Virgin Atlantic will offer free Wi-Fi for passengers — but not any time soon

Mar 5, 2021

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Virgin Atlantic plans to roll out free Wi-Fi as part of its offering to passengers. But, don’t expect to be able to take advantage any time soon, as the airline says that free Wi-Fi is still a long ways off.

As reported by PaxEx.aero, Virgin Atlantic’s In-Flight Entertainment and Communications Manager Mark Cheyney said in a Connected Aviation Intelligence webinar that the carrier is still relying on paid Wi-Fi as a “revenue driver.”

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“We don’t see it being a revenue driver forever,” Cheyney said. “There will come a time where Wi-Fi is free. We’re edging closer to it, but we’re not there yet.”

A company spokesperson then clarified that the airline doesn’t “currently have plans to make Wi-Fi free.”

Nevertheless, the prospect of free Wi-Fi on Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul flights — in whatever the timeline — is a promising one.

The carrier’s partner Delta Air Lines, which also owns 49% of Virgin, offers free messaging on its flights. Earlier this year, Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian shared the airline’s goal that it plans to offer free Wi-Fi within a year or two.

Related: Delta’s laying the groundwork for free inflight internet with latest Wi-Fi move

Delta’s decision to offer free Wi-Fi was spurred by its transition from Gogo to satellite-based Viasat. Viasat controls its entire network, which means lower costs for Delta, allowing the airline to make the move to a free model.

Virgin Atlantic’s Wi-Fi provider is Inmarsat on just its Airbus A350 fleet and has contracts with the likes of Panasonic and Gogo on its other types of aircraft. It’s unclear if Virgin plans to consolidate those contracts into a single provider. If so, it would make the rollout of free Wi-Fi more manageable and cost-effective.

In recent months, Virgin Atlantic has been more closely aligning its offering with Delta. Earlier this week, the airline announced that it will begin charging for more-desirable economy seats, such as those closer to the front of the plane. Delta — as well as Virgin’s joint-venture partners Air France and KLM — already charge for that.

At the start of the year, Virgin massively devalued its partner award chart for Delta, before backtracking on the full scope of the changes.

Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.

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