Many of us don’t change our lifestyle when we change locations, and that’s especially true when it comes to connectivity. We want our Wi-Fi wherever we go — and not just hard-charging Type A’s. Many travelers want the option of access to Wi-Fi when — or if — they need it.
For many years, most airline and cruise ship passengers have had that Wi-Fi access — but typically at a cost. And that cost has ranged from $8 to more than $40 a flight. And on cruise ships, it can be even more expensive.
Now, Delta Air Lines is changing the game. The airline has talked about providing free Wi-Fi to all passengers for a number of years, but this month,out on 80% of its domestic flights, and by the end of next year, on all their regional and international aircraft.
The only requirement: joining the Delta Sky Miles program, which is free.
Delta joins, which introduced free Wi-Fi on all flights in 2017, but other airlines continue to charge for Wi-Fi. While Southwest is only about $8 per day, that’s expected to go up to $8 per flight just next week. United is as low as $8, but the price goes up for long domestic and international flights. American is also pricey.
And once Delta rolls out free Wi-Fi on its international flights, it will be a game changer there too. Many foreign carriers offer Wi-Fi, and a few offer it free with their entire fleet (Singapore Airlines), others only offer it complimentary to their business class passengers. But for everyone else, it starts at about $20 — and not necessarily per flight. Some charge based on usage.
As recently as six months ago, the CEO of American argued that passengers should pay for Wi-Fi, but in light of the Delta move, the needle might also move in terms of passenger preference, and it’s expected that it’s only a matter of time before United and American and Southwest follow suit with free Wi-Fi.
But that won’t come soon. Delta was talking about free Wi-Fi in 2018 and 2019, and then began the slow process to retrofit its planes with the systems when the aircraft came in for other scheduled maintenance. At the very least, it could easily take 18 months to two years for United and American to catch up.
Hawaiian Airlines is poised to launch free inflight Wi-Fi this year. And American has started testing out free Wi-Fi on some selected flights. Passengers who agree to watch a sponsored video or advertisement get 30 minutes of Wi-Fi free.
And going beyond basic email, what about streaming and video games? For the moment, most of the free Wi-Fi being offered limits both streaming and games, to make sure the speed of basic Wi-Fi isn’t compromised.
For those traveling by sea, manyoffer Wi-Fi as an add-on package. Some offer limited Wi-Fi. And it can be slow. Viking Cruises not only offers free Wi-Fi for passengers, but also for their crew — talk about a morale booster.
And now, with the new Starlink satellite system, faster, more reliable Wi-Fi is being introduced. Recently I was in the Antarctic, up until recently a mostly blacked-out Wi-Fi area. But the ship — Silversea — had Starlink and I even broadcast live for CBS News streaming.
And, as with the airlines, you can expect more cruise lines to begin offering free Wi-Fi within the next six months.