Delta Air Lines

Moving closer to free in-flight Wi-Fi

My story this week for CNBC online is all about the (possible) move to free Wi-Fi in the sky.

Who’s doing it? Should we have it? Will we have it? Give this story a read and let me know if you think we are indeed on our way to having free Wi-Fi in the sky:

It wasn’t all that long ago (2000 or 2006, depending how you measure) that being able to access the internet on an airplane was a pie-in-the-sky idea. 

Once the technology became generally available and airlines began equipping their planes with Wi-Fi service, passengers soon found they couldn’t bear to fly without it.

In 2013, 66% of passengers surveyed by Honeywell Aerospace said the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi would influence their flight selection.

By 2018, Inmarsat’s Inflight Connectivity Survey found that more than half (55%) of all airline passengers considered inflight Wi-Fi to be a crucial amenity. And almost as many (53%) said they’d be willing to forgo an alcoholic drink, tea, coffee, and other in-flight amenities in exchange for Wi-Fi access.

The price of staying connected in the sky

While free messaging is available on Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines and on a variety of international airlines, most all domestic airlines levy a charge for accessing the internet for email, streaming and other purposes.

And the cost to access that Wi-Fi varies. Sometimes widely. 

Southwest Airlines charges $8 a day for its Wi-Fi service, which prohibits access to Netflix and other high-bandwidth applications. Gogo, which provides inflight Wi-Fi to airlines such as United, Delta, Alaska and Air Canada, sells a variety of buy-before-you-fly passes. Order ahead and you’ll pay $7 for one hour of Wi-Fi access on domestic flights and $19 for 24 hours of Wi-Fi access on domestic flights.

Wait until you’re in the air to buy Wi-Fi access, though, and on most airlines the cost will be much higher.

How much higher? “Prices will vary,” is all several airlines will tell you. And it is rare, if ever, that purchasing an hour or a full day of Wi-Fi access is cheaper once you’re up in the air.  

But the tide on paid inflight Wi-Fi may be turning.

In 2016 JetBlue became the first domestic airline to offer its Fly-Fi streaming-quality Wi-Fi service free on all its planes.

Now Delta Air Lines is taking its first steps towards offering free Wi-Fi as well.

The Atlanta-based carrier started a two-week pilot test on May 13 that includes free Wi-Fi on around 55 domestic short, medium and long-haul flight segments a day.

“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 Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Delta’s Director of Onboard Product, in a statement, “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.”

The test flight segments change daily; passengers learn if they’re on a free Wi-Fi flight from a pre-flight email or via a push notification from the Fly Delta app. Gate agents and flight attendants are also making announcements.

Only free ‘basic’ Wi-Fi is offered as part of the test, so passengers who need a more robust service for streaming will have to purchase the paid service. Right now it costs $16 for a North America Wi-Fi day-pass on Delta, if purchased pre-flight.

Is free in-flight Wi-Fi here to stay? And will other carriers follow?  

“It’s nice to see an airline offering a desired amenity on a complimentary basis,” said travel industry analyst and Atmosphere Research Group founder Henry Harteveldt, “But I’m uncertain whether Delta will be able to increase its market share, customer preference or revenue premium enough to warrant offering the free Wi-Fi.”  

Other industry experts expect Delta will continue down the full-time free Wi-Fi path, though, and that other airlines will have no choice but to follow.

“Delta tends to go first with these kinds of customer-friendly initiatives,” said Seth Kaplan, an aviation journalist and author of the book “Glory Lost and Found: How Delta Climbed from Despair to Dominance in the Post-9/11.” Kaplan said American Airlines and United Airlines sometimes match Delta rather than lose customers, even if they’re reluctant to do so. “But Delta’s move makes widespread free Wi-Fi much more likely than it seemed until recently,” said Kaplan.

Another reason passengers might soon enjoy widespread free inflight Wi-Fi: millennials.

“Millennials and younger generations expect free Wi-Fi access everywhere, especially when they are traveling,” said Kelly Soderlund, a travel trends expert with Hipmunk, “Much like hotels, which have been successful in leveraging consumer loyalty through free Wi-Fi, I would expect airlines to follow suit and meet that demand.”

Deals, discounts & treats for travelers + moms

Mother’s Day celebrations at airports

Airports across the country will be marking Mother’s Day with complimentary flowers, music and more.

Today between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the post-security Great Hall at Los Angeles International Airport, the Mother’s Day celebration will include a photo booth, complimentary wooden roses, and appearances by some of the pups from the Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUPs) program.

And, as they have for many years, this weekend volunteers at Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport will likely be handing out flowers to arriving moms and those waiting for their moms.

We’ll add more Mother’s Day activities as they roll in.

Delta Air Lines rolling out free in-flight WiFI

Starting May 13, Delta Air Lines is kicking off a much-welcome two-week pilot program to offer free in-flight Wi-Fi in all cabins on 55 short, media and long-haul flights.

The carrier says this is the first step towards offering complimentary Wi-Fi for everyone, all the time.

“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 Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Director of Onboard Product in a statement. “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.”

The free Wi-Fi service won’t support content streaming, but will let passengers browse, email, shop, message, and engage with social media for free.

Delta’s Wi-Fi for purchase and free mobile messaging will remain available throughout the test.

Take the train

Amtrak, which also offers free Wi-Fi, has launched an Unconditional Love Flash Sale now through Monday, May 13.

The two-for-one ticket offer is valid for travel nationwide between June 1 and September 30. Use discount code C250.

Bonus: if you’re an Amtrak Guest Rewards member (or sign up to be) you can also earn double points if you travel by May 18

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

Boston Logan Airport – and others – are reminding travelers that Uber & Lyft driver are planning a strike today, which might make getting to and from this and other airports a bit more complicated.

Delta Air Lines announces a “Reclaim My Status” loyalty benefit for its customers. Nice.

And the newest exhibit at St. Louis Lambert International Airport is curated by the Griot Museum of Black History.

Batik Story Quilts: Yoruba and Other Cultural Proverbs, displays Batik tapestry quilts made by artist Tunde Odulande.  

The exhibit includes seven quilts:

The Fairytale of the Blue Ghosts and Their Magical Spree,” Musicians Make Music While the Audience Makes Orchestration,” “Has Man Finally Arrived?,” “If you Don’t Know Where You Are Going, Any Road Will Do,” and “Our Heritage” are on display across from carousel 1 in the Terminal 1 Baggage Claim area.

Sweet Mother” and “Mask of Peace” are on display near the A Concourse entrance. Batik Story Quilts: Yoruba and Other Cultural Proverbs is on display at STL through October 23, 2019 

Delta tightens leash on emotional support animals- again.

Delta Air Lines is issuing a new round of rules for service and support animals . 

Don’t be surprised if these rules are adopted soon by other airlines. 

Delta’s new policy goes into effect December 18. Under the new rules, service and support animals under four months of age will be banned from any Delta flight.

Delta will also no longer allow emotional support animals – of any age – to be booked on flights longer than eight hours.

If you purchased a ticket before December 18th and have requested to travel with an emotional support animal, Delta will still allow you and your emotional support animal to travel.

Come February 1, 2019, however, emotional support animals will not be accepted on flights longer than eight hours, regardless of booking date.  

“These updates support Delta’s commitment to safety and also protect the rights of customers with documented needs, such as veterans with disabilities, to travel with trained service and support animals, ” said John Laughter, Senior Vice President – Corporate Safety, Security and Compliance.

Delta said the updated policy comes on the heels of an 84 percent increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals from 2016-2017. 

Those incidents include urination/defecation, biting and an attack by a 70-pound dog. Delta also notes that its updated support and service animal age requirement aligns with the vaccination policy of the CDC and the eight-hour flight limit for emotional support animals is consistent with principles outlined in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act.

The full policy, including rules about what kind of animals can be considered service or emotional support animals, is on the Delta website

The new rules don’t apply to animals traveling in the cabin inside closed carriers as pets on paid tickets. 

Airlines, airports go pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month

Airlines and airports are going pink to promote Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Throughough October, Tampa International Airport is lighting up its SkyConnect stations in a shade of pink. TPA’s Guest Service Representatives are all wearing pink scarves and ties and airport police officers are wearing pink ribbon-adorned badges.

Miami International Airport is also going pink during October.

Travelers will see pink signage on MIA’s Central  Boulevard welcome sign,  flight information screens, ticket counter monitors and more.

Last year, the Miami-Dade Aviation Department (MDAD) raised more than $35,000 for the American Cancer Society’sMaking Strides Against Breast Cancer (MSABC) Walk – the most of any Miami-Dade County department – through employee-led food sales, raffles, auctions and activities. This year, MDAD has partnered with concessionaires at Miami International Airport to raise more than $16,000, with the goal of surpassing its 2017 total.

Airlines are also going pink.

To raise awareness and support for breast cancer research, Delta Air Lines employees will wear pink uniforms and sell pink products, including pink lemonade and pink headsets, on board and in Delta Sky Clubs throughout the month of October.

This year, customers can also purchase Pink Boutique merchandise through the Pink Boutique online store. Proceeds from the onboard sales and online Pink Boutique benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s research projects and the overall mission of finding a cure. Delta will also donate 10 percent of all on-board sales directly to BCRF during the month of October.

American Airlines is also participating in Breast Cancer Awareness month by raising fund for the Susan B. Komen group:

  • AAdvantage customers can receive 20 AAdvantage miles for every $1 donated to Susan G. Komen with a minimum donation of $25 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31.
  • Team members who are survivors of breast cancer will be prominently featured on aa.com, on AA flight and gate information display screens and in Admirals Clubs.
  • On planes, there will be pink beverage napkins and pink inflight menus, amenity kits, Wi-Fi portal and more.
  • Passengers will also be invited to donate directly to Susan B. Komen during flights. flight.

Other airlines and other airports will be marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month as well with fundraising efforts, information campaigns and lots of pink. If you know of a campaign, let us know.