Rumor: American Airlines To Introduce Free Wifi (Eventually)

Filed Under: American, Travel Technology

Rumor has it that American Airlines plans to introduce free inflight wifi… eventually. This is both exciting, and also a really sad reflection of how American Airlines does business.

Delta’s plan to introduce free wifi

Inflight technology has come a long way. Over the past few years we’ve seen inflight wifi go from the exception to the norm. Not only that, but we’ve seen airlines greatly improving speeds so that wifi on a plane is similar to what you’ll find on the ground.

Delta is most definitely the innovator among the “big three” US carriers, and for quite a while they’ve been talking about how they plan to eventually make inflight wifi free (at least basic wifi — the plan is to still charge for streaming).

In May they took a big step towards making that a reality, as they started a two week trial of free wifi, available on around 55 domestic flights.

Part of the reason was to figure out usage patterns, the impact free wifi has on speed, etc. We don’t know exactly when Delta will roll out free wifi on all domestic flights — it could be within weeks, within months, or within years. But I genuinely believe they’re working on it, because Delta has shown time and again that there’s value in differentiating your passenger experience.

American plans to introduce free wifi

I’ve now heard from several reputable sources that American is planning on introducing free inflight wifi as well. I’m marking this as a “rumor” because American hasn’t said anything publicly, and because this kind of stuff always remains subject to change (for example, American had announced a couple of years ago that they’d introduce free inflight texting, but then backtracked).

Suffice to say that this isn’t a rumor that I heard from my cousin’s best friend’s sister’s grandmother, but rather from multiple reputable sources. @xJonNYC notes yesterday that he has heard the same thing.

What I think can’t be emphasized enough is how American is approaching this, though. American doesn’t plan on introducing free wifi until Delta does so first — they simply plan to copy whatever Delta does.

What a sad way of doing business, really. We all know that Delta is going to introduce free wifi, and they’re working towards that. Meanwhile American is allegedly just going to sit by and watch that happen, and match whatever they do.

I don’t get what goes on in the heads of American management. Do they think Delta won’t move forward with it? Or do they just like being the industry copy cat and doing nothing to innovate?

The lack of innovation in the US airline industry truly is staggering. We have three global carriers — one is innovative, and the other two just occasionally follow.

  1. Interesting! Would make the WiFi credit on the Barclays AA card worthless though. Wonder if they’d come up with an new benefit to make up for that?

  2. Why do i think the free wifi from both will be close to useless for even basic biz use – so throttled and overused it’s like Gogo v 1.0. Basically an upsell scheme to a package that may cost even more than the acceptable paid service today.

  3. This would be amazing, especially if United follows. I don’t see how American will be able to do it now, though, given their already slow Wi-Fi speeds.

  4. The idea to offer free wifi is to become competitive, but not offer anything extra. So they have to wait for Delta to roll out their free wifi program and mimic any restrictions that come with it. It’s much more costly to offer unlimited free wifi of all they need to do to be competitive with Delta is something less, such as a time limit per flight.

    Sort of like how Burger Kingputs locations next to McDonalds, AA copies DL and assumes they did a good job analyzing it.

  5. I recently purchased WiFi for the first time on American . $10 for 1 hour. It didn’t work for about ten minutes but then it kicked in and my seat mate started asking me how I got WiFi. I enjoyed it. I would purchase it again but good thing it will be free.

  6. American recently upgraded all their wifi. I’ve used it . It’s super fast. Faster than the 3 major airlines I believe. So they might do good with this

  7. With the worst / most inconsistent / least reliable email solution of the three majors, at least we know United won’t be following anytime soon!

  8. This is just a way for companies to collude without breaking the law. AA is telling Delta not to go through with offering free WiFi because they will then do so themselves and both airlines will end up with higher costs but no competitive advantage. It’s like a price-match scheme, which isn’t about matching prices but more about telling your competitor not to drop theirs.

  9. Something very JetBlue about this…

    Future Headline: Delta/American/United to begin testing mid cabin self serve galley.

  10. I recall many years ago when hotels in Italy were charging for WiFi and then slowly a few started giving it for free and when leisure and business people started moving to the free WiFi places, they all eventually came around. The only reason AA will offer this is to not lose customers, not because they want to be nice to us.

  11. I miss the free T-Mobile inflight service via Gogo that American has been taking away from us, plane by plane as they switch to the admittedly better service.

    You’d think the highly paid AA execs could reap the PR buzz of announcing the free wifi rollout FIRST before Delta. Like they all do with new seats that show up years later.

  12. This is classic game theory. By threatening to offer free wifi AA sends a message to Delta that they will follow their move. Deltathey hope that Delta realizes that they won’t have any advantage by introducing free Wi-Fi and back out.
    And we all have the regulations that allow for this oligopoly to blame

  13. Hey American, Delta just announced that they’re going to add some leg room and allow EXPs with $50k in spend to match as Delta 360… ready to copy? (Please????)

  14. American… leading from behind. At least it is not American’s typical race to the bottom approach.

  15. I’ve been disappointed with AA ever since they started charging for ViaSat WiFi. I used to work for ViaSat and part of our pitch to airlines was that there was enough bandwidth to give away for free. Which is what JetBlue did and AA did until the Gogo billing was unfucked. Then AA started charging for something that is easily offered for free.

  16. It’s brilliant by American. Let delta do all the legwork for assessing cost, speed etc and simply copy their final answers! They could even pay several hundred pax for a delta WiFi experience survey. The cost would be minuscule. It’s not as if delta has their own proprietary WiFi tech.

    In the meanwhile, why spend on a competitive advantage when you can simply copy when needed?

  17. Delta is so overrated and very professional propagandist. Believe me, I have took Delta on so many occasions. Their products are really old and nothing really new. They do not offer free wifi, not at all. They offer wifi for your mobile device only, but you need to enter T-mobile phone number. They call it free wifi. But American offered free wifi for Tmobile users way before Delta did.
    Delta gate agents are grumpy, although their crew is actually good. It is just so funny how the company focuses on romanticising the idea of the best airline than actual the product itself.
    Again, Delta is no different than other two.

  18. Cannot be surprised that AA is a slow follower to the rest of the industry. It’s sad that AA, a one time innovator, has been relegated to the bottom of the pack. What’s not surprising is that this is where Doug Parker and his US Airways management team was pre-merger. I guess they can now claim the integration is complete. Sadly, we the flying public have to now depend upon AA competitors to raise AA’s standards. Time for new leadership.

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