Delta Is Testing SpaceX’s Wi-Fi Service for Better In-flight Internet

Jaime E. Love


Delta Air Lines has tested Elon Musk’s satellite Wi-Fi service in an effort to improve internet on board its aircraft.

The test with SpaceX’s broadband unit Starlink, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and confirmed to Travel + Leisure by a Delta spokesman, would take advantage of scores of internet satellites that are currently in low orbit. Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian told the WSJ the airline conducted exploratory tests, but didn’t give details.

For his part, Musk tweeted last year Starlink was working to get certified for Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft “as those serve [the] most number of people.”

Starlink customers “can expect to see download speeds between 100 Mb/s and 200 Mb/s and latency as low as 20ms in most locations,” according to the company. So far, SpaceX has deployed more than 2,000 satellites into space, the company noted.

While the Federal Communications Commission has approved SpaceX to test Starlink for aircraft use, the Journal reported, the Federal Aviation Administration must still certify satellite-internet equipment installed on commercial aircraft.

The seatback screens on a Delta Airlines A321

The seatback screens on a Delta Airlines A321

Courtesy of Delta Airlines

Currently, Delta offers free messaging through iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp, but charges for other internet services, according to the airline.

In March, Delta said it would upgrade its onboard Wi-Fi by the end of 2022 to be “faster and more reliable” and “more like what you can find at home.” To reach that goal, the airline is currently using Viasat Wi-Fi, which it said was up to twice as fast on average as the service offered in 2019.

In 2019, Bastian commented that he believes internet should be “free with high-speed quality.” And Delta tested free internet on some flights pre-pandemic, the Journal reported.

Many airlines offer Wi-Fi services with various pricing strategies, but currently JetBlue is the only U.S. carrier offering passengers unlimited free in-flight Wi-Fi.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.





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