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Delta Air Lines announces upgrades at CES, including free Wi-Fi and personalised in-flight entertainment.

Delta Air Lines’ passenger experience is changing dramatically this year, beginning with free, fast Wi-Fi on most flights in the coming months, allowing the carrier to offer more in-flight entertainment options later in the year.

“Taking a step back, what we’re working on is enabling the aircraft to be the ultimate platform for experience discovery,” Ranjan Goswami, Delta’s senior vice president of customer experience design, told USA TODAY. “Customers want to spend their time being productive and learning new things.”

He claims that the upcoming upgrades will help make Delta flights more productive for customers while also providing them with more entertainment options.

Is Delta’s Wi-Fi free?

Delta’s long-awaited free, streaming-quality Wi-Fi will be available to all SkyMiles members on many flights beginning in February.

If you haven’t already signed up for SkyMiles, you can do so at any time, including during your flight.

According to Goswami, the new Wi-Fi will be available on 540 Delta aircraft on February 1, with 700 planes receiving it by the end of 2023 and the airline’s entire 1,500-plane fleet receiving it by the end of 2024.

“All of this is unlocked by free Wi-Fi,” Goswami explained. Delta customers will now have an easier way to stay connected while in the air, as well as new ways to stay entertained through streaming on their own devices, thanks to the rollout.

He also stated that the high-bandwidth Wi-Fi will allow Delta to implement other in-flight experience enhancements before long.

What kind of entertainment is available on Delta planes?

The next big step, which Delta plans to launch this spring, is a personalised landing page called the Delta Exclusives Hub, which will be accessible from personal devices connected to the plane’s Wi-Fi and will allow passengers to stream content and play games.

According to Goswami, the hub will feature content from partners such as The New York Times games, Paramount+, Atlas Obscura, and others.

A unique experience on your seatback screen

Delta plans to roll out software upgrades to its seatback screens later this year, allowing customers to log in at their seats and take advantage of new functionality there as well.

“These two ecosystems are very connected,” Goswami says of personal devices and seatback in-flight entertainment. “They’re both based on personalization, they’re both based on logged-in membership,” but they’ll remain separate platforms, so you won’t be able to switch between watching movies on your iPad and seatback screen, at least for the time being.

Customers will be able to pick up where they left off in a movie on an earlier flight, for example, and the at-seat connection will provide a more personalised experience onboard, according to Goswami. This will include notifications about which gate a connecting flight is scheduled to depart from, which baggage claim belt their flight will use, and other notifications similar to those currently delivered by Delta via its app.

According to Goswami, personalised messages such as a birthday greeting or a note if the passenger achieves a new level of SkyMiles status may also appear.

The new system will also allow passengers to order food and beverages from their seatback screens, first in first class and then throughout the plane, rather than having to ring the call bell to summon a flight attendant.

Delta, according to Goswami, has no plans to phase out seatback screens, even as streaming-quality Wi-Fi allows passengers to make better use of their own devices onboard.

“We believe that the screens should be smart. “They must be customised,” he stated. “The screens are unmistakably here to stay.”

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