Inflight technology has come a long way. Over the last few years we have seen inflight wifi go from the exception to the norm. Not only that, but we've seen the airlines get better speeds so that wifi on a plane is similar to what you find on the ground.
Free inflight wifi on the horizon?
It seems like the next big limit for inflight wifi is not having to pay for it. Especially this is something JetBlue has been offering for a while, but not many airlines have followed so far, at least not on a widespread basis. We've seen that some airlines (like Alaska and Delta) offer free inflight messaging, but it's not exactly the same as free Wi-Fi altogether.
The Delta management has long said that they hope to soon introduce free Wi-Fi throughout their fleet, pointing out that the planes are one of the only places you have to pay for wifi today.
Now, Delta has announced a big step towards it today.
Participated two-week trial of free wifi
] On May 1
The specific aircraft with free wifi will change daily, even if customers will be notified by Delta if they are on one of these aircraft before departure, either via email or through a push app from the Delta app.
Delta says this is the first step towards realizing their vision of offering free Wi-Fi as part of their "leading package of free entertainment options."
This trial is designed to understand customer experience preferences, system settings, customer feedback, and more. Due to the complexity of this business, Delta says it will take several test phases before offering free wifi completely. So expect this to be months or years, and not days or weeks out.
As Delta Director of Onboard Product describes it:
"Customers are accustomed to having access to free Wi-Fi during almost every other aspect of their journey, and Delta believes it should be free when flying as well. Testing will be the key to getting this very complex program right – this requires much more creativity, investment and planning to bring to life than a simple flip of a switch.
As with any test in unknown territory, Delta will rely heavily on Customer and employee feedback to navigate how to best make free Wi-Fi in Wi-Fi a reality. "The test will include Delta's Gogo inflight 2Ku high-speed wifi, but will not support content streaming. Rather, customers will be able to browse, email, shop, sign up and participate in social media, all free with Delta wifi. Delta records that they are already leading in the field of capturing entertainment:
- In 2016, Delta became the first US global airline to release paid entertainment model and offers all the free Delta Studio content through setback displays and streaming to personal devices
- In 2017 Delta became the first US global airline to offer free mobile messaging
- Delta offers more inflight screens than any other airline
Is inflight wifi even a good thing?
It goes without saying that free inflight wifi sounds fantastic. The problem is that airlines still have extremely limited bandwidth on aircraft. The challenge is not just for the airlines to justify not collecting revenue from inflight wifi, but also to balance price and speed.
With today's technology, there is simply not enough bandwidth for anyone to browse Wi-Fi without providing high speed.
So what is better – everyone gets free wifi that is slow, or being able to pay a (potentially reasonable) price to get the wifi that is faster?
It will be interesting to see what Delta's tests reveal about this.
I'm sure the technology improves that this is becoming a problem, but I don't think we're there yet.
It's exciting to see Delta so focused on trying to offer free wifi. Although this is something that is exciting to look forward to, I think we are probably still a way out of this as a permanent reality.
I have worries about Wi-Fi speeds if it is free extensively with today's technology. Do I want free wifi? Of course. But I'd rather pay an extra $ 5 per hour wifi to have really good speeds, instead of free wifi which is slow.
Do you think we will actually see Delta introduce free wifi in a widespread way anytime soon, or are we the years from what happens?