always-connected traveler: How mobile will transform the future of air travel”, Amadeus IT Group, November 2012.

[3] “2014 TripAdvisor Air Travel Survey”,

[4] “The Personal Tech Tidal Wave: The Rising Use of Electronic Devices on Intercity Buses, Planes & Trains”, Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University, July 2, 2014.

[5] “Majority of Fliers Use In-Flight Wi-Fi For Entertainment and Personal Use, Not Work”,, May 27, 2015.

 [6] “The always-connected traveler: How mobile will transform the future of air travel”, Amadeus IT Group, November 2012.

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