If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that airplane Wi-Fi generally sucks. It's way overpriced, and it craps out half the time. You can get fast, free Wi-Fi almost everywhere now, from Starbucks to McDonald's. Why not on airplanes?

Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian is right there with you. He says it's time to put an end to charging for in-flight Wi-Fi. "We're going to make it free," he said at the Skift Global Forum late last month.

Bastian didn't roll out an exact timeline, but he says Delta is testing a new wireless system in its Airbus A220 planes. The first just took its maiden voyage a couple days ago, and Delta is expected to officially add several A220s to its fleet in early 2019.

He promises this isn't the sucky, unreliable in-flight Wi-Fi we've come to expect from every airline. It's an entirely new wireless in-flight entertainment system that's supposed to be faster and more reliable. Bastian says this means Delta will no longer have to hardwire planes with internet, vastly reducing installation costs. Bastian claims this new wireless network will be two-thirds cheaper to install than the traditional systems, which he estimates cost Delta $1 million per plane.

In-flight Wi-Fi is often so pricey because a third party provides the service, not the airlines themselves. Those companies charge the airline steep installation and operating costs, which the airlines then pass onto passengers. Delta currently partners with Gogo Inflight for onboard wireless. A pre-purchased day pass runs $16, a monthly pass is $49, and an annual pass is $599. Right now, the only other United States carrier to offer free Wi-Fi is JetBlue. With another major carrier offering this perk, perhaps other airlines will follow suit to remain competitive.

But don't get too excited just yet. Bastian didn't actually say when this broad, sweeping change was going to happen. The airline aficionados at The Points Guy say this isn't the first time Delta's CEO has made such a bold claim. "One has to wonder if it's truly feasible in the near-term," TPG writes.

Published on: Oct 10, 2018