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A study conducted by American Airlines and Hewlett-Packard has found that frequent flyers would rather geek than eat, with more than 47 percent saying that airport wireless access was an important amenity, compared to about 18 percent who said food was.

The purpose of the study was to help promote American Airlines for high-tech business travelers; the company pointed out that it offers power ports on all of its mainline aircraft, available at each seat in First and Business class, as well as selected rows in the Economy cabin, and that it planned to install Gogo Inflight Internet -- which it first installed last August -- on more than 300 domestic aircraft over the next two years. (Gogo costs $12.95 for flights more than three hours, and $9.95 for flights less than three hours, and purports to be full Internet access.)

The study was not scientific and it was conducted in such a way as to elicit that sort of response; it was conducted by email to American's "loyal customer database," who had taken more than 20 trips in the previous year, and people only responded if they wanted to. In addition, while the companies said they had received 1,582 responses, they did not say how many people had received the survey, so the response rate is impossible to calculate.

Other findings included the following:

  • A combined 67.7 percent of frequent travelers surveyed said a dead battery (41.4 percent) and no place to plug in (26.3 percent) were their largest complaints.
  • 24 percent said access to electrical power is the most important technology amenity aboard a plane. American did not say whether this was the leading response.
  • More than 90 percent of frequent travelers surveyed have a notebook and phone. If wifiwere enabled onboard, 70.5 percent would choose their notebook as their primary device for conducting business-related work, with mobile phones (with telephony turned off) second at 19.8 percent.
  • More than 96 percent of respondents conduct work-related activities at their hotels. 85 percent conduct work-related activities at the airport, but this number drops to 52.6 percent onboard a flight. Travelers say they scramble to conduct work-related items (for example, sending e-mails, making calls) at the gate before they take off (76 percent).