Free public Wi-Fi connections have been the standard across cities and within businesses for some time. However, its presence has remained elusive on flights, with airlines typically charging up to $20 for a spotty connection.
This month, Delta Air Lines wants to become one of the first to offer its passengers internet access in the sky free of charge. The company announced that this month it’s testing “free in-flight Wi-Fi” that will allow customers to “browse, email, shop, message, engage with social media and more—all free of charge.” But if you’re looking to stream Netflix on your red eye, you’re out of luck. Delta’s free internet connection will not support video streaming.
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The Atlanta-based airline—which is currently facing backlash for its employee union-busting tactics—will begin running the pilot program on May 13 on 55 domestic flights. It follows in the footsteps of competitor JetBlue, which currently offers all passengers free in-air Wi-Fi, igniting a race among industry leaders.
“Customers are accustomed to having access to free Wi-Fi during nearly every other aspect of their journey, and Delta believes it should be free when flying, too,” said Delta’s director of onboard product Ekrem Dimbiloglu in the company’s announcement. “Testing will be key to getting this highly complex program right—this takes a lot more creativity, investment and planning to bring to life than a simple flip of a switch.”
Free Wi-Fi is considered a luxurious perk for many passengers, considering airlines have become strict with everything from baggage limits to measly food offerings. While many travelers welcome the complimentary service, Delta’s current standing with the public puts it at odds with customers questioning the company’s values.
As one customer on Twitter put it, “I’ll happily take no wifi if they don’t do anti union shit like they just did.” The complaint is in reference to Delta, this week, encouraging employees to spend perspective union fees on personal goods like video games, resulting in criticism from the public and 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Delta’s paid Wi-Fi options will continue to be offered while the airline tests the free program over the next two weeks.