Delta is testing free Wi-Fi on select flights this summer

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ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines is testing free Wi-Fi on select flights, part of a years-long effort to eventually launch free wireless Internet service on many of its flights.

Atlanta-based Delta will offer free Wi-Fi on “select flights this summer,” according to Glenn Latta, the airline’s general manager of inflight connectivity. Airline charges for Wi-Fi normally start at $5 per flight.

Latta added that this is an effort to test the technology and gain insights to eventually deliver Wi-Fi “as fast and reliable as possible.”

Slow and patchy in-flight Wi-Fi has frustrated Delta passengers for years, and the company has worked to increase bandwidth and reliability by expanding satellite Wi-Fi with a new provider.

Ekrem Dimbiloglu, general manager of brand experience at Delta, said the company has made “significant investments” over the past two years to finally make onboard Wi-Fi free, fast and reliable. But he added that testing is important.

ThriftyTraveler.com reported that Delta in an internal memo said it plans to launch free Wi-Fi on all domestic flights “soon” and will expand free Wi-Fi to international routes by the end of it. of 2024.

We don’t know what “soon” means. Delta’s free Wi-Fi efforts go back years, with CEO Ed Bastian telling The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2018 that he wanted to eventually make the service free.

But Bastian also warned at the time that it would take two to three years to get there. In May 2019, Delta conducted a two-week free Wi-Fi test on select flights.

It’s been more than three years since Bastian’s first comments, and in the meantime, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Delta to drastically cut spending when travel plummeted and delayed some new technology projects.

But Delta last year announced a new inflight Wi-Fi provider, Viasat, for high-speed satellite connections in a bid to give passengers faster, more consistent connections and streaming.

It remains to be seen whether Delta will eventually make all Wi-Fi access free for all passengers, or whether it will charge extra for the fastest connections.

Written for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, distributed by Tribune News Service.

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