Delta’s Wireless Internet is On Its Way

American, Delta, Technology

I think it’s worth mentioning that Delta has been doing some good work on its blog lately. Beyond Marie Force and her excellent archives posts (like this one on the Hercules), they’ve been disseminating some important information as well. First Delta Aircraft with Broadband Wi-FiLast week, they announced that their first aircraft with wireless internet is ready to go. (This picture is from Delta’s Flickr account.)

Delta, like American, has decided to use Aircell’s ground-based internet service. This is perfectly fine for much of the fleet since it won’t venture over water, but it does provide some limitations. The first fleet to get retrofitted is, probably surprisingly to most, the MD-80 fleet. I would have expected that to be the first fleet type to leave the fleet, so I’d think they wouldn’t invest much in it, but I guess not.

One thing that probably impacted their decision was the fact that the MD-80s have no onboard entertainment at all. The widebodies, 737s, 757s, and even the MD-90s have some form of onboard video, but the MD-80s have nothing. So, that must be why they started here. They want to make sure that everyone has something to keep them busy.

Like Filtering Internet AccessAmerican, which recently gave in to pressure, Delta will block sites it deems inappropriate. I personally find this to be a slippery slope and it will probably create more of a headache to manage than anything else. It will undoubtedly block sites that shouldn’t be blocked and will miss some sites that it might want blocked. And let’s not even talk about how easy it is to get around if you really wanted to, but apparently they’re going to waste their time trying anyway.

No matter what, it’s good to see the internet becoming more widespread onboard. Alaska and Southwest are joining the party very soon, and it’s only going to become more common from here. Pretty soon, it’ll be standard equipment on every plane, especially since the airlines will be able to charge for it.

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11 comments on “Delta’s Wireless Internet is On Its Way

  1. Ah yes: the proverbial blocking challenge. Does anyone else remember that AOL tried to do that–and ended up blocking access to sites such as ‘American Breast Cancer Survivors’ and ‘Prostate Cancer Survivors Network’?

    All because the name of the group included verboten language. Best I can say is, “Good luck, airlines!”

  2. I think dumping money into their MD-80’s is a bit of a waste. Watching Wall Street lately I think we are in for some serious capacity reductions. The MD-80’s would be my first pick for the graveyards of the southwest. Also, Delta will soon be taking over a NW fleet with absolutely no on board entertainment. Why not wait six months and do this upgrade in NW’s fleet of A320’s and 757’s?

  3. A – Very good points, but I think the one thing to remember here is that . . . it’s not that much of an investment. This isn’t like outfitting personal screens in every seat. You’re effectively putting a server on the plane along with an antenna underneath. This is pretty minor stuff, and that’s why it’s so attractive. But I agree, get wi-fi on those NW planes as soon as you can!

  4. I can’t wait until all of the carriers who’ve expressed in-flight wi-fi as part as their services is widespread.

    I haven’t heard a peep about Southwest…it seems like they’re keeping it under wraps well. Do you know how the progress is going?

    How about JetBlue’s wi-fi service? Are they going to expand it to more planes? And will they do a more full/robust wi-fi service more than yahoo e-mail/blackberries?

  5. If you access public sites often an anonymizer site is a good workaround. Like Jennifer says unfortunately tame terms can easily wind up in the barrel of blocked sites. Searching “gay” and “city” for a bar, coffee shop or local to-do guide finds many blocked sites.

    I use

    The URL actually changes every few months too since many restricted companies will block anonymizers, but they take a bit to catch up to new ones.

    When the Denver airport introduced free wi-fi last year they had (and have) many critics denouncing their restrictions, as like a library it was financed by the public. People pointed out the double standard in that magazines sold at the kiosks and stores already carry X-rated content.

    But an airline’s policies are a different story – and less easily swayed.

  6. Does anyone know if there will be plug-ins to preserve battery life along with the Wi-Fi access. If not, this service on long flights won’t be worth much. Looking forward to trying it out.

  7. Sheila – It all depends upon the airline and the airplane. The Delta MD-80s don’t fly very far, so it’s probably not that important. But once it gets on longer haul planes, then we’ll see what they decide. I haven’t heard anything about Southwest even thinking about power, but it would be nice if they would.

  8. I posted a question about at seat power ports on Southwest’s blog when it was first announced… they probably won’t add on-board power ports. I really wish they did. =( I’m sure that would increase costs in a huge way since they’d probably have to rewire the plane.

    answers from SWA powers that be:

    Hi Everyone –

    Thanks so much for all of your comments. We are very excited about this announcement and look forward to bringing you the best inflight broadband solution available as soon as possible.

    In answer to some of your questions above:
    – Yes VOIP will be blocked. Everyone will have full access to e-mail and instant messenger which, in my opinion, are much better SILENT options than yacking into a microphone.
    – Inappropriate content will be dealt with in the same manner as it is today – (i.e. if someone is watching a highly inappropriate movie on a laptop or cudding loudly on a flight). Our FAs are highly trained to deal with those situations.
    – I can’t comment on the seat power but, to Brian’s point, we did enhance the gate areas with new seating and power stations so that everyone has a chance to juice up their devices before takeoff.
    – We also haven’t said what will be charged for this service but please know that it will definitely be in line with our low cost model. We want to bring you exceptional value and a great high-speed internet experience.

    Keep the comments and suggestions coming!

    Angela Vargo — Thu, 01/24/2008 – 15:33

    Thanks for all of the suggestions and input. We are very excited to begin testing broadband onboard our flights.

    There are alot of details still to be worked out, and keep in mind this is a test. Not only will we be proving out and testing the technology, but also how the service will be integrated within our Marketing, Operations and Customer Service.

    – At this point we are not looking at installing power to the seats. Adding power outlets significantly increases the cost and complexity of the system. Some of these costs are associated with additional weight of the system, installation and ongoing maintenance costs, in addition to the cost of the system.

    – As mentioned above, we will be filtering traffic to inappropriate sites. I would expect an experience similar to using the internet in a public place such as a library.

    – VOIP will be blocked.

    Most of the technical details have been worked out and are ready for testing. The big tasks now are the finishing the engineering related to certification and installation. Over the next few months, we will also be working out the Customer Service details.

    Stay tuned for updates on our progress!

    Doug Murri – Sr. Manager Flight Operations Technologies — Fri, 01/25/2008 – 16:03

  9. Would you be able to get a refund if the filter blocked your webmail?

    Don’t laugh; I’ve seen my ISPs webmail blocked.

  10. MathFox – That’s a great question, and just one of the things that I imagine they haven’t bothered to think about. We’ll see what happens when they end up running into the problem, as you know they will.

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