Spotty Wi-Fi that also costs too much is often among the more frequent complaints of an airline’s customers, which is why you’re starting to see air carriers experiment a bit with how they make the amenity available. JetBlue may be the only US airline that currently lets flyers enjoy free Wi-Fi, but Delta is about to follow suit with an experiment that starts next week in which the Atlanta-based airline will offer free Wi-Fi on 55 domestic flights.
Delta made the announcement about the test today, noting that you’ll be able to do almost anything via Wi-Fi except stream content for free. There will also be a multi-phase rollout of the testing, partly so Delta can watch and see how many customers actually taking advantage of this offering and what they use it for.
The test flight segments will change daily as part of the experiment, but in case you want to know beforehand if you’re on a participating flight those customers will be notified by Delta via email. They’ll also get a Fly Delta app push notification prior to their flight and when visiting the Wi-Fi portal on board.
“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, Delta’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.”
The company is no stranger to making this kind of investment in technology that it hopes will improve the overall customer experience. In 2017, for example, the airline began offering free mobile messaging and now also claims to offer more seat-back video screens than all of its airline rivals.
Delta also said today as part of its announcement that it will need several test phases before it feels confident enough to make free Wi-Fi available on all flights, as Dimbiloglu’s comment about this being a “complex program” indicates. The airline, for example, needs to be ready to accommodate an increase in passengers using Wi-Fi as a result of it being free, and also without the increase putting undue strain on the plane’s connection.
It should go without saying, but Wi-Fi for purchase as well as free mobile messaging will remain available throughout the test period.