Delta Prepares Wi-Fi Launch

Delta plans to offer complete wireless Internet service, including access to corporate and personal e-mail accounts, SMS texting and instant messaging. Delta officials say the Wi-Fi service, supplied by Aircell, will work with laptops, smart phones and other PDAs.

Delta Air Lines officials said Aug. 5 the airline will begin introducing Wi-Fi service in fall 2008 for its entire U.S. domestic fleet, offering wireless broadband connections by summer 2009. The Wi-Fi service will be installed by Aircell, which won an exclusive frequency license from the Federal Communications Commission in 2006 to offer airline wireless services.

Known as GoGo, the service will allow passengers to connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as laptops, smart phones and other PDAs. Delta said fliers would be able to access the Internet, corporate and personal e-mail accounts, SMS (Short Message Service) texting, and instant messaging, all of which are important as enterprise workers become more mobile.

Delta plans to charge a flat fee of $9.95 on flights shorter than 3 hours and $12.95 for flights longer than 3 hours.

"Our customers asked for in-flight connectivity, and we're responding by rolling out the most extensive Wi-Fi network in the sky," Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in a statement. "Beginning this fall, our passengers will have the ability to stay connected when they travel with us throughout the continental U.S."

Delta said the Wi-Fi service would be initially offered on Delta's fleet of 133 MD88/90 aircraft. The remaining Delta domestic fleet of more than 200 Boeing 737, 757 and 767-300 aircraft will add the service throughout the first half of 2009. The airline expects to have more than 330 aircraft wired with Wi-Fi by the summer of 2009.

"The advent of [ATG] air-to-ground technology has made broadband connectivity in the cabin economically viable for the first time for commercial airlines," said Jack Blumenstein, Aircell's president and CEO. "The game has changed and Delta will be among the first to provide an enhanced customer experience with broadband Wi-Fi access on more than 1,000 daily flights within the U.S."

The Aircell system is extremely light, requiring minimal space on the aircraft, and can be installed overnight, Delta said.