Delta Picks ViaSat To Push Forward A Plan American Nixed Two Years Ago

Delta reiterated their commitment to offering free wifi as they announced they’ll be fitting 300 of their narrowbody aircraft with ViaSat’s high speed internet – instead of Gogo 2Ku.

Delta will add the service to new delivery narrowbodies and will retrofit Airbus A321ceo, Boeing 737-900ER, and some Boeing 757-200s beginning this summer. Presumably the domestic-configured 757s will see ViaSat reconfigurations. They aren’t dumping Gogo completely – the rest of the fleet isn’t covered by this deal – but it’s a big shift in strategy for Delta and one they say allows them a whole lot more flexibility in what they can deliver.

One piece of their release stood out to me.

Viasat’s high-speed satellite-powered technology changes the game for what we can offer. We now have additional capability and next-gen technology to make sure you have a faster and more consistent connection to your favorite sites, including the ability to stream the entertainment of your choice on your flight. It also lays the groundwork for future enhancements and personalization with the seatback screen that customers will love.

Delta’s new inflight entertainment system is wireless. They install a tablet in the seat back and stream content to each seat. Delta saves two-thirds of what it used to cost to do seat back entertainment, while still providing the device customers use to watch shows on each flight.

American Airlines, which only just announced free messaging three years after announcing free messaging, had an internal project that would have done something similar. (And American by the way already splits internet service with ViaSat and Gogo, and near-useless Panasonic on most international widebodies.)

American has been removing seat back entertainment even from planes that already have it. Their new standard domestic product has no seat back video, and offers streaming to customer devices (American used to offer streaming Live TV but dropped this claiming sports weren’t happening during the pandemic, sports are back Live TV is not).

However customers use seat back video on flights that offer it. They prefer it over watching on their phones, even when there’s a power outlet and a place to put their phone. Families with several children often don’t have enough devices for everyone. And planes with seat back screens just look a lot more premium.

The effort to restore seat back video was coming from Janelle Anderson’s shop. She was Vice President of Marketing, and was supposedly even staying with this past summer’s huge leadership reshuffle. Yet I’m told she recently left, frustrated that she couldn’t get backing for her initiatives. The worst thing in the world for a bad product is good marketing because it makes people abundantly aware of the shortcomings. American Airlines needs a domestic product that marketing can sell.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Biggest problem with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) service at American (and United) is that it rarely works properly—and crew have no ability, or desire, to fix any issues with the service. As a frequent flyer with dozens of flights over past few years, I’d say the BYOD service actually works about 10% of the time on any given aircraft. I try to stream films just for a laugh/metrics—and I’m confident in my findings that this is almost always broke and universally disliked by customers, crew and especially (this happens nearly every flight) the elderly lady who tries to figure out how to use the system/asks for help/gets nowhere/frustrated crew/gives up…..

    Delta may have terrible worthless skypesos, but damn their IFE is the best!!

  2. I commute ~100 flights a year on AA and have been a customer of the $50 unlimited inflight internet for years.

    The only issues I ever had was with the old ground based gogo service on the MD80s. It was slow and had dead areas.

    They recently switched to a new plan which is the same as the old one but you login with your AAvantage #. The internet, both the new gogo as well as viasat, works fantastically. I stream YouTube videos over the Caribbean for example. Good speed and connectivity has never been an issue.

  3. Amazing that the comments about DL’s enhanced WiFi bring out comments about AA and UA.

    The beauty of seatback AVOD is that it includes the same capabilities that the BYOD population will advocate. It is a bonus to be able to use the airline’s equipment AND your own , if you choose.

    But the real deal for Delta is that you can stream YOUR OWN entertainment, check and update your own email, and do all the things you do with full internet service and do it w/ technical capabilities that make sure that the promise and the delivery are not far apart.

  4. I mean…
    United doesn’t have seat back
    Alaska doesn’t
    Southwest doesn’t
    Any legacy European carrier doesn’t on a narrow body
    But sure… this is an aa issue?

    American has had high speed WiFi for years now while delta still doesn’t and won’t for years even with this announcement. But yeah…. congrats delta for finally catching up on a plan to update your WiFi.

    Oh. And nice to see the Tim Dunn troll spreading throughout other sites lol

  5. Tim,
    “But the real deal for Delta is that you can stream YOUR OWN entertainment, check and update your own email, and do all the things you do with full internet service and do it w/ technical capabilities that make sure that the promise and the delivery are not far apart.”

    And that’s different from any other carrier like United and AA how? The only difference is Delta is the only one still using gogo on mainline aircraft. Reliable internet will be a change for Delta customers, but not a game changer for any other airline customer. Delta is and will continue to be behind their peers for a few years to come.

  6. REALLY. . .who’s following who? When AA does something after DL it’s ” AA following DL Lead” but when DL does does something after AA, it’s ” AA didn’t follow through”. Well truth be told DL is following AA’s lead with Via Sat / Gogo combo, which AA started nearly 3 years ago. This is happening primarily since DL internet speed and access is the WORST in the US.

    AA has chip away at DL “leadership”. AA reliability issues are gone, the fleet standardization issues are being fixed (btw, DL has 30 inch pitch, slimline seats and small bathroom on their planes too so don’t do there) and survey show passengers PREFER to bring their own devices verses the broken and gem infested IFE screen on DL.

    Face it, time and trends are changing, DL isn’t the leader across the industry they once were, the rest of the pack is catching up and in some cases passing them.

  7. 1980s 1990s no wi-fi no seat backs those poor people on the plane had to read books and newspaper that were on paper. OH how low class.

    No internet porn allowed on the planes. No telephone calls. No Karen’s NO Spirit Airlines.

Comments are closed.