Delta Air Lines WiFi Will Finally, Officially, Be Free Starting February 1

Delta has been talking up free wifi for years, but they didn’t have enough bandwidth on their planes. When you make wifi free, more people use it, and that slows down the service. Ditching Gogo for ViaSat solves for this.

Gradually they’ve been rolling out free wifi and starting February 1 it’ll be for everyone on domestic flights.

  • However this won’t be on all planes. Airbus A220s and Boeing 717s don’t have ViaSat, so they aren’t ready to flip the switch on those. And it won’t yet be available on widebody aircraft, either.

  • That, too, will change as all domestic flights should have free wifi by the end of 2023, and all Delta aircraft – even regional jets – are planned to offer free wifi by the end of 2024.

JetBlue offers free, fast internet. Southwest is improving its internet speeds and charges $8. $6 – $8 is generally the cost of inflight wifi for those who charge, except on American where it’s more expensive.

American Airlines doesn’t even have free texting. They announced it at Investor & Media Day in September 2017 and then hoped no one would notice when they didn’t follow through. They decided it was too expensive.

However American was prepared to match whatever Delta did back in 2019. They had several versions of the plan ready to go, so that they would follow Delta’s script exactly. That’s before Delta determined they couldn’t yet support the offering.

I always believe American should go first. Delta was going to get there. It was inevitable. American already had ViaSat in most of its domestic narrowbodies, so they were in a position to be the first global airline to offer wifi for free. They’ve squandered that. Now the question is, will they match?

They may not think they have to, since United Airlines can’t. While CEO Scott Kirby has talked about wifi eventually being free, and they promised to retrofit their domestic fleet with seat back entertainment and fast wifi but they haven’t done that yet – at all. In the meantime, United has the least functional internet among U.S. carriers (other than Frontier and Allegiant, which do not offer it at all). Until they have more bandwidth, they’re at a disadvantage.

Meanwhile, Delta becomes materially less expensive to fly even at the same fare. On other airlines you’ll have to pay the ticket cost plus wifi. That’s a built in competitive advantage for an airline which has struggled operationally compared to its own past performance, but which still edged out other carriers overall in 2022. This helps cement their reputation as the premium carrier, which remains the reason they’re able to succeed in spite of intentionally offering less value in the SkyMiles program.

Once an airline has solved the bandwidth issue, it makes sense to bundle internet into the ticket cost, which is why I predicted in 2012 that onboard internet would be free within ten years. The pandemic, sadly, pushed that out to eleven.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How much does it pain you to write something moderately positive about Delta, Gary? Sorry pal…your AA boys are trash in this regard. Good luck defending them.

  2. Wifi connectivity on planes is important to what percentage of people? Personally, I can be without wifi for five to six hours and stay calm and content.

  3. @Ken – even a decade ago Scott Kirby shared that he’d put it off for years at US Airways but finally saw clearly in the data that people were *booking away from* his airline because they didn’t have it available for purchase. He knew he’d lose money on it (cost to offer it > revenue) but he was losing more money by not having it. It also is more important as well to those who are spending more on tickets.

  4. To be fair, the reason why United hasn’t retrofitted their planes is supply chain. Panasonic, thr company responsible for making the IFEs, as well as Viasat, who is responsible for making the fast wifi hardware, are dealing with the semiconductor shortage, and this is out of UA’s hands. UA wants those upgrades as much as their customers do since it attracts more customers, but they can’t, and that’s for a reason beyond their reasonable control.

  5. Prediction busted: the majority of US carriers 11 years later don’t offer free WiFi (even after DL and B6 are counted in, which together are what, 30% of US domestic market?)

    AA is a low-quality carrier; it will be the last one of the US3 to offer free WiFi, and will do so only after there’s solid, irrefutable proof that people are booking away from AA because of this.

  6. Gary. How much revenue does American and United generate by charging for wi-fi? Is it a break even thing with the cost of installation?

  7. This bandwidth should be fun on a plane with everyone using it at the same time !!!

    P.S. Nothing is for free ! Basic economics .. they’ll get you somewhere else.

  8. I am happy to fly with no Wi-Fi at all. It’s one of the few areas we can actually disconnect from the world for just a while anyway. I never did understand the “need” for Wi-Fi. It’s not like there’s much room on planes to do much of anything anyway. The last thing we need is somebody blasting YouTube or TikTok videos without any headphones.

  9. @ChadMC – I work on planes, unless it’s a late evening flight where I’m just too tired. I can work effectively even in a Southwest coach seat (32 inch pitch) and in extra legroom coach on other carriers. 30 inch standard coach on the largest airlines, I agree, makes it tough to work.

    Nobody should be blasting YouTube, just as they shouldn’t be blasting movies or music. That’s what headphones or ear buds are for.

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