Wow: Delta Air Lines Launches Free Inflight Wi-Fi

Wow: Delta Air Lines Launches Free Inflight Wi-Fi

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There’s no denying that inflight connectivity has come a long way. First we saw airlines introduce inflight Wi-Fi in the first place. Then we saw the speed of inflight Wi-Fi greatly improved, so that it’s similar to connectivity on the ground. Lately the focus has increasingly been on making inflight Wi-Fi free.

While JetBlue has been leading the way among US airlines when it comes to offering free inflight Wi-Fi, Delta has now become the first global US airline to offer free inflight Wi-Fi on a widespread basis. Delta management has been talking about this for years, and it is now becoming a reality.

All Delta SkyMiles members on select flights are now eligible for unlimited free Wi-Fi.

Delta SkyMiles members now get free inflight Wi-Fi

Delta has gradually started the process of offering free inflight Wi-Fi to passengers. As of this week, the airline has started offering free Wi-Fi to all SkyMiles members on select flights. This follows the airline first rolling out free Wi-Fi to SkyMiles Medallion elite members a couple of weeks ago.

Eligible travelers should log into the Wi-Fi portal, and should then see the option to connect to Wi-Fi at no cost using their SkyMiles credentials.

This seems to be valid on aircraft with Viasat Wi-Fi. On these planes, non-SkyMiles members are able to purchase Wi-Fi for $5, which is extremely reasonable. However, since joining SkyMiles is free, just about everyone should be able to get free Wi-Fi this way. Keep in mind that this isn’t a published policy, but seems to be offered for now, so there’s no guarantee this will be available on all Viasat equipped flights.

Delta SkyMiles members should now receive free Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi coming to all Delta planes by late 2024

Back in July 2022, Delta revealed some updates about the progress of free inflight Wi-Fi in an internal memo:

  • Delta plans to launch complimentary Wi-Fi on domestic mainline flights “soon” (unfortunately regional jets won’t get this free service)
  • Delta plans to launch complimentary Wi-Fi on international routes by the end of 2024, as the technology improves and bandwidth allows this to become a reality

Delta has been offering free inflight messaging for a long time now, but the airline now offering free Wi-Fi with no data caps for SkyMiles members on select aircraft is awesome. I imagine the current policy of all SkyMiles members getting free Wi-Fi on Viasat jets will soon be formalized, rather than just being an unofficial offering.

Long haul flights will also eventually have free Wi-Fi

Why it has taken Delta time to launch free inflight Wi-Fi

Delta’s management has consistently been talking about introducing free inflight Wi-Fi for several years now, so what has taken so long? It comes down to technology. In 2019 Delta conducted some free inflight Wi-Fi trials, but found that the system being used at the time couldn’t support the increased usage when there was no cost to use the service. After all, bandwidth is a bit more limited at 35,000 feet than on the ground.

While Delta had historically worked with Gogo on Wi-Fi, the airline knew that this wouldn’t work in the long run, if the goal was to provide free Wi-Fi. In early 2021, it was announced that Delta would transition to Viasat. The airline is installing Viasat Wi-Fi on 300+ mainline narrow body jets, and good progress has been made with this.

With Viasat it’s much more realistic for Delta to offer free Wi-Fi, since this is the same system you’ll find on JetBlue (which has been offering free Wi-Fi for years).

Delta’s switch to Viasat makes free Wi-Fi realistic

Expect American to offer free Wi-Fi as well

In the US airline industry we see a lot of copying between airlines. While Delta was the first of the “big three” US carriers committed to offering free Wi-Fi, there have been widespread rumors that American will match.

American also has Viasat installed on most of its narrow body jets, so there shouldn’t be too many technological limitations here. It’s anyone’s guess when American matches, but I think it’s a sure bet that it will happen eventually. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens in the not-too-distant future, just to steal a bit of the Atlanta-based carrier’s thunder.

Unfortunately United is still quite a ways off from offering free Wi-Fi, since the carrier has the weakest overall Wi-Fi offering of the three airlines. However, United does offer free Wi-Fi to T-Mobile customers and free inflight messaging.

Expect American to also eventually offer free Wi-Fi

Bottom line

Delta Air Lines is in the process of rolling out free inflight Wi-Fi. The airline is now offering all SkyMiles members complimentary Wi-Fi on Viasat equipped flights, with other passengers having to pay just $5 for Wi-Fi on these flights. Just a couple of weeks ago the airline rolled out free Wi-Fi exclusively to elite members, to this project is moving along nicely.

The plan is for this to be rolled out on long haul international jets by the end of 2024. Unfortunately regional jets won’t be getting this complimentary service.

While JetBlue has been doing this for years, it’s exciting to see a global US airline roll this out.

What do you make of Delta offering free inflight Wi-Fi?

Conversations (11)
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  1. InflightWiFiuser Guest

    Is it even legal for DAL to give Viasat my SkyMiles info to enable login?

    1. TelecomEngineer Guest

      The way it works on most airlines is that you open a portal page and enter some information which goes to delta servers, that server then sends a message to the on-board equipment or ground equipment to start your session and allow you to browse outside the portal. Viasat doesn't see that information because it's encrypted from your device to the DAL server.

  2. iamhere Guest

    That's the point. If it's free more people will do it and they need to be prepared for that. Is it just for Skymiles elite members? What if you are SkyTeam elite but from a partner?

  3. LOL Guest

    OMG does anyone know if JetBlue does this??????

  4. JRS3 Guest

    Congratulations Delta. It only took you 9 years to do what JetBlue has been doing since 2013 with free Wi-Fi…

  5. Steve Diamond

    My last three AA flights i have gotten free wifi for watching a 30 second add. I have to image that DL and AA figured out they get more revenue from these these quick adds than they do on getting people to pay for wifi. Makes sense to me to go with the "free" wifi route.

  6. Tim Dunn Diamond

    If you think through how Delta turns this investment into a competitive advantage, the biggest competitive advantage will be in winning longer haul domestic business in markets competitive esp. with United and to a lesser degree with American.

    1. JRS Guest

      JetBlue did this 9 years ago. What made Delta suddenly start caring about offering Wi-Fi?

  7. Max Guest

    Waiting for the first airline to have Starlink with real usable speeds and low latency. Much better than this crowded free Wi-Fi that wil be unusable .

  8. Mark Guest

    AA wifi rates are like highway robbery on domestic flights. That tells me that either their Viasat equipment has lower bandwidth than DL or they are going to be throwing away a noticeable chunk of ancillary revenue by offering free wifi.

    1. Franklin Guest

      They might throw away some, but they definitely lose a lot of would-be buyers. I always baulk at the ridiculous prices they throw up. $24 for a 2 hour flight? Come on.

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Franklin Guest

They might throw away some, but they definitely lose a lot of would-be buyers. I always baulk at the ridiculous prices they throw up. $24 for a 2 hour flight? Come on.

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TelecomEngineer Guest

The way it works on most airlines is that you open a portal page and enter some information which goes to delta servers, that server then sends a message to the on-board equipment or ground equipment to start your session and allow you to browse outside the portal. Viasat doesn't see that information because it's encrypted from your device to the DAL server.

0
InflightWiFiuser Guest

Is it even legal for DAL to give Viasat my SkyMiles info to enable login?

0
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