Starting this Sunday, Delta flights on all of its larger planes will offer a free texting service through its Wi-Fi system Gogo.
The service will be available on any Delta plane that has more than two cabins which leaves out any of its smaller 50 seater aircraft, usually used for regional flights. Currently, about 90% of Delta planes have Wi-Fi. Passengers on the aircraft can log into its in-flight Gogo Wi-Fi system and have the option of paying for the full Wi-Fi service, where they will have full internet access even to streaming sites such as YouTube, or opt to just have the more limited free Wi-Fi; that allows access to certain chat programs such as WhatsApp, Apple iMessage, and Facebook Messenger.
Apparently, Delta has the fastest in-flight internet amongst airlines, it has managed to achieve this by utilizing a high-speed connection system called 2ku, which is satellite-based and is the reason why the in-flight Wi-Fi now has enough bandwidth that passengers are able to stream video from the likes of YouTube.
Air Alaska was the first to offer free in-flight texting back in January but Delta is the first US global carrier to offer the service. When asked whether the company might expand this so that passengers might be able to make in-flight calls, the CEO Ed Bastian said that it would not happen in his lifetime. This may be true as the motion to allow for passengers to make cellphone calls while in the air was quashed, at least in the USA, by the FCC chairman Ajit Pai back in April.
There are already plans to start building a global network of satellites that will provide high-speed internet and the fact that aircraft passengers can now have reasonably fast internet while airborne does prove that internet provided by satellites, as opposed to vast lengths of cable connection, is a viable option for future internet connection.
In the highly competitive airline industry, once Delta's in-flight text system goes online, it will only be a matter of time before other major airlines will have to follow suit or come up with something better. Being able to continue messaging people while flying will definitely be useful in many instances, but this might be the end of one of the last bastions of solitude, now it might not be a good enough excuse that you didn't reply to someone because you were flying.