American airline Delta Air Lines Inc. tested SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet on board aircraft. This was announced in an interview with The Wall Street Journal by the CEO of the airline, Ed Bastian.
Bastian did not discuss the details of the tests, but noted that Delta Air believes that the Internet on board the aircraft should be fast and free. The airline also ran a free Wi-Fi pilot program on select destinations prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Delta Air reported last month that it had equipped about 300 aircraft with Wi-Fi provided by satellite company Viasat Inc. This option costs $5 per flight.
Airlines are actively looking for new opportunities to improve wireless Internet on board aircraft. This feature is especially in demand among business class passengers, who often need to stay online and connected most of the time, writes WSJ.
At the moment, satellite companies such as Intelsat SA and Viasat provide Wi-Fi equipment for aircraft. As Intelsat senior vice president Dave Bijour said, most airlines are looking to find a way to provide high-quality in-flight internet without the burden of installing additional antennas.
SpaceX’s Starlink satellite arm is also looking to carve out a niche in the air travel market. The company received approval to test satellite Internet in aircraft from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States. But it also needs to be certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before the equipment is put into full-scale use.