Passengers on 55 flight segments each day will be tabbed to test the new service with visions of making onboard Internet free in the future
Customers flying Delta Air Lines
on some 55 domestic flight segments each day will have an opportunity to surf the internet free of charge, starting Monday. The two-week pilot program across all cabins on select short-, medium- and long-haul routes marks Delta's first step toward offering free in-flight Wi-Fi as part of the airline’s suite of complimentary onboard entertainment amenities.
While this test will not support content streaming, it enables customers to browse, email, shop, message, engage with social media and more – all free of charge.
"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, 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."
The move adds to Delta interest and efforts in providing more inflight options to passengers. In 2016, Delta was the first global airline to drop the paid model for in-flight entertainment and offer all-free Delta Studio content via seat-back screens and streaming to personal devices. In 2017, Delta pioneered free onboard mobile messaging and since then it has endeavored to offer more seat-back video screens.
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.
"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'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.