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Inflight Entertainment – Free, Free, Free on Delta

SmarterTravel

“Delta Becomes Only U.S. Airline to Offer All In-Flight Entertainment For Free”

That’s the headline of this morning’s news release from Delta. On its face, it’s an attention-getter and a smile-inducer. Everyone likes inflight entertainment. Everyone likes free. And it would undeniably be a nice precedent to establish for U.S. carriers.

There are disclaimers, however.

First, and of lesser importance, free access to media programming will be available “on nearly all domestic and international flights.” Nearly, not all.

A second quibble, and I suspect a more significant issue for most, turns on the definition of inflight entertainment. What’s being offered for free is access to Delta Studio, which features 300 movies, 750 TV shows, music, and live satellite TV on some aircraft. That’s a lot of welcome distraction, to be sure.

Missing from that impressive list, however, is something that many travelers have come to consider an essential part of keeping themselves entertained during their flights: access to inflight WiFi. Sure, movies are entertaining. But so is interacting with friends and family in real time on Facebook. Streaming the news on nytimes.com. Binge-watching “The Wire” on Amazon.com.

For today’s travelers, part of being entertained is being connected. And to remain connected via WiFi on Delta flights will still cost you $16 for a 24-hour WiFi Pass.

So, free access to inflight entertainment, as long as that entertainment is part of Delta Studio. Caveats aside, that’s a definite upgrade. And it could portend a move toward making WiFi access free as well.

It took the hotels years to succumb to popular demand and make no-cost WiFi available to their customers. Although surely not intended as such, Delta’s free-entertainment initiative may in time be seen as the airlines’ first step down that same long road.

For now, sit back, relax, and watch “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Reader Reality Check

What are the odds airlines will eventually offer free inflight WiFi?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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