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One of flying’s few freebies: Online messaging

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Delta Air Lines announced it will let passengers use its onboard Wi-Fi to send and receive text messages for free.
(Glenn Grimwood /Delta Air Lines)

Since most airlines began nearly a decade ago to charge for extras that previously were included in the cost of the ticket, freebies have become rare for air travelers.

But there are a few exceptions.

The latest example is Delta Air Lines, which will begin Oct. 1 to let passengers on most flights use their smartphones, laptop computers and digital tablets to send messages for free, using the carrier’s onboard Wi-Fi system.

The program lets passengers contact friends and family via iMessage, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.

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Alaska Airline launched a similar service earlier this year. Not to be outdone, American Airlines’ chief executive, Doug Parker, announced Thursday plans to soon offer free messaging services on his airline.

Southwest Airlines charges $2 per day per device to send messages using the onboard Wi-Fi.

But the airline industry is not giving everything away.

Airlines that offer free messaging still charge for other web browsing. And a study released earlier this month concluded that the world’s airlines pocketed $44.6 billion in passenger fees and commissions in 2016. That includes charges to check luggage and to buy food, drinks, entertainment and blankets, among other extras.

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hugo.martin@latimes.com

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.


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