Delta has spent much of the last year working toward offering free Wi-Fi to all passengers on board its flights. CEO Ed Bastian said Wednesday that it’s coming soon as the airline works to ensure the internet speed can keep up with demand on the plane.
“You will have it soon,” Bastian said during a Skift Forum Wednesday, according to Business Insider. “It’s really just a question of technical depths,” he said. “I’m worried that if we turned it on now, it’s going to cause system outages.”
Delta piloted its free Wi-Fi for all program on select flights earlier this year to mixed results. Thrifty Traveler heard from several passengers on those test flights that Wi-Fi speeds were sluggish, if not unusable. It highlights the biggest hurdle behind such an offering: How can you continue offering high-speed connectivity when everyone gets it for free?
Bastian said Delta and GoGo are working out the kinks, and remains confident that it’s coming. He didn’t put a timeline on the final launch, but earlier this year suggested free Wi-Fi would be available sometime in 2019.
“We’re not there yet, but Gogo and Delta, working together, have dramatically improved the overall performance of Wi-Fi on our planes,” he said.
Delta already has some of the best Wi-Fi available in the skies, thanks to the Gogo 2Ku internet available on the majority of its fleet. The airline currently charges at least $16 for a day-long Wi-Fi pass, and nearly double that for international flights. Passengers can already connect to send messages for free, or use the onboard entertainment streaming system to a laptop or tablet.
Of course, Delta won’t be the first to offer free inflight Wi-Fi. That distinction goes to jetBlue, which offers free gate to gate Wi-Fi for its passengers.
There were always going to be problems with this initiative. Making Wi-Fi free means anyone on the plane can (and likely will) use it, creating a balancing act between keeping everyone connected versus high speeds.
But Bastian says Delta isn’t backing down, and that’s reassuring.
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