Staying connected to speedy internet while globetrotting will soon be a reality on Delta Air Lines. The Atlanta-based carrier announced Tuesday that it’s officially teaming up with Viasat, one of the leading providers of satellite connectivity, to outfit the airline’s entire wide-body fleet with the provider’s latest connectivity solutions.
As part of the expanded tie-up, Delta will add Viasat antennas to its Airbus A330, Airbus A350 and Boeing 767 fleets. Tuesday’s announcement also covers the Airbus A220 jets and future deliveries of the Boeing 737 MAX, of which Delta has up to 130 on order. (You’ll find a full fleet-by-fleet update at the bottom of this story.)
These existing jets in Delta’s fleet are currently connected to the “Wi-Fi Onboard” service, formerly known as Gogo. While the speeds and reliability of this satellite-based service are generally quite good, they’re likely not strong enough to support an entire planeload of passengers connecting to the internet with multiple devices.
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Delta’s partnership with Viasat goes back to January 2021, when the airline began laying the groundwork for free fleetwide Wi-Fi. The carrier has since installed the Viasat antennas on more than 540 domestic aircraft, with plans to complete the entire domestic fleet by the end of the year.
After months of testing, Delta finally enabled its free Wi-Fi offering on all eligible domestic flights as of early February. I’ve been incredibly impressed by the new internet service during my recent travels, even on busy flights with hundreds of connected devices.
Delta will install its fast and free Wi-Fi offering on all international jets by the end of 2024. In the meantime, as the airline begins the Viasat switchover on its long-haul routes, you’ll still need to purchase Wi-Fi, but the speeds and reliability should be much better than Delta’s existing offerings.
Once a critical mass of jets has been converted to Viasat, Delta will flip the switch on the free offering.
In addition to offering faster and more reliable speeds, the new Viasat connection will also be available from pushback to park, whereas the existing service is only available once the jet crosses through 10,000 feet.
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This expansion is timed perfectly with the upcoming launch of the ViaSat-3 satellite constellation (slated for April), which will enable global connectivity with the exception of polar routes. These updated satellites are also poised to offer an even faster and more reliable connection during peak demand periods.
In order to connect to free Wi-Fi, you need to be a SkyMiles member and log in with your credentials on each of your devices. There are no other strings attached.
With this latest news, the only planes that won’t feature fast and free Wi-Fi are Delta’s regional jets. These small planes still connect to Gogo’s air-to-ground service, which is among the slowest and least reliable services out there. It only works when above 10,000 feet, and loading content-rich webpages is excruciatingly slow, if it even works at all.
While Delta hasn’t yet announced any plans to upgrade the connectivity experience on its regional jets, the airline can look to semiprivate carrier JSX for inspiration.
JSX flies Embraer 135 and 145 regional jets, and the carrier is in the process of installing SpaceX’s Starlink internet service on these planes. I recently had the chance to test the Starlink service on a demo flight, and I was blown away by the blazing-fast speeds and impressive reliability.
In fact, Starlink proved to be the fastest-ever inflight Wi-Fi I’ve seen, and I certainly hope Delta considers deploying it on its fleet of regional jets.
Fleet-by-fleet availability of Delta’s free Wi-Fi
|Aircraft||Fast-and-free Wi-Fi status|
|Airbus A319.||Entire fleet.|
|Airbus A320.||Entire fleet.|
|Airbus A321.||Majority of the fleet.|
|Airbus A220.||Coming by the end of 2023.|
|Boeing 737-800.||Entire fleet.|
|Boeing 737-900.||Entire fleet.|
|Boeing 757-200.||Entire fleet.|
|Boeing 757-300.||Coming by the end of 2023.|
|Boeing 717-200.||Coming by the end of 2023.|
|Airbus A330.||Coming by the end of 2024.|
|Airbus A350.||Coming by the end of 2024.|
|Boeing 767.||Coming by the end of 2024.|
|Regional jets.||No upgrade plans.|