Delta is installing Viasat’s Ka-band satellite in-flight connectivity (IFC) system on more than 300 of its Airbus A321ceo and Boeing 737-900ER 757-200s.
The Atlanta-based international carrier expects to introduce the new service to passengers with a new in-flight Wi-Fi portal by the summer of 2021. Delta’s commitment to the in-flight connectivity upgrades on new and in-service aircraft comes as the airline continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic with including a range of operational adjustments.
Recent changes include negotiating employee buyouts and furloughs, blocking middle seats on all flights through the end of March, and the launch of contact tracing for travelers returning to the U.S.
According to a Jan. 5 Viasat press release, Delta’s aircraft will be modified with Viasat’s latest Ka-band IFC system, and will be compatible with the company’s complete fleet of satellites, including their “first-generation spacecraft and partner satellites; 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,” the company said.
In a question and answer published by Delta, Ekrem Dimbiloglu, their director of brand experience, in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi, admits the new Viasat deal will not introduce the goal of providing free IFC to passengers proposed by CEO Ed Bastian during a keynote speech at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Ekrem said Delta remains “committed to delivering Free Wi-Fi in the future,” and that their insights drawn from a 2019 “Free Wi-Fi Pilot” initiative is guiding their approach eventually providing a free service.
Viasat’s summer-time rollout on Delta will be joined by what Glenn Latta, the airline’s managing director of in-flight entertainment, described in the same interview as a new “Delta-developed Wi-Fi access portal” that acts as an “interface that integrates in-flight Wi-Fi and other day-of-travel features under one roof.”
“It is built to work with Viasat and acts as the front page to your experience – the first thing that will greet you as you connect to the onboard Wi-Fi,” Latta said.
According to Latta, the addition of Viasat to select Airbus and Boeing models is part of their long-term multi-connectivity service provider strategy. Gogo, Delta’s other IFC service provider, amended their agreement with the airline to provide their 2Ku service to feature a shortened expiration date, according to Gogo’s third-quarter earnings filing.
Delta also stopped adding new content to its Gogo-enabled Delta studio platform in April, opting to keep free Wi-Fi enabled messaging and live satellite television on Gogo-equipped aircraft.
“In working with Viasat, we gain the tools needed to deepen customer interactions and bring us closer to delivering more personalized in-flight content as well as an ability to consistently provide free, fast, streaming Wi-Fi in the future,” Bill Lentsch, chief customer experience officer, Delta, said in the Viasat release.
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