Delta Tests Free Wi-Fi in Advance of Larger Rollout

We can already hear the collective cheer from everyone who relies on the ability to stay connected while flying.

Delta Tests Free Wi-Fi in Advance of Larger Rollout

It could soon be a lot less costly to stay connected on Delta flights.

Photo by GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Starting May 13, Delta Air Lines will begin testing free in-flight Wi-Fi on about 55 domestic flights each day for a two-week pilot program.

Passengers on the test flights, which will include short-, medium- and long-haul routes, will have free access to the internet regardless of their seat category. The free in-flight Wi-Fi won’t support streaming services, but it will allow browsing, sending and receiving emails, online shopping, instant messaging, and social media scrolling.

Test flight segments will change daily as part of the pilot program, and lucky fliers whose flights have been chosen to have free Wi-Fi will be notified by Delta via email and through a notification on the Fly Delta app (if they have it).

Currently, the Delta North America Day Pass, which offers 24 hours of in-flight Wi-Fi access, costs $16. A Global Day Pass costs $28; a North America monthly pass costs $50; and a North America Annual Pass costs $600.

According to Delta, this is its first step toward offering free in-flight Wi-Fi more broadly. The idea of the initial test on select flights is to see how the free Wi-Fi is most used, determine how well it’s performing, and get customer feedback. The carrier noted that due to the complexity of the project, it will likely take several more test phases before free Wi-Fi can be delivered on all Delta flights.

The test will take place on domestic aircraft equipped with high-speed 2Ku Wi-Fi capabilities—a Gogo-powered in-flight internet system. Over the past few years, Delta has been updating its aircraft with enhanced Wi-Fi capabilities, and it currently offers Wi-Fi on nearly all of its domestic and international flights. It has installed the Gogo-delivered high-speed 2Ku Wi-Fi on 60 percent of its main fleet, including on all of its Boeing 737-700, 737-800, 737-900, 757-300, and on some 757-200 aircraft, as well as on all of its Airbus A319, A320, A321, and A350 planes.

As for how streaming services will play into the free in-flight Wi-Fi offering, Delta told AFAR that it’s not ready to make a call on that yet. In the meantime, Delta has movies, TV series, music, and podcasts available to passengers through Delta Studio, its free in-flight entertainment system. The content is available on the seatback screens that are on many of the carrier’s international and domestic flights, as well as through streaming by downloading the Gogo Entertainment App.

Wi-Fi will still be available for purchase and free mobile messaging will remain in place during the pilot program.

>> Next: American Airlines Now Has Free Live TV on Domestic Flights—but There’s a Catch

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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