Delta Air Lines has this week finalised a deal with high-speed Wi-Fi provider Viasat for the airline’s future connectivity needs.
Adding Viasat’s next-generation satellite technology (Ka-band) to the fleet will give the airline more options to modernise how customers stay connected and enjoy content while flying high. According to Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Director of Brand Experience – In-flight Entertainment and Wi-Fi, it is also “a significant step on the airline’s path to free Wi-Fi for its passengers.”
Discussing how the new partnership and technology will unlock the future of Delta’s onboard experience, Dimbiloglu said: “Staying connected is a key part of our customers’ lives both at home and during travel, and we are taking big leaps forward to deliver an unparalleled experience that puts connectivity and personalisation front and centre. Best-in-class connectivity takes our vision for a reimagined brand experience to the next level and has long been a focus for us as a business.”
The agreement with Viasat comes following Delta’s decision last summer to amend its exclusivity agreement with Gogo. The move enabled the US airline to work with a competing Wi-Fi provider.
“Delta is committed to optimising the customer journey, and we’re committed to helping them build a foundation toward a better in-flight internet and entertainment experience,” said Rick Baldridge, Viasat’s President and CEO, commenting on the deal.
“We have a proven in-flight connectivity solution that is high-quality, streaming-capable and can scale to meet Delta’s growing customer demand. We’re proud to be part of their connected ecosystem,” he added.
Delta’s aircraft will be fitted with Viasat’s latest Ka-band IFC system and will be compatible with Viasat’s complete fleet of satellites, including Viasat’s first-generation spacecraft and partner satellites; its second-generation spacecraft ViaSat-2, and the forthcoming ViaSat-3 class of satellites, which are expected to offer global coverage with nearly eight times more capacity than Viasat’s current fleet.
Glenn Latta, Delta Air Line’s Managing Director – In-flight Entertainment & Wi-Fi, explained that Viasat’s high-speed satellite-powered technology changes the game for what the airline can offer. “We now have additional capability and next-gen technology too make sure [customers] have a more consistent connection to their favourite sites, including the ability to stream the entertainment of their choice on their flight. It also lays the groundwork for future enhancements and personalisation with the seatback screen that customers will love.”
Noting that the airline has come a long way since CEO Ed Bastion delivered a keynote address at CES 2020, in January last year – when he shared the airline’s vision to focus on a seamless, connected customer experience rooted in personalisation – Dimbiloglu added that: “Though 2020 required some shifts in focus areas as a result of the pandemic, we still clearly see a future rooted in deepened customer interactions with technology.
“As Ed said at CES, delivering free Wi-Fi that is high-quality and streaming capable requires thorough testing to ensure our technology can handle the demand.”
While there’s no indication of when free Wi-Fi might be available, Viasat’ technology will begin appearing onboard Delta aircraft this summer, starting with its new delivery of A321 ceo, 737-900ER and select 757-200 aircraft. That is more than 300 mainline narrow body aircraft.