Delta’s new Wi-Fi offering launches this week — but it’s missing one important detail

Apr 29, 2021

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Some Delta passengers are in for an upgraded Wi-Fi experience starting later this week.

On Tuesday, the Atlanta-based carrier announced that the first jet — a new Airbus A321ceo (current engine option) — equipped with Viasat’s Ka-band receiver will enter service on Saturday, May 1. The new service will cost $8 per flight, per device, regardless of the destination.

However, there’s one thing missing from the news release — there’s no mention of Delta’s plan to offer free Wi-Fi for all passengers.

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In early 2019, Delta CEO Ed Bastian shared a goal for the airline to offer free, fast Wi-Fi on its flights within a year or two. Of course, the pandemic has since upended the industry, but Tuesday’s update omits any mention of Bastian’s promise.

But Delta says that’s still the plan.

“We are committed to delivering Free Wi-Fi in the future, and this is a significant step on that journey,” Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Delta’s director of brand experience – inflight entertainment a Wi-Fi, said in a statement to TPG.

“Our Free Wi-Fi pilot in spring 2019 gave us valuable insights to better understand the challenges to providing a service that meets our standard – and having the right equipment was a key part of that,” Dimbiloglu continued, saying the carrier is working to ensure its technology could handle the demand needed to provide free Wi-Fi. “Our vision for the future of travel will not come to life overnight. While we’ve had to shift our focus during the pandemic, our journey to offering the best customer experience possible has never stopped.”

It was just last week that Bastian spoke to TPG founder Brian Kelly in a Future of Travel webinar and reiterated that “we need to get Wi-Fi that works, Wi-Fi that is fully capable and Wi-Fi that’s also free.”

Connecting to Viasat means that the internet speeds should be faster than the current Gogo Wi-Fi portal — a key component of Delta’s free inflight internet promise.

Delta’s free Wi-Fi goal wasn’t mentioned in Tuesday’s announcement (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In January, Delta detailed plans to begin a shift away from Gogo Wi-Fi to instead join forces with rival Viasat, a move that was described as “a significant step” on the journey to free Wi-Fi.

Either way, flyers will likely prefer the Viasat connectivity. For one, it supports inflight streaming. If you can’t find something to watch on the seat-back monitor, you’ll be able to stream your favorite shows on-demand.

Delta will also debut a new internet landing page later this summer, dubbed Delta Portal Platform, with a brand-new user interface that supports a more personalized experience.

You’ll still be able to access free messaging with the new Wi-Fi service, but it remains to be seen if the carrier’s current free internet partnership with T-Mobile will carry over to Viasat — back in January, a Delta spokesperson was unable to confirm whether or not T-Mobile customers will be able to score free Wi-Fi on Viasat-equipped planes.

Tuesday’s news includes an updated rollout schedule for the remainder of the fleet. All new A321ceos, as well as Boeing 737-900s and 757-200s aircraft — a total of 300 jets — are slated to be outfitted with ViaSat by the end of 2021. The carrier promises to have “nearly all of its domestic mainline fleet” complete by the end of 2022.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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