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Free Wi-Fi is officially here as Delta unveils new personalized inflight experience

Jan. 05, 2023
7 min read
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It's been a long time coming, but free Wi-Fi aboard Delta Air Lines flights is finally here.

The Atlanta-based carrier is formally launching this hotly anticipated offering Feb. 1 across more than 540 domestic aircraft. Delta CEO Ed Bastian shared the news at the CES event in Las Vegas on Thursday, as part of his keynote address about building connections and community.

There's much more to the story though, as free Wi-Fi is only the start of a new personalized experience, dubbed Delta Sync, that was unveiled Thursday.

Here's the latest.

Free Wi-Fi starts now

Beginning Feb. 1, Delta will offer free Wi-Fi to all SkyMiles members on 540 domestic mainline jets.

This has been a long time coming for the carrier, as Bastian first shared his vision for free Wi-Fi back in early 2019. Bastian's goal at the time was to "make Wi-Fi free with high-speed quality," and now the carrier is ready to deliver on that objective.

To do that, the airline has upgraded most of its domestic fleet with Viasat satellite antennas, which deliver a faster and more reliable connection than the legacy internet provider, Gogo.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Since 2021, Delta has been testing the new Viasat internet connectivity on its retrofitted jets, and the service has received rave reviews from flyers, myself included.

Late last year, the carrier began offering free Wi-Fi to Medallion elite members, and it then expanded the pool of eligible travelers to include all SkyMiles members.

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These tests seemingly went well, as the carrier gears up to "flip the switch" on free Wi-Fi beginning Feb. 1.

At launch, free Wi-Fi will only be available on Viasat-equipped jets, which include 540 planes. By the end of the year, Delta expects 700 jets to be fitted with Viasat radomes.

Currently, the following Delta planes have been reconfigured with Viasat connectivity:

  • Entire Airbus A321 fleet.
  • Majority of the Boeing 757-200 fleet.
  • Majority of the Boeing 737-900ER fleet.
  • Select Airbus A320 planes.
  • Select Airbus A319 planes.
  • Select Airbus A220-300 planes.
  • Select Boeing 737-800 planes.

Delta will enable free Wi-Fi throughout its entire fleet, including international wide-bodies by mid-2024 and smaller single-aisle regional jets by the end of next year.

You can see if your flight will feature free Wi-Fi during the booking process by looking for the "Fast-streaming Wi-Fi" banner on the search page on Delta's website.

DELTA.COM

The free Wi-Fi offering will launch in partnership with T-Mobile and will be available to all SkyMiles members with no device restrictions.

If you're not a SkyMiles member, you'll be able to sign up while in flight to enjoy free internet access. If you don't want to enroll in Delta's loyalty program, Wi-Fi will be available for a flat fee of $10 per device, regardless of flight duration.

During the trial, Delta tested Wi-Fi for $5 per device, so the new flat fee is double what it was previously, giving travelers even more reason to sign up for SkyMiles.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Delta Sync

While free Wi-Fi may be the big news, Delta isn't stopping there. The airline is building a personalized platform for its onboard entertainment and internet portal that's called Delta Sync.

At the outset, Delta Sync will include two main components: Delta Sync Exclusives Hub and Delta Sync on Demand.

The former will be available through the deltawifi.com internet portal and will include personalized content, offers and entertainment options.

A beta version of this hub will launch this spring (likely around April, according to a carrier spokesperson) and will include content from Paramount+, free access to New York Times games (Wordle, Spelling Bee and the crossword), destination guides from Atlas Obscura and restaurant recommendations from Resy.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Delta's new partnership with Paramount+ will enable SkyMiles members who do not have an existing subscription to stream Paramount+ for free up to 24 hours from the start of their flight without commercials.

SkyMiles members will also be eligible to earn miles with Delta when they subscribe to a new paid Paramount+ account. More details of the tie-up are expected in the coming weeks.

Paramount+ offers a slew of TV shows and top-rated movies for all ages, including "Tulsa King," "Criminal Minds: Evolution," "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Clifford the Big Red Dog."

The Exclusives Hub will also offer SkyMiles members personalized offers from American Express, which will likely include new card offers, spending bonuses and more as part of the airline's multibillion-dollar partnership with Amex.

Meanwhile, Delta Sync on Demand will be a SkyMiles-member exclusive software that's added to the airline's 146,000 seatback TV screens.

When logging in to your SkyMiles account on the seatback entertainment system, you'll enjoy a personalized interface that includes a new journey planner functionality, content recommendations and real-time notifications for your entire travel journey.

Another exciting feature debuting on the Delta Sync on Demand interface will be the ability to order food and beverages through the seatback monitor. At launch, this functionality will exclusively be available in domestic first class, though Delta may expand the service depending on customer and flight attendant feedback.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

These offerings will debut in beta testing this summer and evolve over time. As you might expect, each seatback screen must be updated with the new software, so it'll likely take the carrier some time to outfit its entire fleet with this interface. (No hardware changes are needed to enable this system, Delta confirmed to TPG.)

It's worth noting that Delta Sync on Demand is an optional customization portal that'll exist on top of Delta Studio. If you don't want to log in or prefer not to enroll in SkyMiles, you'll continue to enjoy Delta's pre-loaded entertainment choices with no changes.

In addition to the aforementioned platforms, the airline will rebrand its facial recognition check-in process already in existence in Atlanta and Detroit as Delta Sync facial matching.

As before, SkyMiles members who opt in to this feature can drop off their bags, clear ID checks and board using just a quick scan of their face.

Taking miles out of SkyMiles

For now, Delta is essentially sharing its vision for the future of onboard connectivity and entertainment. (There aren't even any mockups or renderings available at this time.)

That said, the carrier is doubling down on personalization throughout the travel journey, giving SkyMiles members more access to content and experiences that aren't available to the general public.

By keeping these new experiences and free Wi-Fi limited to SkyMiles members, the airline underscores the importance of joining its loyalty program.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

As Delta has shared, SkyMiles members are more likely to be repeat customers, sign up for cobranded credit cards and pursue ancillary revenue opportunities.

So, it seemingly makes sense for the airline to incentivize travelers to enroll and engage with SkyMiles through the launch of free Wi-Fi and Delta Sync.

No one puts it better than Bastian: "Delta Sync elevates what it means to be a Delta SkyMiles member by enabling a journey that fits you perfectly and grows more rewarding the more you travel," he said.

Featured image by ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees