Delta is introducing free WiFi on around 80 percent of its domestic US flights starting on February 1st, 2023, confirming rumors from late last year. The service, available through a T-Mobile sponsorship, will come to 700 planes by the end of the year and on regional and international aircraft by the end of 2024. "It's going to be free. It's going to be fast. And it's going to be available to everyone," said Delta CEO Ed Bastian at CES 2023.
Travelers will need to use their Delta SkyMiles information to log in for access, but getting an account is free. The company announced last year that it would be upgrading more planes using Viasat as a provider. It has been charging a $5 flat fee for WiFi to date.
Apart from any profit motive, airlines have been slow to introduce free WiFi over concerns that the systems wouldn't be fast enough to accommodate hundreds of people at once. Delta has been working on the system since 2018, with the eventual goal to offer free WiFi.
"We didn’t just want free Wi-Fi to offer base-level service – we wanted it to be transformative for the entire onboard experience," he said. "It is imperative all customers onboard can enjoy their favorite content just as they would at home, and we’ve put this system through meticulous tests to make that possible."
Jetblue also offers free WiFi via corporate sponsorship, but Southwest, United, American and other airlines charge fees, usually in the $8 to $10 range. American has recently been trialing free WiFi for certain customers.
Delta also announced that it will unveil new in-flight entertainment systems starting this summer, with user preferences traveling from "flight to flight... even where you left off on a movie," according to the press release.