Delta Air Lines reportedly plans to offer free WiFi to all its passengers as soon as next year, according to the Wall Street Journal. The airline is already testing free wireless internet for members of its frequent-flier program, and it's expected to expand significantly through 2023.
According to the report, Delta will start rolling out free WiFi “on a significant portion of its airplanes” before expanding the service to more of its fleet later next year. Once the program is available for all passengers, it will likely require a SkyMiles loyalty number to get online.
CEO Ed Bastian first announced the airline’s goal of free wireless access in 2018, and it recently stepped up testing. It currently uses Viasat and Intelsat (formerly Gogo) for internet access, and it reportedly plans to equip most of its US domestic fleet with Viasat service by the end of this year. JetBlue is the only major US airline currently offering free WiFi for all passengers.
The airline industry has tried for years to improve WiFi, testing with various providers and business models. However, the result is still a mess for customers: You might end up with different online requirements and pricing on two legs of the same flight, even with the same airline. Hopefully, Delta’s move will force other airlines to compete with free WiFi of their own — while cleaning up the process of accessing it.