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.