The passenger cabin of a Delta Boeing 737-900ER is shown while landing in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Delta Airlines will offer travelers free Wi-Fi from February 1, after years of studying the possibility.
Most US flights will introduce the service next month, but it will become available weekly, CEO Ed Bastian said during a presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Delta said in a statement Thursday that its free Wi-Fi, through a partnership with T-Mobilewill be available on more than 700 aircraft by the end of 2023 and on international and regional aircraft by the end of next year.
“It’s free. There’s no fine print,” Bastian said Thursday. “We invested over a billion dollars to create this.”
Delta’s plan to make internet access free comes as airlines vie for customers in the rebound in travel from the pandemic crisis nearly three years ago. Delta executives have repeatedly said the airline is targeting higher-paying customers and that revenue from premium cabins like business class has outpaced revenue growth from standard coaches.
Travelers will access the free internet service by logging in with their Delta SkyMiles loyalty account information, Bastian added. Although passengers need a SkyMiles account, membership is free.
Delta said last March that it was equipping its planes more with fast Wi-Fi from viasat and made it available for a fixed price of $5. The carrier already offers free messaging.
Most airlines charge for Wi-Fi: United Airlines charges $8 to members of its loyalty program and $10 to other customers, and South West Airlines bill $8. It’s free on JetBluewho has corporate sponsorships for the service, and Hawaiian airlines plans to offer free internet with SpaceX’s Starlink this year.
American airlinesWi-Fi service starts at $10 and varies by route, although last April the carrier and its provider Viasat began testing free Wi-Fi for select customers.
Airline executives have been hesitant to offer free Wi-Fi until it’s more reliable.
Delta also announced Thursday that it will be unveiling new in-flight entertainment systems, starting later this year.