Delta is set to become the first global US airline to provide free in-flight Wi-Fi on a widespread basis as part of the new Delta Sync flight entertainment experience. Delta will offer the service from February 1 2023, with full availability on all aircraft internationally by the end of 2024.
Starting February 1, working in tandem with Viasat and T-Mobile, Delta will offer free Wi-Fi on all 540 jets fitted with Viasat, comprising approximately 60% of Delta’s domestic fleet. The Wi-Fi will be free for all Delta customers, with no limit to how many devices a customer may connect.
Delta’s ambition to become the US airline with the best free Wi-Fi coverage for customers pre-dates this latest news. In 2019, free in-flight Wi-Fi trials were conducted in conjunction with Delta’s then-provider Gogo. These trials found that Gogo’s system was at that time unable to support the level of usage free Wi-Fi for all was likely to incur.
On January 5 2021, Delta announced plans to partner with Viasat, whose satellite-based connectivity would offer customers a higher quality of Wi-Fi. Substantial in-flight testing took place – 427,000 hours of use were recorded on 16.9M devices on-board 300 aircraft across 200,000 flights between June 2021 and March 2022, according to Aviation Today. On March 14 2022, Delta confirmed that Viasat Wi-Fi would feature on 500 aircraft by the end of 2022, and stated that Viasat’s connectivity speed was “on average up to twice as fast as service offered in 2019”.
Delta further tested the new free Wi-Fi on its SkyMiles members to assess service reliability, bandwidth and quality of entertainment, with results being positive enough to extend free Wi-Fi to all customers on planes carrying Viasat technology.
Delta has continued to re-fit larger aircraft with the Viasat service, and plans to fly over 700 aircraft with Viasat by late 2023, making onboard Wi-Fi on those aircraft (some 80% of the domestic fleet) free. Delta has also promised to offer free Wi-Fi on all its planes globally by the end of 2024 in a major upgrade to customer experiences on domestic and international flights.
Delta has additionally partnered with T-Mobile for their in-flight Wi-Fi expertise; Mike Sievert, T-Mobile CEO, commented “T-Mobile customers already get free in-flight Wi-Fi and now we’re partnering with Delta to bring that experience to all customers – regardless of their wireless provider – so that anyone flying Delta can enjoy online access from takeoff to touchdown”.
In tandem with incoming free Wi-Fi, Delta has launched Delta Sync. Features of this new service will be real-time flight notifications, personalized content recommendations, and exclusive content in partnership with American Express, Paramount+, Resy, Atlas Obscura and New York Times Games. Delta Sync will be provided via Delta’s SkyMiles program, which will be free to join.
With this latest announcement, Delta is set to become the first of the “big three” US airlines to offer free Wi-Fi available to all customers. Nerdwallet’s July 2022 analysis of US airline onboard entertainment rated Delta 4.3/5, the top rating for a “big three” airline, and free Wi-Fi across the board by the end of 2024, along with Delta Sync, will further upgrade customer experience.