LAS VEGAS- Delta Air Lines will offer free Wi-Fi service on most of its US flights starting in February, CEO Ed Bastian announced yesterday at the CES technology show.
Bastian said that by the end of the year, the airline will equip more than 700 aircraft with high-speed satellite broadband service from T-Mobile. It plans to extend free Wi-Fi to international and Delta Connection flights by the end of 2024. The service will use equipment from Viasat, a US satellite broadband provider.
“It’s always struck me that when we fly, we fly to connect,” Bastian told The Associated Press in an interview. “But when we’re in heaven, we tune out.”
Many airlines are improving Internet access on their planes so passengers can stay connected or stream entertainment on their electronic devices, but they often have to pay for it. New York-based JetBlue Airways already offers free Wi-Fi service to passengersbut Delta’s announcement puts it ahead of its biggest rivals: American, United and Southwest.
“People want to be connected, and the fact that airlines can’t connect in the sky is something I felt we had to figure out,” Bastian said, noting that the rollout of the $1 billion project was hastened by stoppages. by the pandemic in 2020, when most of the airline’s planes were grounded.
Customers will need an account in Delta’s SkyMiles frequent flyer program, which is free to join, to use the Wi-Fi service. There is no limit to the number of devices passengers can connect to Wi-Fi on board. More than 500 aircraft will have this free service from February 1.
Delta’s announcement at CES comes after Southwest Airlines canceled 15,000 flights over Christmas and stranded travelers in the United States.
The outages began with a winter storm and multiplied when Southwest’s old crew-scheduling technology failed.
Bastian declined to comment on his rival’s problems, but said Delta has “many years” investing in its scheduling technology.
“And we continue to improve the ability of crews to connect efficiently with the aircraft,” he said.