Delta Air Lines to offer Wi-Fi on U.S. flights

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) — Delta Air Lines Inc. said Tuesday it will offer broadband wireless Internet access on its entire domestic mainline fleet by the middle of next year.

Continental Airlines Inc. previously announced plans to offer similar service across a majority of its mainline fleet. Several other airlines either offer similar service or plan to, though on a much more limited number of flights than the plans by Delta and Continental.

Atlanta-based Delta said Wi-Fi service will be offered for a fee to customers traveling throughout the continental U.S.

The nation’s No. 3 carrier is partnering with Aircell, an airborne communications provider, to install the network on Delta’s domestic fleet of more than 330 aircraft.

The system will allow Delta customers traveling with Wi-Fi enabled devices — such as laptops, smartphones and PDAs — to access the Internet while in flight.

A flat fee of $9.95 will be charged on flights of three hours or less, and $12.95 on flights of more than three hours.

The service will be offered initially on Delta’s fleet of 133 MD88/90 aircraft and will expand to the remaining domestic fleet of more than 200 Boeing 737, 757 and 767-300 aircraft during the first half of 2009. It expects to have the technology installed on its entire domestic fleet by next summer.

Financial terms of Delta’s agreement with Aircell were not released. The airline did not say how much it expects to generate in revenue by offering the service on its mainline domestic flights.

Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton said the airline is considering options for its international fleet and for aircraft used by its regional flying partners, but has no current plans to offer Wi-Fi service on those flights.

Houston-based Continental said on Jan. 29 that it will be introducing onboard Wi-Fi services including e-mail and instant messaging connectivity on flights operating within the continental U.S. at the beginning of next year.

Continental said the service, provided in partnership with LiveTV LLC, will be installed on its fleet of Boeing 737 new generation aircraft, including the 737-700, 737-800, 737-900, 737-900ER, and the 757-300. That is 202 aircraft out of 354 that Continental projects it will operate in its mainline fleet by the end of this year.

American Airlines, a unit of Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR Corp., will offer the same Wi-Fi service as Delta through Aircell later this year on 15 of its 767-200 aircraft, which generally fly transcontinental routes, spokeswoman September Wade said, adding that American announced its plan more than a year ago.

New York-based JetBlue Airways Corp. offers free Wi-Fi service on one aircraft that generally flies transcontinental routes, spokesman Sebastian White said. Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways Group Inc. plans to offer Wi-Fi service on a trial basis on one Airbus aircraft in the fall, spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said.

Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest Airlines, Chicago-based UAL Corp.’s United Airlines and Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran Airways, a unit of AirTran Holdings Inc., do not offer Wi-Fi on their flights, according to company spokeswomen.

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