- Variety of plans tailored to the needs of different travellers and journeys
- Difficult to move a paid pass from one device to another
- Free messaging access for every passenger
Whether it's touching base with a client on the ground, or even catching up with friends and family back home, inflight Internet access has a variety of uses, and is something you'll find available on every Delta Air Lines flight between Sydney and Los Angeles, aboard its Boeing 777-200LR aircraft.
A wide range of passes cater to most needs, including free messaging access for every passenger, plans covering not only this flight but also onward Delta connections, and even monthly subscriptions for Delta's highest flyers, Australian Business Traveller put the service to the test on a recent Sydney-LA flight.
Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200LR inflight Internet: access options
Delta offers a respectable selection of WiFi plans and passes based on time rather than data, although the options varied slightly depending on whether I was logging in via my laptop or smartphone.
Using the laptop, the following plans were available:
- One hour: US$6.95
- Three hours: US$18.95
- Flight pass: US$21.95
- Monthly pass: US$69.95
Whipping out my smartphone found those same four plans for sale, along with three further options:
- Global all-day pass: US$31.95
- 'Delta presents Free Messaging': No charge
- 'Free WiFi and Texting': Only for eligible T-Mobile customers in the United States
Notably, the 'global all-day pass' covers access on both this flight and any connecting WiFi-equipped Delta flights the same day, while the 'flight pass' provides access only until landing on the leg it was purchased on.
The free messaging option is also a great option to have – and comes at no charge for every passenger on board, not only those in business class – but restricts access to Apple iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp only.
Even within those apps, you can only send and receive text-based messages (and emojis), but can't share photos, or access other sites. For that, you'll need to use another pass.
Delta's inflight WiFi portal also acts as an entertainment server, whereby you can watch the same content as is available via the seatback screen on your own device at no charge, but for this review, we're focusing on the Internet access.
Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200LR inflight Internet: getting online
After connecting to the WiFi hotspot, simply select your plan to get the ball rolling. On desktop, the plans available on your flight will appear right on the home page.
Then, simply enter your payment details: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover are accepted.
Speaking of American Express, some cards issued in the United States provide complimentary access to Delta inflight WiFi, so upon entering your AMEX card number, you may see this box appear:
Even if you're not sure whether you're covered by this, there's no harm in clicking through and re-entering your card number via the AMEX portal. The worst that can happen is 'computer says no', in which case you can return and pay for the pass you selected:
In any case, once online, Delta's WiFi portal handily displays how much time is remaining if you bought a timed pass – and at this point, you're free to browse. (We'd suggest doing so in a new tab, to keep tracking your session as easy as possible.)
The process is similar on mobile, with the addition of those other plans like free messaging, which is easy to spot and gets you connected by solving a quick CAPTCHA...
... and if you change your mind and want to upgrade to one of the other plans for access beyond those messaging apps, you can easily do so:
The only issue I found is that there was no easy option for moving a paid plan from one device to another.
The WiFi portal explained that there would be an option to create an account after the payment process to facilitate this, but that wasn't the case, and after purchasing a one-hour pass on my laptop, it was impossible to move this to my smartphone.
I suspect that if I'd created or signed into a WiFi account before making that purchase, there'd have been no problem.
However, lacking the option to create a password during or after the purchase process is worth keeping in mind – especially if you're going for a full flight pass, and want to accomplish some work on your laptop before later moving the connection over to a smartphone for easier access during other stages of the flight.
Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200LR inflight Internet: usability
On the journey from Sydney to Los Angeles, I tried both the paid access pass, as well as the free messaging service, and except that I couldn't move that paid pass from laptop to smartphone as above, both plans otherwise worked as expected.
Via my laptop, I measured average download speeds of 3.9Mbps, and average uploads of 0.8Mbps – about on-par with an entry-level ADSL Internet connection on the ground, and usable-enough for things like email and social media, without any exceedingly slow wait times when loading content.
Over on my smartphone, I also had no issues sending or receiving text-based messages via the supported apps, but as a courtesy to other passengers, do make sure your phone is on silent.
As text uses minimal data, it didn't take long for a message to send – about 10 seconds at most, at the slowest point – and messages were received in much the same way.
However, it helps to remind the person you're chatting with that you're unable to receive (or send) images: as doing so will generally cause that message to fail, including any text attached as part of the same transmission.
Free messaging is something I've experienced on Delta before, and as observed previously, is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, particularly for business travellers crossing or working in distant time zones, which can often make this more complicated on the ground.
Having access to this – and free access, no less – does make you feel closer to home, and when there's work to be done, of course, there are paid plans to suit.
Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Delta, although the paid WiFi pass for this review was at Australian Business Traveller's expense.