Big changes are coming to the passenger experience on Delta Air Lines this year, starting with free, fast Wi-Fi on most flights in the coming months, which will enable the carrier to offer more inflight entertainment options later in the year.
“Stepping back what we are working on is enabling the aircraft to be the ultimate platform for experience discovery,” Delta’s senior vice president of customer experience design Ranjan Goswami told USA TODAY. “Customers want to spend their time productively and discovering new things.”
The coming upgrades, he said, will help make Delta flights more productive for customers while providing them with more options to stay entertained as well.
Greener travel?:Understanding how sustainable aviation fuel can make flying more eco-friendly
It’s happening in three big phases, and here’s what the airline says travelers can expect.
Does Delta have free Wi-Fi?
Beginning in February, Delta’s long-planned free, streaming-quality Wi-Fiwill be available to all SkyMiles members on many flights.
If you’re not already a SkyMiles member, you can sign up for free anytime, including during your flight.
According to Goswami, 540 of Delta’s aircraft will have the new Wi-Fi available on Feb. 1, with around 700 planes getting it by the end of 2023 and the airline’s full 1,500 aircraft fleet expected to have the service by the end of 2024.
Flight delays for organs:Here’s why advocates say the donation transportation system needs to change
“Free Wi-Fi is what unlocks all of this,” Goswami said. The rollout means Delta customers will have an easier way to keep connected while in the air and new options to stay entertained through streaming on their own devices.
He added that the high-bandwidth Wi-Fi will enable Delta to add other inflight experience improvements before too long.
Story continues below.
What is the entertainment on Delta planes?
The next big step, which Delta expects to introduce this spring, is a personalized landing page called the Delta Exclusives Hub, which will be accessible from personal devices logged into the airplane’s Wi-Fi and enable travelers to stream content and play games.
The hub will feature content from partners, including The New York Times games, Paramount+, Atlas Obscura and others, according to Goswami.
Safety first:Proposed legislation would require the FAA to diversify airplane evacuation tests
“Our customers bring two to three devices on board,” he said. “In all of our tests, we’re seeing people log in to Wi-Fi on multiple devices to do multiple tasks,” as they would normally do at home.
A personalized experience on your seatback screen
Later in the year, Delta plans to roll out software upgrades to its seatback screens that will enable customers to log in at their seats and take advantage of new functionality there, too.
“These two ecosystems are very connected,” Goswami said, referring to personal devices and seatback inflight entertainment. “They’re both based off of personalization, they’re both based off of logged-in membership,” but they are going to remain separate platforms, so you won’t be able to swap between watching movies on your iPad and seatback screen, at least for the foreseeable future.
In addition to allowing customers to pick up where they left off in a movie on an earlier flight, for example, the at-seat connection will give travelers a more personalized experience onboard, Goswami said. That will include notifications about which gate a connecting flight is scheduled to depart from, which baggage claim belt their flight will use and other notifications similar to what Delta currently pushes through its app.
Plus, Goswami said, personalized messages like a birthday greeting or note if the passenger is achieving a new level of SkyMiles status may also appear.
Airplane mode:Why it’s safer to turn your cell reception off when you fly
The new system will also allow passengers, first in first class and eventually throughout the plane, to order food and beverages from their seatback screens, rather than having to ring the call bell to summon a flight attendant.
Goswami emphasized that Delta has no plans to phase out seatback screens, even as streaming-quality Wi-Fi allows passengers to get more use out of their own devices onboard.
“We believe the screens must be made smart. They must be personalized,” he said. “The screens are absolutely here to stay.”