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Q&A: Accelerating the future of in-flight connectivity at Delta

January 8, 2021 Aviation No Comments Email Email

Delta customers are one step closer to a seamless, personalized in-flight experience built on industry-leading Wi-Fi.Recently, Delta finalized a partnership with high-speed Wi-Fi provider Viasat and took steps to launch the Delta-developed Wi-Fi access portal – a user interface that enhances how you interact with Wi-Fi. Adding Viasat’s next-generation satellite technology (Ka-Band) to the fleet gives the airline more options to modernize how customers stay connected and enjoy content during travel.

Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Director of Brand Experience – In-Flight Entertainment & Wi-Fi, and Glenn Latta, Managing Director – In-Flight Entertainment & Wi-Fi, explain what this new partnership and technology means for customers and how it unlocks the future of the onboard experience at Delta.

Why is Delta focusing on Wi-Fi?

Ekrem: Staying connected is a key part of our customers’ lives both at home and during travel, and we are taking big leaps forward to deliver an unparalleled experience that puts connectivity and personalization front and center. Best-in-class in-flight connectivity takes our vision for a reimagined brand experience to the next level and has long been a focus for us as a business.

Since the onset of the pandemic, we accelerated to deliver an enhanced customer experience in many ways – from industry-leading cleanliness to future-ready technology – to benefit customers as we welcome them back to travel.

Why are we partnering with Viasat?

Glenn: Viasat’s high-speed satellite-powered technology changes the game for what we can offer. We now have additional capability and next-gen technology to make sure you have a faster and more consistent connection to your favorite sites, including the ability to stream the entertainment of your choice on your flight. It also lays the groundwork for future enhancements and personalization with the seatback screen that customers will love.

Ekrem: Our team has big plans for customers, and now we have the tools to overcome hurdles standing in our way. Whether Wi-Fi or in-flight entertainment, adding Viasat and our new portal together will help us offer high-quality streaming, more personalized content and a Wi-Fi experience closer to what you would find at home or work.

Where does the new Delta Wi-Fi portal fit in?

Glenn: Coming this summer, the Delta-developed Wi-Fi access portal is an interface that integrates in-flight Wi-Fi and other day-of-travel features under one roof. It is built to work with Viasat and acts as the front page to your experience – the first thing that will greet you as you connect to the onboard Wi-Fi.

At launch, you will have the opportunity to purchase Wi-Fi access and still enjoy free mobile messaging and access your favorite Delta.com services, with much more planned in the future. It gives us an interface to build on and is a dramatic step toward giving you great connectivity, personalized content and easy-to-use services that will improve your in-flight experience.

Ekrem: We are consistently looking for new ways to delight our customers, and the portal opens the door to new personalized experiences that our customers will look forward to every time they fly with us.

What does the future onboard experience at Delta look like?

Ekrem: We have come a long way since Ed’s keynote address at CES 2020 where we shared a vision focused on creating a seamless, connected customer experience rooted in personalization. We want to continue to transform travel into a part of your journey to look forward to, not endure – and that is still true moving forward. Though 2020 required some shifts in focus areas as a result of the pandemic, we still clearly see a future rooted in deepened customer interactions with technology.

One of the best parts of my job is finding new ways to introduce customers to a world of entertainment they might not have experienced before. In the past few years, we have added seatback screens to nearly all our mainline fleet and have expanded our offerings – from new partnerships with Hulu and Disney+, additional podcasts, and health and wellness options – to ensure every customer has an opportunity to unplug with options similar to what they would find at home. Whether you are catching up on a podcast, putting the finishing touches on an upcoming presentation or multi-tasking across devices, we want your journey to be as seamless as possible.

A connected ecosystem with high-quality Wi-Fi and amazing seatback content working together will be foundational to the future of our industry. Today is one of many bricks being laid in real time on the road to a better experience for customers. We have many plans in development, and I look forward to sharing more details soon.

Do you still plan to offer Free Wi-Fi in the future?

Ekrem: We are committed to delivering Free Wi-Fi in the future, and this is a significant step on that journey. Our Free Wi-Fi pilot in spring 2019 gave us valuable insights to better understand the challenges to providing a service that meets our standard – and having the right equipment was a key part of that. As Ed said at CES, delivering Free Wi-Fi that is high-quality and streaming capable requires thorough testing to ensure our technology can handle the demand.

Our vision for the future of travel will not come to life overnight. While we’ve had to shift our focus during the pandemic, our journey to offering the best customer experience possible has never stopped. Our teams are relentless in ensuring Delta customers have the very best experience onboard.

When will customers see this portal and Wi-Fi experience onboard?

Glenn: We can’t wait to bring Viasat technology onboard, which is currently planned for this summer. It is no secret that bringing a brand-new Wi-Fi system onboard our aircraft will take time – the process from approvals to testing to implementation often takes several months.

We are starting with our new delivery A321ceo1, 737-900ER and select 757-200 aircraft. That is over 300 mainline narrow body aircraft, with opportunities for additional aircraft in the future. The portal will be rolled out in tandem with new installations of the Viasat system, with the goal of offering the unified and consistent experience across all Viasat Wi-Fi enabled aircraft.

To meet our long-term goals, we will work closely with multiple Wi-Fi suppliers, including both Gogo and Viasat. Working with multiple partners means we can pair the right technology with the right fleet. We want to ensure customers always have access to Wi-Fi when available.

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