One of flying’s few freebies: Online messaging


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.


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.

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