Delta moves closer to goal of free and improved WiFi

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Plane device tablet wifi [Credit: NicoElNino/Shutterstock.com]
Delta partnered with Viasat, with the goal of improving its onboard WiFi product and eventually making WiFi free to flyers. Photo Credit: Credit: NicoElNino/Shutterstock.com

Delta has finalized a partnership with the WiFi provider Viasat, a move that the carrier says will enable it to move toward its ultimate goal of creating a free and personalized connected experience for passengers across its network.

Delta plans to install the Viasat system on more than 300 mainline narrowbody aircraft beginning this summer. The system is powered by Viasat's KA-band satellites, which Viasat says will enable Delta to offer enhanced and more reliable in-flight connectivity.

Delta's current WiFi provider is Intelsat, which purchased the commercial division of Delta's previous WiFi vendor Gogo last year.

Delta will install the Viasat system on its Airbus A321s, Boeing 737-900ERs and Boeing 757-200s.

In the spring of 2019, the carrier conduced a free WiFi pilot program on selected flights and announced its intent to eventually make WiFi free across its network.

On Tuesday, Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Delta's director of brand experience, said that commitment remains in place. "This is a significant step on that journey," he said.

Dimbiloglu offered no timeline for the free WiFi rollout.

At the CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas last January, Delta CEO Ed Bastian outlined Delta's vision of using enhanced connectivity capabilities to turn seatback screens into passengers' personal in-flight hubs. Phones would be synced to those screens. Passengers could connect with other passengers in-flight. Delta SkyMiles could be used to pay for all the items that aren't free.

Glenn Latta, Delta's managing director of inflight entertainment and WiFi, said adopting Viasat's technology will lay the groundwork for carrying out such plans.

He added, however, that Delta will use multiple WiFi suppliers.

"Working with multiple partners means we can pair the right technology with the right fleet. We want to ensure customers always have access to WiFi when available," Latta said.

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