Bucking Industry Trend, Delta Air Lines Promises Free WiFi For Passengersby Barbara Peterson /
While airlines are continuing to raise fees for checked bags and other services, Delta Air Lines last week said it would remove charges for one popular amenity: inflight WiFi.
Speaking at the Skift Global Forum in New York last week, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said his airline aimed to make WiFi not only faster, but free. “I don’t know of anywhere else besides in an airplane that you can’t get free Wi-Fi,” he said (although some hotels and airports continue to charge customers for WiFi use in some circumstances).
Bastian didn’t say when the carrier might take the step, but it is sure to be popular with customers who have been complaining about ever-rising ancillary charges. Delta recently joined the parade of airlines that are raising the fee for first checked bag to $30, a $5 increase. But Delta last year also made inflight texting free, and it is apparently betting that offering at least a few complimentary perks inflight might help to mitigate the fallout from other pricing increases.
Meanwhile, American Airlines President Robert Isom, also speaking at Skift, said that the airline is improving its inflight WiFi with faster satellite connections. But he stopped short of saying that the carrier would offer it free of charge.
Rather, Isom said, the customer experience will improve as the airline accelerates its fleet upgrades. The carrier is taking delivery of hundreds of new jets over the next few years, he said, and American’s investment in its fleet will address some common complaints, like inadequate overhead bin spin.
He cited WiFi, overhead bins and power ports at the seat as the top three things passengers want. But he did not mention that on another popular item, inflight drinks, American is getting less generous as it just announced it’s raising the price of wine and beer by $1 a drink.