Delta Air Lines is moving further along its path of offering free Wi-Fi on flights, a years-long effort of testing and gradual technology upgrades.
Atlanta-based Delta launched a test of free Wi-Fi over the summer, and has continued that “with various offerings to select customers on select routes,” according to the company. “Customers will be notified if they have this option on their flight.”
The airline’s fees for Wi-Fi normally start at $5 per flight.
In recent months, frequent fliers on Delta planes equipped with high-speed Wi-Fi have welcomed the ability to use the Internet connectivity for free as SkyMiles members.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2018 that he wanted to eventually make in-flight Wi-Fi free, but warned that it could be a few years before that happens.
“We’re working on it,” Bastian said this fall. “We’re getting closer.”
Availability depends in part on whether particular aircraft are equipped for the high-speed Wi-Fi service being offered for free.
Airlines may hesitate to trumpet an amenity that’s not widely available across their operations, since customers who expect to have that service would be disappointed if it’s not available on their flight.
ThriftyTraveler.com reported in July that Delta in an internal memo said it plans to launch complimentary Wi-Fi on all domestic flights “soon,” and would expand free Wi-Fi to international routes by the end of 2024.
The Wall Street Journal this week reported Delta would begin rolling out free Wi-Fi on a “significant portion” of its planes next year— though the service has been available on a number of flights throughout testing this year.
Delta has installed high-speed satellite-based Viasat Wi-Fi on its Airbus A319s and A320s as well as some A321s and some Boeing 737s and 757s, according to its website.
On many of its other aircraft, Delta has an older form of Wi-Fi provided by Intelsat, formerly Gogo. T-Mobile is offering limited free Intelsat inflight Wi-Fi to some of its customers on some flights on Delta, United and American Airlines, as well as on Alaska Airlines.
For now, inflight Wi-Fi service can be spotty and difficult to rely on. Travelers have for years voiced frustration with the quality of Wi-Fi service on flights.
But reliable inflight Wi-Fi is a service valued by many passengers—including business travelers who are particularly lucrative customers for Delta—because it allows them to remain connected and use their time in the air productively.
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