Delta Air Lines will start offering free Wi-Fi on most of its domestic flights starting this Feb. 1, Delta CEO Ed Bastian announced on Thursday at the Consumers Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Initially, free Wi-Fi will only be available on planes that are capable of providing it, Bastian said, which accounts for nearly 80% of its domestic fleet (those that are equipped with Viasat). Delta will then work to make it available across its full fleet, with the goal of doing so by the end of 2024 for all domestic, international, and regional flights.
The only requirement will be that passengers are logged in through their SkyMiles account.
“Delta is here to announce that starting February 1st, Wi-Fi will be free across our entire company,” Bastian said on stage. “It is going to be free, it is going to be fast, and it is going to be available to everyone.”
The announcement makes good on a goal that Bastian set on the CES stage in early 2020, and that other Delta executives have hinted at for some time. Bastian, onstage in 2020 right before the pandemic started, told the CES audience that Delta was looking at the prospect of offering it sometime over the next couple of years. The carrier had also teased the offering with a two-week testing program that it launched in May 2019, a program that saw around 55 domestic flights operate with free Wi-Fi to test capabilities onboard.
Also, when the carrier announced the news that it was moving to Viasat in January 2021, a new in-flight Wi-Fi provider, Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Delta’s director of brand experience for in-flight entertainment said in a Q&A that “we are committed to delivering Free Wi-Fi in the future, and this is a significant step on that journey.”
Delta is currently offering $5 Wi-Fi on most of its domestic mainline fleet (Viasat-equipped flights), along with a $49.95 monthly domestic plan and a $69.95 monthly international plan. At the same time, it does offer free messaging from smartphones via iMessage, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp, complimentary on most flights.
The move marks what could be the start of a fairly large shift in the airline industry—Delta would become one of the first major U.S. carriers to offer free Wi-Fi across its fleet. While some airlines do offer it already, including JetBlue Airways, most carriers have either been charging somewhere between $5 and $10 for inflight Wi-Fi or asking flyers to first watch an ad before connecting (something American is doing on some of its flights).