Delta Shops Around, Drops Wifi Exclusivity With Gogo

Filed Under: Delta, Travel Technology

Delta Air Lines plans to soon have two inflight wifi providers, as the next step in the company’s strategy to offer free inflight wifi to all passengers.

Delta wants to offer free wifi

Delta has long been the most premium of the “big three” US airline when it comes to the investments that have been made in the passenger experience.

For quite a while Delta management has made it clear that the company is working towards offering free inflight wifi to all passengers. Just as free wifi has become a basic amenity on the ground, Delta thinks it should become a basic amenity in the air as well.

There’s just one major thing standing in the way of Delta offering free wifi — bandwidth limitations. Delta ran a trial during which it offered free wifi on select flights, and even the high speed Gogo 2Ku wifi couldn’t support the heavy usage patterns. At this point the thing standing in the way of Delta offering free wifi is technology, rather than economics.

Delta wants to offer all passengers free wifi

Delta plans to break exclusive partnership with Gogo

For years Delta has worked exclusively with Gogo for inflight wifi, but that will be changing. As noted by Seth Miller, a new filing has modified the agreement between Delta and Gogo, and it has big implications. With this Delta has made it clear that it plans on also working with a competing wifi provider in order to create more competition in the industry.

As the decision is explained:

  • Delta wants to offer free inflight wifi, and this will mean the terms of the contract need to be modified
  • With the current contract, Gogo subsidizes the installation of wifi on planes, and pays Delta a royalty for offering it, given that consumers pay for wifi directly
  • For Delta to be able to provide free wifi, the airline must control the commercial relationship with passengers, and in turn directly pay for wifi
  • Since Delta will be paying directly for wifi, the company plans to diversify its provider base in order to generate competition, with the airline planning on splitting service between Gogo and a competitor
  • Delta also doesn’t believe that there’s currently enough Ku satellite capacity over North America to meet its needs
  • Gogo is working on a Ka solution to augment its 2Ku solution, but only time will tell what that will look like

Gogo’s CEO had the following to say regarding this modified agreement:

“Though we do not relish the idea of having a competitor join us at Delta, this amendment gives us time to complete our 2Ka offering and add capacity to our 2Ku network and will enable us to compete effectively for the fleets in question.

We are also very pleased to see Delta’s continued focus on providing free Wi-fi despite the impact of COVID-19 and view that as a positive for the in-flight connectivity industry as it will drive demand.”

Delta will no longer partner exclusively with Gogo

Many airlines have multiple wifi providers

Delta won’t be alone in working with multiple wifi providers. For example, American Airlines works with Gogo, Panasonic, and Viasat.

On the one hand, it’s nice to have a consistent user experience with just one wifi provider. At the same time, from Delta’s perspective this makes perfect sense:

  • Gogo can’t currently meet Delta’s bandwidth needs when it comes to offering free wifi to all passengers
  • Competition is a good thing, and Delta is more likely to get a favorable agreement if two providers are competing for its business, rather than just one
  • JetBlue also offers free wifi and uses Viasat, so that technology might be better for Delta’s needs

American Airlines has three wifi providers

Bottom line

Delta will no longer work exclusively with Gogo for providing inflight wifi. Delta still hopes to offer free wifi to all passengers, and the company knows this will work out much better if two providers are competing for Delta’s business, rather than just one.

I’ll be curious to see what wifi provider Delta chooses to compete with Gogo. Viasat seems like the obvious option, but who knows…

What do you make of Delta adding a second wifi provider?

  1. “ Delta has long been the most premium of the “big three” US airline when it comes to the investments that have been made in the passenger experience.”

    Delta has no premium lounges like United and AA
    Delta has the least legroom in first class and The most planes with 30” pitch in the back
    The only US3 carrier to squeeze the two lavs in the back wall of every airbus narrowbody
    Lags AA on high speed WiFi installation
    Lags United and aa on announcing and implementing premium economy
    Their “new” business class seat is the same as their old one with a plastic door that breaks all the time.

    But please… let’s continue this tired story line because they put TVs above your knees while they touch the chair in front of you

    Lucky, delta is good at marketing. No question there. Perhaps soft product, but not hard product.
    There are obvious facts to consider before trotting out the Delta marketing slogan in each story.

  2. Delta has the most consistent service and product.

    It does not have hubs in the most convenient locations for business travelers though, only NYC, Boston and LAX.

    United is making big strides. It has a much larger international network compared to Delta, it has nice Polaris Lounges, and has hubs in business centers across the US (Chicago, NYC-Newark, LAX, SFO)

    I am NYC based and always struggle between the two. Both offer a large amount of flights, but its hard to choose between the two

  3. And btw. This free WiFi marketing from delta is a perfect Example of their phony marketing. How long has delta been saying they’d provide free WiFi? They announced it before they even knew how they’d do it and have now spent years not doing it and not providing it.
    The current economic environment doesn’t seem like the time when they’d roll out a free product.

  4. Remember when United’s multiple connectivity suppliers was viewed as a bad thing? How long until Delta is lauded for strategic brilliance in diversifying its vendors?

  5. The GOGO only offering from Delta streamlined the usage for me, as a customer. All I had to do is keep a GOGO account that automatically hooked me into Delta wifi. If there are multiple providers, unless Delta creates a “middleware” between me and a multiple providers, I have to create and pay for accounts at each of these providers. In other words, unless I can go to Delta, and pay for a flight, a day or a year of wifi, not caring who actually the provider to Delta, it will be difficult. Unless of course wifi is free on Delta, than who cares who actually provides the wifi. I’m just not sure which will be first , multiple providers or free wifi.

  6. @ Richard A — What am I missing? The first announcement I saw from Delta about plans to work towards this was in the spring of 2019, just over a year ago. Did I miss an announcement before that?

  7. @ endre — For what it’s worth, American has Gogo and Viasat, and if you have a Gogo monthly membership it works on both kinds of planes. So I wouldn’t necessarily assume that a paid membership wouldn’t work across providers.

  8. Richard what are you talking about? Delta invented comfort plus and premium economy. United copies them in everything they do.

  9. @Ben .. thnx for the comment. My issue is that if there are two providers, GoGo and Viasat for delta, do I open an account on both and pay for yearly service for both, doubling my expenses? How does this work on AA? thnx

  10. Lol… delta economy long haul is on par with asian carrier and way step up compared to united and american.
    Delta has 9 abreast 777 while american and united has 10 abreast 777
    Delta has a350 and the other has b787
    Delta amenity kit is with tumi hard cases which you can’t deny better than soft cases.
    You can order food in delta first or one.

    One thing delta is lacking, lounge with ala carte dining! That’s about it and maybe a mattress pad and pyjamas as well. But no one give out pj for J except for like 2 american and 2 united routes and eva air and qatar and virgin.

    Should i keep going @richard A?

  11. @ endre — With American you just need one account. I have a monthly Gogo wifi subscription, and then I can log in with that through the Viasat system as well, at no extra cost. The only thing that doesn’t work with Viasat is the free T-Mobile wifi that we get with Gogo.

  12. Jkjk
    Delta is getting rid of their 777 and only made them 9-abreast so they could make it to JNB without weight restriction. Even with all that, delta’s reconfigured 777 still had more seats than International AA/UA 777. They squeezed more seats on even with 9 abreast. Even their prior Configured 777 had more seats than aa/uA 777s.
    Delta followed aa on ordering food in first. AA has had that a while.
    Not sure where the a350 vs 787 means anything about hard product but ok….
    Tumi? Nice brand but not significantly different than UA with Polaris packet and AA finding niche high market NYC brands for their travel kits.
    If delta longhaul Being equivalent to Asian carriers was in the slightest way true, you’d see it in their Asia revenue numbers. Delta doesn’t come close to revenue premiums from CX, JL, NH, or SQ.

    Jetiquette: AA announced premium economy before delta and united had economy plus long before delta.

  13. Sharon,

    FWIW, I’d say as a fellow New Yorker, I prefer Delta because I like the TVs more than BYOD and I think it takes less time by transit to JFK than to EWR (from where I live), or at least the service is more frequent.

    I actually don’t emphasize Chase vs. Amex too much since 1.5 cpm with CSR portal is often higher than Delta or United miles can easily be redeemed for, especially now that United does variable pricing on partner awards.

  14. AA wifi domestically is vastly superior to DL or UA. They are going to switch to ViaSat internationally over the next few years since Panasonic sucks. DL isn’t going to be able to make the switch easily or cheaply. I thought, like the hotels that you link wifi pricing (free or discounted) to elite status. AA EXP and PRO get free wifi (log in with your FF#), PLAT 75% off, Gold 50% off and the non elites pay the price. That model is similar to the hotels (free for slow; pay for high-speed unless your diamond or something along those lines). I think that model would be beneficial to all.

  15. Y’all are really claiming *WiFi* is the premium differentiator. United and AA have to have solid WiFi, because, you know, they have no screens. AA has been ripping out IFE even in premium cabins, both UA and AA have clearly inferior service, and if we want to talk about premium hubs, Delta is the only one of the three to have a proper NYC hub. United is in Newark, and AA’s NYC presence is pitiful.

  16. How about the international airlines?
    Some of the international airlines do offer free wifi, so how are they doing it?
    This may be something for Delta to look into.

  17. Totally agree with Richard A.
    Delta needs free wifi because Delta’s aircraft are OLD (PAID FOR, BUT OLD)
    American Airlines, Has fresh,new,clean equipment.
    Plus, I prefer to stream live TV,Movies on my clean personal devices.
    DELTA has great marketing, I’ll give Delta that.

  18. John Luffed… what’s wrong with old planes? Service life for these planes are over 30,000 landing/takeoff. The interior of delta is much better than AA. Why would AA still have TV on their international long haul or business class if it’s so damn good. ANA new suites tv are so damn big and good. Do you prefer your phone still?
    Delta has a220,a350 which are newest and best planes out there. DL is not overrated. They’re just better than AA. Face it.

  19. Maybe this is uninclusive, but I’d rather pay a modest amount like $12 for Wi-Fi when I need it and have it be faster than to have 100 extra people who don’t really need it using it just because it’s there.

    Some people have a real need for it (this is *occasionally* me) for work, but most people really don’t (usually I don’t pay and don’t use it).

    Most carriers now seem to be allowing free texting apps like iMessage and Whatsapp. That’s sufficient for most because it means you can update people on the ground, or have a conversation while basically not using any bandwidth.

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