Unless you’re in the cockpit, commercial flights can be nothing short of a communications vortex. From the moment your flight attendant kindly requests airplane mode until the wheels touch the tarmac on the other end, you’re disconnected from the world outside—unless, of course, you spring for in-flight Wi-Fi, which, as we know, can . . . be . . . a . . . painful . . .
Well, Delta Air Lines aims to change the paradigm, announcing this week that it will offer free in-flight mobile messaging on three of the most popular platforms, a first among big U.S. carriers.
. . . proposition.
The new feature, which goes into effect on October 1st, will enable passengers to send and receive messages using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Apple iMessage. (It’s a text-only deal, so your amazing airplane-wing-out-the-window picture will have to wait.) According to the airline, the service will be available on all aircraft equipped with Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi, which is pretty much all of them at this point, minus only a few smaller jets. To use it, install and set up your app of choice before take off (duh) and, once comfortably above 10,000 feet, direct your mobile browser to Delta’s Wi-Fi portal page, airborne.gogoinflight.com, to connect. And no, you can’t use your laptop.
In a release, Delta’s marketing chief Tim Mapes said the new feature was part of a renewed commitment to improving the customer experience. It’s a plan that also includes dramatically quicker in-flight Wi-Fi and expanded availability, as provider Gogo continues to implement its satellite-based 2Ku connectivity.
Will the free-texting perk boost the airline’s appeal among flight-shoppers? Signs point to yes. “Delta’s move will delight plenty of its passengers and the promise of better Wi-Fi to come is even better news,” writes Skift industry watcher Patrick Whyte. Better still, Delta CEO Ed Bastian hinted this week that free, full-fledged, in-flight Wi-Fi—sponsored by ad-pushing commercial partners, naturally—may be on the horizon. And to that we say, WTG.