Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I'm not used to businesses -- or even people -- keeping their promises.

After all, the need for constant marketing allows for a little puffery now and then.

So when I sat at the Skift Global Forum in New York last September and listened to Delta CEO Ed Bastian, I wondered just how much he was offered such puffery.

After all, he uttered these astonishing words: 

We're going to make it free.

Any airline executive suddenly declaring they're going to stop charging for something that used to cost money is usually an airline executive who will soon not be an airline executive.

Yet here was Bastian claiming Delta was going to make Wi-Fi free.

Wi-Fi is something businesspeople especially resent paying for.

If you're a frequent business traveler -- a road warrior, as some like to designate themselves -- you expect there to be Wi-Fi everywhere. The bathroom included.

When some airline Wi-Fi costs you $40 -- and doesn't work very well -- resentment can build.

Still, Bastian couldn't have been serious, could he? 

Well, here we are a few months later and it seems he was.

Last week, Delta announced that, on 55 segments in the U.S., there will be free Wi-Fi. Yes, in all cabins.

The airline says this is a test, one that begins May 13.

I can feel you getting unreasonably excited. I will, therefore, temper that excitement a touch.

This Delta Wi-Fi won't handle streaming. It will, however, cope with messaging, emailing, Twitter, Facebook and the like.

Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Delta's Director of Onboard Product, explained: 

As with any test in uncharted territory, Delta will rely heavily on customer and employee feedback to navigate how to best make free in-flight Wi-Fi a reality.

The last thing Delta wants is to make a big promise and not be able to keep it.

Bandwidths are limited on planes. You don't want a bunch of unhappy customers. You have enough of those already.

Delta's not had the finest of weeks. Its grotesque messaging toward employees on the subject of unions has been much derided.

So here's an attempt to reinforce its much-envied customer service credentials.

Some might still be wondering why Delta would want to offer free Wi-Fi, something which its principal rivals don't, but JetBlue does. 

Oh, it wouldn't offer access to some excellent customer data, would it?

Published on: May 12, 2019
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