Apple announced today that it’s partnering with American Airlines to provide Apple Music subscribers access to the streaming app on flights, without having to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi. Apple Music customers can access their music on any American Airline domestic flight that’s equipped with Viasat satellite Wi-Fi starting on February 1st. It’s the first time Apple Music has partnered with an airline. Subscribers will be able to stream on any device with which they use Apple Music, including PCs, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and Macs.
Although it’s a convenient perk for Apple Music customers, the bigger picture is that it’s a zero-rating service that undermines competition and net neutrality principles. Offering free data for specific apps (like Apple Music) is the same controversial strategy that several states like California have banned in the past, and it’s no different from carriers offering sponsored data to third-party providers. Onboard Wi-Fi is still a developing technology, and Apple offering zero-rated services gives it an early edge over competitors like Spotify and Tidal.