Delta Air Lines will offer free onboard Wi-Fi on the majority of its flights from 1 February 2023, reports CNN. The carrier will become the first of the so-called ‘big three’ US airlines to allow travellers free internet access.
.@TMobile & @Delta are making business travel as easy as possible.— Callie Field (@CallieField) January 5, 2023
All Delta Skymiles members, regardless of carrier, will enjoy FREE in-flight Wi-Fi and streaming, And @TMobileBusiness customers can access SECURE Wi-Fi so you can work without worry. https://t.co/wqRYDcJqA7
At launch, over 500 domestic narrow-body Delta planes serving the airline’s ‘most popular routes’ will be Wi-Fi ready, the company said. Wide-body international and smaller regional jets will not be ready before the end of 2024. Flights offering free Wi-Fi will be bedecked with a decal near the boarding door letting passengers know the service is available.
In-flight internet follows the advent of free messaging in 2017. But airline Wi-Fi has historically been dogged by complaints about its inconsistent speeds and questions over network security. Satellite providers, airlines and Elon Musk’s Starlink have worked to address issues but in-flight Wi-Fi’s reliability still does not compare to home and office networks.
Announcing the development at Las Vegas’s yearly CES (Consumer Electronics Show), Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian, described the airline’s more than $1 billion investment in the technology to improve speeds and stability.
It’s going to be free, it’s going to be fast and it’s going to be available for everyone.Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO
It turns out that’s not quite the case though. Only those passengers who become members of Delta’s SkyMiles loyalty programme will have free access to the in-flight wifi. Others will need to pay a $10 fee. In a bonus, multiple devices will be able to be connected at one time.
A $10 fee is significantly cheaper than Delta’s current charges of nearly $50 per month for Wi-Fi on North American flights and $70 on international flights. The other two carriers of the US ‘big three’, United and American Airlines both charge varying rates for access. Only JetBlue, a low-cost competitor and the seventh largest airline in North America, has been offering passengers free Wi-Fi for the last five years. Delta will be aware of JetBlue’s customer-first reputation.
Delta has form when it comes to strategies for increasing its customer base as well as growing its 100-million-member loyalty programme. October 2022 saw the airline partner with Starbucks to begin awarding an air mile for every dollar spent at the coffee multinational.
5️⃣ Partnering with Starbucks so you can earn Stars and Miles on the go https://t.co/OV2BpkLgYF— Delta (@Delta) December 30, 2022
The scheme added a million new members to its SkyMiles club in just two weeks, 50 weeks ahead of the company’s own target.