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Delta Joins Short List of Airlines Offering Free Wi-Fi
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines made headlines at CES 2023 last week when it announced free WiFi for all passengers, as well as innovative new in-flight digital experiences.
Delta announced that it would be rolling out free WiFi on board most domestic mainline flights beginning Feb. 1, 2023, with a goal of expanding free WiFi to all aircraft by the end of 2024.
The airline also revealed Delta Sync, its vision for an interconnected and personalized digital experience. Delta Sync will roll out later this year, bringing together in-flight entertainment (IFE), connectivity and other technological features.
Free WiFi: The Details
As of Feb. 1, 2023, Delta will be offering free WiFi on Viasat-equipped aircraft. Delta currently has two in-flight WiFi providers: Viasat and Intelsat, which was formerly known as GoGo. Around 500 of the carrier’s over 700 narrowbody mainline jets are currently equipped with Viasat. Free WiFi has already been launched on all Boeing 757-200 and Boeing 737-900 aircraft, with other narrowbody aircraft beginning free WiFi offerings throughout the rest of January. Delta plans on offering free WiFi on over 700 aircraft by the end of 2023 and on international and regional jets as well by the end of 2024.
According to the airline, the following aircraft are currently equipped with Viasat and will therefore offer free WiFi: All Airbus A321-200s and Airbus A321neos, select Boeing 737-800s, select Boeing 737-900s, select Boeing 757-200s, select Airbus A319-100s and select Airbus A320-200s. The current free WiFi offerings will not cover Delta’s Boeing 717 or Airbus A220 aircraft, which are not equipped with Viasat. Paid Wi-Fi options will continue to be offered on these aircraft. Widebody jets operating domestic flights also will not feature free WiFi until 2024.
Passengers will have to be a member of Delta’s frequent flyer program, SkyMiles, to log in to the free WiFi but membership is free and travelers will be able to join while in-flight. There is no device limit and Delta says that the Viasat system offers streaming-quality connections.
“Connectivity is essential to daily life, and your journey on Delta should be no different,” Delta Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said at CES. “Our vision has long been to deliver an experience at 30,000 feet that feel similar to what our customers have available on the ground.”
In the United States, Delta is the second airline to widely offer free WiFi after JetBlue, which has provided passengers with free WiFi for years. Internationally, an increasing number of airlines have also been offering free in-flight WiFi, including Qantas, Emirates and Porter Airlines.
Delta has long been talking about providing free WiFi to its passengers. In 2019, the carrier conducted a free WiFi trial on 50 domestic routes. However, the GoGo/Intelsat system was unable to handle the heavy usage at the time. In 2022, Delta began a more successful trial of offering free WiFi that set the stage for the airline’s latest announcement.
Delta Sync: A New In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity Experience
The second major Delta announcement at CES revealed a new in-flight digital experience called Delta Sync. Delta Sync brings together traditional aspects of in-flight entertainment and connectivity, while also debuting innovative new features. Delta Sync will be supported by free WiFi and will be available to SkyMiles members.
The airline states that Delta Sync will bring together an ecosystem of digital services to deliver a personalized travel experience. It will roll out later in 2023 and consists of a variety of offerings, both on personal devices and on seatback screens. Delta Sync consists of two sets of offerings: Delta Sync on Demand for seatback screens and Delta Sync Exclusives Hub for personal devices.
Delta has seatback screens on a large majority of its mainline aircraft and the carrier working on a new in-flight entertainment system called Delta Sync on Demand. Debuting this summer, new features will include food and beverage ordering for First Class passengers and the ability for all passengers to log into their SkyMiles account to receive curated content recommendations and seatback flight notifications. Passengers who are not SkyMiles members and those who choose not to log in will continue to have access to Delta’s existing seatback entertainment offerings.
Delta Sync Exclusives Hub will offer content and access to features with major brands on travelers’ personal devices. SkyMiles members will be able to unlock personalized American Express offers as part of Delta’s partnership with the credit card company. In addition to seatback entertainment, Delta will offer Paramount+ streaming on passengers’ personal devices. Delta has also partnered with the restaurant booking platform Resy to provide dining guides and restaurant bookings while on board. Similarly, Delta will offer travel recommendations and content from Atlas Obscura and games from the New York Times.
Looking forward, Bastian highlighted the vision for Delta’s in-flight digital offerings at CES. “The future of travel is one where your digital and physical experiences come together in a seamless, warm and personal way, making those human travel connections even more meaningful.”
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