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Delta plans to supply free Wi-Fi starting Feb. 1

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Delta Air Lines will offer travelers free Wi-Fi starting Feb. 1, after years of studying the chance.

About 80% of Delta’s domestic fleet will offer the service next month, but it’ll grow to be available on more each week, CEO Ed Bastian said during a presentation on the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Delta said in a release later Thursday that its free Wi-Fi, which is thru a sponsorship from T-Mobile, shall be available on greater than 700 planes by the top of 2023 and on international and regional aircraft by the top of next yr.

“It’s free. There isn’t any wonderful print,” Bastian said. “We’ve got invested over $1 billion to create this.”

Delta’s plan to make web access free will ramp up pressure on rivals as airlines compete for purchasers within the travel rebound following the pandemic slump nearly three years ago. Delta executives have repeatedly said that the airline is aiming for higher-paying customers and that revenue from premium cabins like business class has outpaced revenue growth in standard coach.

The passenger cabin on a Delta Boeing 737-900ER is shown while landing in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Travelers will access the free web service by logging in with their Delta SkyMiles frequent flyer account information, Bastian added. Though passengers will need a SkyMiles account, it’s free to grow to be a member.

Delta last March said it was outfitting more of its planes with fast Wi-Fi from Viasat and made it available for a $5 flat fee. The carrier already offers free messaging.

Most airlines charge for Wi-Fi: United Airlines charges $8 for members of its frequent flyer program and $10 to other customers, and Southwest Airlines charges $8. It’s free on JetBlue, which has some corporate sponsorships for the service, and Hawaiian Airlines is planning to supply free web with SpaceX’s Starlink this yr.

American Airlines‘ Wi-Fi service starts at $10 and varies depending on the route, though last April, the carrier and its provider, Viasat, began trialing free Wi-Fi for some customers.

Airline executives have been hesitant to supply free Wi-Fi service until it’s more reliable.

Delta also said Thursday it’ll unveil latest in-flight entertainment systems, starting this summer. Passenger preferences “will travel with you from flight to flight, and even remember where you left off on a movie,” Delta said in a release.

The corporate is working with Paramount+ for passenger entertainment, in addition to American Express, Delta’s partner in its lucrative co-branded bank card line, and the cardboard company’s reservations platform Resy because the airline banks on personalization and partnerships outside of flights from food to ground transportation.

The airline has loyalty partnerships with Starbucks and Lyft, amongst others.

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