Mobile messaging to be free on Delta flights

Delta Air Lines is flipping the switch on free mobile messaging inflight starting 1 October 2017. The service, delivered in conjunction with inflight connectivity partner Gogo, allows for complimentary access to iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other text-based apps. The upgrade will be available on all Delta flights with the Gogo service installed, more than 500 in total.

We know many of Delta’s customers want or need to stay connected in the air and on the ground, which is why we’re investing in an easy, free way to send and receive messages inflight through some of the most popular global platforms. – Tim Mapes, Delta’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Delta is the largest airline to deploy the Gogo Messaging product for free to passengers but not the first. That honor goes to Alaska Airlines which introduced the same offer at the beginning of the year. Delta’s version (obviously) covers a much larger fleet and passenger population. T-Mobile customers also have access to free messaging on US-based Gogo carriers thanks to its Wingman program/partnership with Gogo.

Read More: Gogo Vision Touch IFE to launch on Delta’s CSeries in 2018

Free connectivity, even just for basic services is great news for passengers. It also is generally good news for service providers as it increases customer familiarity with the inflight connectivity product and offers an upsell opportunity to increase revenue. Gogo has not been shy in the past in talking about its efforts to grow its revenue base from multiple sources rather than just passengers and this sort of deal is significant on that front.

It also differs from the “15 minutes free” type of program that has been used in the past and which turned out to be relatively unsuccessful in converting from free to paid users. Rather than buy more access passengers just used what they needed and logged off. And that may still be the case with the mobile messaging solution, but this keeps passengers engaged for the full flight rather than just a few minutes, likely improving the onboard experience (wile also consuming less bandwidth).

The additional free connectivity service also draws some attention to the growing chasm in inflight connectivity availability around the world. The US market is sufficiently mature as to offer multiple revenue models (e.g. free high-speed on JetBlue, teaser rates, monthly subscriptions, 3rd party sponsored, etc.) and an evolution of services in play. In most other global markets just getting the hardware on board is still the name of the game. It is informative to see which new programs launch with various pricing and service levels to see what “lessons learned” are being adopted and what differences operators see in the markets.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I think there’s a hidden soft rollout of this happening. Twice in the past week I’ve had Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp messages arrive on my phone somewhere in the space between Wi-Fi kicking in at 10,000 feet and me logging into my Gogo account.

    1. That’s interesting in that you should (at least in theory) have to log in and select the free messaging plan for it to work. There are also issues around authenticating users for US law enforcement rules (hence captcha requirement even for free services). But glad it is going live quickly.

    2. Facebook Messenger and a Google Hangouts have worked for me on Gogo without logging in for years. It was a little bit and miss, wasn’t consistent.

    1. I’m well aware of that. And the free JetBlue Fly-Fi is full access to everything including streaming video, not just basic messaging. I’m a big fan of that product and have been since day one.

  2. So one day they move the minimum waiver req to a jaw dropping $250,000, and the next day they throw EVERYONE a really nice perk by giving free mobile messaging? Wow. That’s really nice

    1. Haha. Well, they’ve essentially done with the credit card waiver what AA and UA have always done with theirs, which is not allow it for the highest status level. Ever since spend was part of the equation, UA has not allowed a credit card waiver for anything above Platinum – and UA also didn’t allow credit card PQMs earned on the old CO card that had flex MQMs to be used to get to 1K. DL does still allow the bonus MQMs earned off its Amex products to be used for Diamond – just not the dollars spent on the card (yeah, I know it’s technically allowed, but not many people spend $250,000 in a year on a card).

      I think it would have been a better PR move to just eliminate the waiver rather than multiply it by 10, but whatever. It might affect me, or it might not, but it’s hardly the end of the world if it does. Somewhere along RNO-SLC-ATL-DCA today I’ll hit my $15,000 MQDs, even though I’ve already qualified for Diamond next year with the credit card waiver. So, if this police had gone into effect a year ago, I would have still had the spend in by the end of September, and been just fine.

    2. I’ve seen some speculation that there was also some contractual agreements involved that prevented full elimination.

      Of course, I’ve also seen a couple of people on a Facebook group for DL Diamonds post that they put double that amount on cards every year. So, what do I know?

      The individual emails we all received about the change had our last two years of qualification statistics, and last year I was short some MQDs – but only about $400 worth. That’s the only time I haven’t made Diamond with both the $15,000 in MQDs and the $25,000 Amex waiver. Given that, if I was ever so close again, I’d find somewhere to go to get the dollars spent.

    3. I always thought DL was generous allowing the Amex spend waiver for Diamond.

      For those who do spend $250k on the DL Amex, I’m willing to bet they don’t have an issue hitting the minimum MQD amounts anyways.

    4. I always thought DL was generous allowing the Amex spend waiver for Diamond.

      For those who do spend $250k on the DL Amex, I’m willing to bet they don’t have an issue hitting the minimum MQD amounts anyways.

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