Delta testing free Wi-Fi on some flights this summer

ajc.com

New round of testing comes years after setting goal of free Wi-Fi on many of its flights.

Delta Air Lines is testing free Wi-Fi on some flights, part of a years-long effort to eventually launch free wireless internet service across many of its flights.

Atlanta-based Delta will offer complimentary Wi-Fi on “a select number of flights this summer,” according to Glenn Latta, the airline’s managing director of in-flight connectivity. The airline’s fees for Wi-Fi normally start at $5 per flight.

Latta added that it’s an effort to test the technology and gain insights to eventually offer Wi-Fi that is “as fast and reliable as possible.”

Slow and spotty in-flight Wi-Fi has vexed passengers on Delta for years, and the company has been working to increase bandwidth and reliability by expanding satellite-based Wi-Fi with a new provider.

Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Delta’s managing director of brand experience, said the company has made “significant investments” over the last two years to eventually make onboard Wi-Fi free, fast and reliable. But he added that testing is important.

ThriftyTraveler.com reported 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.

It’s unclear what “soon” might mean. Delta’s efforts on free Wi-Fi date back years, with CEO Ed Bastian in 2018 telling The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wanted to eventually make the service free.

But Bastian also warned at the time that it would take two to three years to make it happen. In May 2019, Delta ran a two-week test of free Wi-Fi on some flights.

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It’s been more than three years since Bastian’s initial comments, and in the meantime the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Delta to significantly curtail spending when travel plummeted and to delay some plans for new technology.

But Delta announced last year a new in-flight Wi-Fi provider, Viasat, for high-speed satellite-based connections with the aim of offering passengers faster and more consistent connections and streaming.

It’s yet to be seen whether Delta will eventually make all Wi-Fi access free for all passengers, or if it will charge extra for the highest-speed connections.