las vegas Delta Air Lines will offer free Wi-Fi service on most of its US flights starting in February, CEO Ed Bastian announced at the CES technology show Thursday. The announcement follows the airline’s completion of an agreement with Salt Lake City to retain Delta as the hub carrier at Salt Lake City International Airport for decades to come.
Bastian said the airline will equip more than 700 aircraft with T-Mobile’s high-speed satellite broadband service by the end of the year. By the end of 2024, free Wi-Fi will be expanded on international and Delta Connection flights. The service will use equipment from Viasat, a US-based satellite broadband provider.
“It always struck me that when we fly, we fly to connect,” Bastian said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But once we’re airborne, we’ll split up.”
Many airlines are improving internet access on their planes to allow passengers to stay connected or stream entertainment on their electronic devices, but they usually have to pay for it. New York-based JetBlue Airways already offers its passengers free Wi-Fi service, but Delta’s announcement puts it ahead of its biggest competitors: American, United and Southwest.
“People want to be connected, and the fact that airlines can’t connect in the sky was something I thought we had to figure out,” Bastian said, noting that the launch of the $1 billion project was accelerated by the pandemic-triggered shutdowns in 2020, when most of the airline’s planes were grounded.
Customers must have a complimentary Delta SkyMiles frequent flyer program account to use Wi-Fi service. There is no limit to the number of devices that passengers can connect to the onboard WiFi. From February 1st, more than 500 aircraft will use the free service.
Delta’s announcement at CES follows Southwest Airlines canceling 15,000 flights around Christmas, leaving vacationers stranded in the United States
The disruptions began with a winter storm and were exacerbated when Southwest’s old crew planning technology failed.
Bastian declined to comment on his competitor’s problems, but said Delta has been investing in its scheduling technology “for many years.”
“And we continue to improve crews’ ability to connect to the aircraft efficiently,” he said.
Koenig reported from Dallas.
https://www.sltrib.com/news/nation-world/2023/01/06/delta-says-free-wi-fi-coming/ Delta says free Wi-Fi will be available on many US flights next month