The American airline Delta Air Lines Inc. (Delta) started two-weeks long testing providing free in-flight Wi-Fi for passengers on May 13, across its 55 domestic flights per day. They offer basic Wi-Fi, which means that the passengers can do almost everything except streaming videos. According to Delta, it targets to provide free Wi-Fi inflight in the long run. The airline is testing the amount of strain the increasing usage of Wi-Fi will make on the plane’s system.
Testing will be key to getting this highly complex program right—this takes a lot more creativity, investment and planning to bring to life than a simple flip of a switch, Delta’s Director of Onboard Product told The Wall Street Journal.
However, the airline admits that it has to go through various phases before the actual implementation of free Wi-Fi inflight. When made free, an increasing number of passengers on flight will begin using the internet, which in turn, could stress the plane’s connection. It could choke a plane’s bandwidth and result in lower speeds.
Delta has included its short, medium and long-haul flights for the pilot run. Customers are notified ahead about the Wi-Fi through a pre-flight email or a push notification from the airline’s mobile application.
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Gogo Inc. is the in-flight broadband internet service provider for Delta. In a report submitted for SEC filing, Gogo has revealed that 12% of passengers used in-flight Wi-Fi in 2018. It has also admitted that it is facing network capacity constraints in the US, and it expects to increase the capacity soon. Delta’s success majorly depends on the Gogo’s ability to build a robust network. If Gogo fails in making the system stronger, Delta may have to find another provider. However, Delta is a major client of Gogo, accounting for 23% of its revenue in 2018.
Currently, JetBlue offers free Wi-Fi, but it depends on corporate sponsorships to provide free service. Delta hasn’t revealed any timeline by which it can roll out free Wi-Fi for the passengers. However, if Delta became successful in the mission, other airlines will also be forced to offer the service free. Currently, Wi-Fi cost is an additional revenue stream for the airlines and is being provided at non-standardized pricing, resulting in disparate pricing levied on the passengers.