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Delta to 'soon' make good on promise of free inflight Wi-Fi

July 20, 2022
3 min read
Delta Airbus A321neo
Delta to 'soon' make good on promise of free inflight Wi-Fi
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Before the pandemic, Delta CEO Ed Bastian shared some lofty goals for inflight connectivity.

Bastian promised in early 2019 that Delta's goal was to "make Wi-Fi free with high-speed quality." And now, just over three years later, the carrier is well on its way to delivering on that promise, even if it comes a few months after the initial timeline of one to two years.

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Delta is trialing a new free Wi-Fi service on select domestic flights this summer, and it plans to then roll out complimentary Wi-Fi on all domestic flights "soon," according to an internal memo first seen by Thrifty Traveler and later confirmed to TPG by a carrier spokesperson. The carrier then plans to turn on free Wi-Fi for international routes by the end of 2024, the internal memo said.

Delta's managing director of brand experience, Ekrem Dimbiloglu, shared in a statement with TPG that this is just another step on the journey to actualizing Bastian's vision for free onboard Wi-Fi.

"Just as Ed said at CES 2020: onboard Wi-Fi should be Free – and our mission to deliver on that vision hasn’t changed. We’ve made significant investments over the last two years to make it happen, and while we are significantly closer to delivering fast, reliable and Free Wi-Fi onboard, it’s important we apply our innovation DNA to test, learn and scale intentionally to deliver the unparalleled experience our customers expect from Delta," Dimbiloglu said.

The move to make Wi-Fi free comes as Delta has been expeditiously retrofitting its mainline fleet with higher-speed Viasat satellite-based Wi-Fi.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The airline's new Wi-Fi service is expected to be installed on a vast majority of the airline's mainline fleet by the end of the year.

So far, many new and retrofitted Airbus A321s, Boeing 737-900ERs and Boeing 757-200s feature upgraded satellite connectivity. Travelers on one of these jets that already feature the new Delta Wi-Fi system can currently connect to the system for a flat $5 fee per device, regardless of flight distance.

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In my experience, the speeds and reliability of the Viasat connection have been some of the best in the sky.

For now, it appears that Delta's free Wi-Fi rollout will be limited to mainline jets. Flights operated by Delta Connection affiliates on short regional hops, which typically feature slower air-to-ground connectivity through Gogo, won't initially be included in the complimentary internet access offer.

While Delta has already made Fprogress in refitting its fleet with Viasat connectivity, it's still technically playing catch-up with JetBlue.

The New York-based carrier has famously offered free gate-to-gate Wi-Fi for years with no speed caps or device restrictions.

Delta's competitors have also been busy upgrading their inflight connectivity offerings. United recently debuted $8 flat-fee pricing for Wi-Fi on its domestic jets for MileagePlus members.

American Airlines recently launched (and extended) a free internet trial aboard its Viasat-equipped jets.

Meanwhile, Southwest recently announced that it's adding a new internet provider (Viasat) and upgrading its existing one (Anuvu) across its fleet of Boeing 737s.

Just last week, Spirit shared that its Wi-Fi rollout is now (nearly) complete and that it would start charging higher prices for its growing and streaming speeds.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
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