By the end of 2024, it plans to expand free Wi-Fi to international and Delta Connection flights
Most of the US flights of Delta Air Lines, which will start in February, will have free Wi-Fi service, CEO Ed Bastian announced on Thursday at the CES technology trade show.
Bastian said that the airline will outfit more than 700 planes with high-speed, satellite-based broadband service from T-Mobile by the end of the year. By the end of 2024, it plans to expand free Wi-Fi to international and Delta Connection flights. The service will use equipment from Viasat, a US-based satellite broadband provider.
“It’s always struck me that when we fly, we fly to connect,” Bastian said. “But when we’re in the sky, we disconnect.”
Many airlines are upgrading internet access on their planes so passengers can stay connected or stream entertainment on their electronic devices, but they usually have to pay for it. New York-based JetBlue Airways already provides free Wi-Fi service to passengers, but Delta’s announcement puts it ahead of its largest rivals: American, United and Southwest.
Noting that the rollout of the $1 billion project was accelerated by the pandemic-triggered shutdowns in 2020, when most of the airline’s planes were grounded, Bastian said, “People want to be connected, and the fact that airlines can’t connect in the sky is something that I felt we had to figure out.”
To use the Wi-Fi service, customers will need an account in Delta’s SkyMiles frequent-flyer program, which is free to join. There is no limit on the number of devices passengers can connect to the inflight Wi-Fi. More than 500 planes will have the free service as of 01 Feb.
Delta’s announcement at CES comes on the heels of Southwest Airlines cancelling 15,000 flights around Christmas and leaving holiday travellers stranded around the US.
When Southwest’s ancient crew-scheduling technology failed, the disruptions started with a winter storm and snowballed.
Bastian declined to comment on his rival’s issues but said Delta for “many years” has invested in its scheduling technology.
“And we are continuing to improve the ability for crews to connect efficiently with the airplane,” he said.
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