With a majority of consumers hitting the pause button on air travel during the global pandemic, the airline industry took a serious hit. While 2022 thus far has marked a significant recovery, a return to pre-pandemic ticket purchase levels isn’t expected until 2023. One way that airlines have sought to make themselves more attractive is by partnering with wireless providers to provide free in-flight Wi-Fi to passengers. No company has done more on this front than “un-carrier” T-Mobile, which recently added United Airlines to its airline partners.
As part of T-Mobile’s “Coverage Beyond” initiative, which also includes deals with Delta, American, and Alaska Airlines, the phone service provider’s customers will gain the ability to text, email, search, and stream all flight long. The plan will specifically be made available on United’s 737s, MAX8s, MAX9s, select 757-300s, and select A319s. In-flight Wi-Fi will be unlimited for customers on Magenta Max or equivalent plans, whereas customers on a Magenta or similar plan will be able to use the perk on four flights per year, then for one hour on every flight after that.
T-Mobile is deliberately aiming to take advantage of the growing need/desire for travel as the pandemic has begun shifting to an endemic phase. In conjunction with the expanded in-flight coverage, T-Mobile has partnered with Priceline to offer customers exclusive deals, with up to 40% off select hotels and rental cars. Moreover, the company is offering 5GB of free high-speed data worldwide in more than 210 countries and destinations for customers on the Magenta Max and Business Unlimited Ultimate plans. “People are watching their wallets more closely than ever, and with prices everywhere increasing, free travel benefits never sounded so good,” the company boasted.
Incentivizing new customers with included perks that other carriers don’t offer has been part of T-Mobile’s game plan for years. The company provides free or discounted access to numerous streaming services, including MLB.tv, Netflix, Paramount+, YouTube TV, and Philo. As for the competition, Verizon has offered its wireless customers discounts on home broadband service, while AT&T has been offering HBO Max as a perk, but neither carrier has gone all-in on travel like T-Mobile’s latest customer incentives.
According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, a smaller portion of T-Mobile’s base has flown United in the last year than the percentage of AT&T’s subscribers who’ve used the airline. The addition of Coverage Beyond on United flights could convince more T-Mobile customers to fly the airline in the future.