Delta Adds Wi-Fi, Cancels Freedom Air Flying

Last Updated Aug 6, 2008 10:48 AM EDT

It was a day of addition and subtraction for Delta yesterday. First, they announced wi-fi for their entire fleet. Then they announced that they've shifted efforts to eliminate regional carriers over to Mesa's Freedom Air subsidiary. They have apparently told Freedom to take its 90 seaters elsewhere. These two stories may be tied only by the carrier involved, but I thought it would be interesting to cover them both today.

First, let's start with the "addition" piece. Starting next month, Delta will begin rolling out wi-fi access throughout its fleet. Curiously, they'll start with the MD-88/90 aircraft, but I suppose that's a good thing. The MD-88s are the only domestic aircraft left that have no other inflight entertainment (excluding regionals). This is a good way to offer a better product where it's needed the most. The biggest problem here? As Mark Ashley notes in his blog Upgrade: Travel Better, they still don't have widespread power outlets onboard.

They seem to be doing this right. It's $9.95 for flights under 3 hours and $12.95 for flights longer than that. No partial hour charges here. If you have a computer, would you pay for this? No doubt about it. This is exactly the kind of thing that is the right way to add fees. Start charging for things that you didn't offer before and people will see it as a blessing. It's when you charge for things that used to be free that you run into backlash. I believe this makes Delta the first airline to definitively announce plans to install wi-fi fleetwide. It fits with Delta's efforts to provide a more upscale (if you can even use that word when talking about coach) experience.

And now the "subtraction" piece. First Delta tried to kick Mesa's 50 seaters off the property and lost in court. Then they tried to kick Pinnacle out but came to an agreement to save the relationship. Now, they've ping-ponged back to Mesa again. Instead of the 50 seaters, Delta is now targeting Mesa's 90 seat flying under subsidiary Freedom Air.

It's the same old story here. Delta says it's an operational performance issue and wants Freedom out. Let's see how long it takes for this one to head to court as well.