Delta has taken its first step toward realizing its vision of offering free in-flight wi-fi. Beginning May 13, customers on around 55 of the airline’s domestic flight segments on select short-, medium- and long-haul routes will be able to to surf the internet free of charge during a two-week trial. While this test of the system – Gogo’s 2Ku network – will not support IFE content streaming, it will enable passengers to browse the web, email, shop, message, and engage with social media.
“Customers are accustomed to having access to free wi-fi during nearly every other aspect of their journey, and Delta believes it should be free when flying, too,” said Ekrem Dimbiloglu, the airline’s director of onboard product. “Testing will be key to getting this highly complex program right – this takes a lot more creativity, investment and planning to bring to life than a simple flip of a switch.”
This is not Delta’s first trial of entertainment innovation, as in 2016, it was the first global airline to offer free-to-access IFE content via seatback screens and streaming to personal devices. In 2017, Delta was the first global carrier to offer free mobile messaging, and it has since grown to offer more seatback video screens than any other airline.
Feedback from Delta’s initial test on select domestic 2Ku-equipped aircraft will be used to help the airline better understand customer experience preferences, system performance 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 service adds value.
“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,” Dimbiloglu said.
Test flight segments will change daily as part of the test structure, but customers will be notified by Delta if they are eligible 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.