Delta Will Test Free Inflight Wi-Fi from May 13

Customers on around 55 domestic flight segments a day will have an opportunity to surf the internet free of charge

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On May 13, Delta will launch a two-week pilot to make free inflight Wi-Fi a brand standard. The test will run on 55 domestic flights on aircraft equipped with high-speed 2Ku Wi-Fi. It will not support content streaming but will enable passengers to check email, post on social media and browse the internet. The segments will vary daily, and customers aboard flights with free Wi-Fi will be notified via email and the Delta app prior to the flight.

Delta, like all U.S. airlines except JetBlue Airways, charges a fee to go online during a flight. Delta’s fees vary by flight and how long passengers want to be online, and it also offers an all-day pass for $16 on flights in North America.

Many passengers opt out given the fees and historically spotty service. Reliability and speed has improved as Delta and other carriers move to satellite-based Wi-Fi service.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian has said for several years that airline Wi-Fi should be a free amenity but that he wanted to ensure the quality was up to par before taking that step. Delta director of onboard product Ekrem Dimbiloglu said free Wi-Fi across the fleet will take several test phases. “As with any test in uncharted territory, Delta will rely heavily on customer and employee feedback to navigate how to best make free in-flight Wi-Fi a reality,” he said.

Delta’s initial test on select domestic high-speed 2Ku Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft is designed to understand customer experience preferences, system performance, customer feedback and more. Dimbiloglu noted that due to the complexity of the project, it will likely take several more test phases and lots of listening to ensure the free product Delta delivers, adds value.

Test flight segments will change daily as part of the test structure, but customers will be notified by Delta if they’re being tapped for the test via email and a Fly Delta app push notification prior to their flight and upon visiting the Wi-Fi portal on board.

Delta currently offers Wi-Fi on nearly all flights across its domestic and international networks and has installed high-speed 2Ku on 60 percent of mainline aircraft. Wi-Fi for purchase and free mobile messaging will remain available throughout the test timeframe, just as they are today.

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