Delta CEO Ed Bastian confirmed on Tuesday that the airline is testing SpaceX's satellite internet service. He told the Wall Street Journal that the company has held talks with Starlink about bringing its satellite Wi-Fi on board, and has conducted exploratory tests, but didn't release and further details of the partnership. The tests could mean that Starlink service will be available for free on Delta flights, given that Bastian previously told the Wall Street Journal that in-flight Wi-Fi should be a free service.
Delta has deployed Viasat's satellite internet service, which costs passengers $5, on 300 planes so far. Moving to Starlink would likely take a few years, given that Delta would have to outfit its planes with Starlink equipment (and presumably the company has a deal with Viasat).
SpaceX has been building out Starlink for the past several years, and has been considering expanding to airlines since last year. Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX's vice president of Starlink and Commercial Sales, said at a conference last June that the company was “in talks with several” airlines about providing travelers with in-flight service. Hofeller also said at a conference last month that Starlink believes in-flight internet needs to be upgraded, and that “the expectation has changed faster than the technology,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
CEO Elon Musk also tweeted last year that he was working on getting regulatory approval for its use in the Boeing 737 and A320 to "serve most number of people." However, SpaceX has some competition in airline Wi-Fi, with Intelsat and Viasat already offering services to thousands of planes.
Inking a contract with Delta could prove to be a big boost for Starlink, as the high cost of materials recently forced the company to hike its installation fees by 20% and its monthly residential subscription by 10%. The company last year had also been working on cutting the production cost of Starlink terminals, which reportedly ran around $1,000 per terminal.