Delta Begins Its Test of Free Wi-Fi Today

by Miles Jackson

When Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO, told the world that he was going to make Wi-Fi free on Delta flights, I was taken aback. Was an airline really going to really backtrack on an amenity they were charging for and make it free? Well, I am tickled that he was sincere and apparently keeping to his word.

Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Director of Onboard Product announced in Delta’s press release:

Customers are accustomed to having access to free Wi-Fi during nearly every other aspect of their journey, and Delta believes it should be free when flying, too.”

Now, that is a perspective I completely agree with. Many passengers are likely to appreciate the service. Wi-Fi is something business travelers especially resent paying for if they can’t expense it, whether in a hotel or in the air. And when that product you paid for doesn’t work well, it also builds ill will towards the carrier.

Delta’s Wi-Fi Test Begins Now

Delta Begins Test of Free Wi-Fi (Image: Delta)

This week, Delta begins is limited test offering free Wi-Fi to passengers on board selected routes. How many? Well 55 flights, give or take.

“Customers on around 55 domestic flight segments a day will have an opportunity to surf the internet free of charge, starting May 13. The two-week pilot across all cabins on select short-, medium- and long-haul routes is Delta’s first step toward realizing its vision of offering free in-flight Wi-Fi as part its leading suite of complimentary onboard entertainment options.

Delta’s initial test on select domestic high-speed 2Ku Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft is designed to understand customer experience preferences, system performance, customer feedback and more. Dimbiloglu noted that due to the complexity of the project, it will likely take several more test phases and lots of listening to ensure the free product Delta delivers, adds value.”

Any Specific Routes Selected?

Unfortunately, not. But I am guessing there is logic behind which flights are selected. Perhaps, Delta wants to initially start on lower load flights so the disappointment of speed of service does not taint the test feedback from passengers. Or Delta could be testing on key business routes. Obviously, no matter which routes Delta picks, bandwidth (the amount of data a single plane can process at any given moment) will be critical to the success of the tests and eventually the full rollout.

Inflight Wi-Fi has not always been the most reliable and with varying speeds of success.

Delta Is Using Gogo 2Ku Wi-Fi

Image: Gogo

Delta partners with Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi for the service. It will be their high-speed 2ku variant. We don’t know what free Wi-Fi would ultimately cost Delta. Some industry analysts have actually speculated that Delta may buy Gogo. Gogo has been facing significant financial and technological challenges throughout 2018.

Delta estimates about 60% of its planes are equipped with the high-speed 2Ku equipment. I am elated Delta wants to take the lead among the big three domestic airlines and offer free inflight internet to its customers. JetBlue already does offer free Wi-Fi to its passengers.

Here’s a list of all the airlines that offer free Wi-Fi to passengers, even in economy.

How Do You Get Free Wi-Fi on Delta Flights?

Do you want to be one of the lucky passengers who get to experience Delta’s free Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi? That is not so easy. Delta’s test flight segments will change daily as part of the test structure, but “customers will be notified by Delta if they’re being tapped for the test via email and a Fly Delta app push notification prior to their flight and upon visiting the Wi-Fi portal on board.”

For now, you can’t plan to fly a specific flight segment and know you are a part of the free test. The test is scheduled to be conducted for a two-week period during which  Delta hopes to get feedback from passengers.

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The Upshot

Delta also was an industry leader to offer free inflight entertainment and also offers streaming of content via onboard servers that deliver to laptops, tablets and mobile devices already carried onboard by many passengers.

Now, if Delta would be a positive role model in its behavior and also bring back those hidden award charts. Well, we can all hope, right?

I just hope this free Wi-Fi perk doesn’t disappear like the free pajama program Delta tested. I got a few sets and then ‘poof’ they quit the program.

What are your thoughts about Delta offering free Wi-Fi onboard all flights in the future? If you happen to get on one of these flights, let us know in the comments.


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