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Chat in the air: Delta rolls out free in-flight messaging

Delta Air Lines wants to make it easier for passengers to keep in touch with loved ones at 30,000 feet. Starting October 1, the world’s second-largest airline carrier will begin extending complimentary messaging to passengers on international and domestic flights.

Free mobile messaging will roll out to all Delta aircraft with Gogo Inflight Internet, which covers all but 130 airplanes in the airline’s 1,300-strong fleet. Once enabled via Delta’s in-flight portal page, compatible apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger will come online automatically without the need for additional configuration.

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But don’t get your hopes up for in-flight selfies. Delta’s free messaging doesn’t support videos, photos, or audio messages, meaning you’ll have to wait until you hit the tarmac to send anything more than a text.

“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 in-flight through some of the most popular global platforms,” Tim Mapes, Delta’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a press release. “Coupled with our investments in seatback screens, free entertainment, and high-speed Wi-Fi, free messaging is one more way customers can choose how to make the most of their time on Delta flights.”

Delta says it’s the first global carrier based in the U.S. to offer a complimentary messaging plan, but many of its competitors already extend free in-flight data to customers. Earlier this year, JetBlue waived Wi-Fi fees on all domestic and international flights, and international passengers on Emirates get up to 20MB of data for two hours. Separately, T-Mobile bundles free texting on Gogo-enabled Delta, United, American, and Virgin flights with most of its mobile plans.

But it’s a welcome improvement over the $2 fee Delta used to charge for in-flight messaging.

If you do shell out for Wi-Fi on your next Delta flight, you’ll get to take advantage of the airline’s upgrades. Delta says that over the next two years, it’ll install Gogo’s 2Ku Wi-Fi technology, a next-generation in-flight wireless system that supports streaming video and work-related VPN networks, in more than 600 aircraft for domestic and international flights. To date, it’s rolled out the system to 200.

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