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July 03, 2012

Delta Airlines Adds High-Speed In-flight Internet Access to International Flights

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Delta Airlines today issued the announcement that those planning an international flight in the near future will have a new reason to fly Delta; specifically, they announced the addition of wireless Internet access on international flights.

While Delta already has a substantial number of planes equipped with wireless access--the world's largest such fleet, in fact--the focus had been on United States flights only. But following a recent arrangement with Gogo, the technology is now in place to join flights departing the United States and heading abroad as well.

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The program won't be ready for summer travel season, however, and won't actually be brought online until early 2013, and will be at first limited to Boeing (News - Alert) 777s, as well as Boeing 767, 747 and 757 flights as well as those of the Airbus A330. Delta expects the whole plan to be up and operational by 2015, which will in turn boost the size of Delta's wireless-enabled fleet to nearly 1,000 total planes.

Delta, for its part, isn't talking about pricing details just yet, or what kinds of speeds or potential bandwidth limits users will have to look forward to, which will be an important part of the overall mix. Many are hoping, however, that Delta practices some restraint in passing the prices on to the customers, though undoubtedly, the cost of getting all those satellites in order--which is pretty much how the service operates--will need to be recouped somehow.

Connectivity is one of those things that's always useful, and often necessary. Going without an Internet connection for several hours can have effects anywhere from the mildly annoying to the utterly disastrous, depending on how the connection is used. Delta offering the connection on long flights--which is pretty much the definition of an overseas flight--will undoubtedly prove a valuable service and a reason for more than a few people to book their flights with Delta. Of course, pricing may not be too much of an issue; those most likely to use it will be business-class users who will take the price of the ticket--and the accompanying bandwidth charges--as a tax deduction anyway.

The airline market has always been a hotly competitive business sector, and as such, it's not too surprising to see Delta try and do what it can to pull customers from other flights and put them in Delta seats. Offering wireless Internet access on long-distance flights will likely prove to be a significant payoff for Delta, but at the same time, the kind of thing that other companies may well be able to easily duplicate, removing any advantage Delta may have derived.

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli