Southwest Joins In-Flight Internet Access Rollout Parade

Southwest Airlines has announced a rollout of Internet Access on its fleet of 737 Aircraft.  The low-cost Airline leader has steadfastly resisted installing any type of inflight entertainment, but now competition from legacy carriers is dictating the need for business friendly services on long distance flights. 

From its humble beginnings in Texas with average flight duration of less than an hour, Southwest has expanded to become a true coast-to-coast carrier, with trans-continental flights and five hour flights in markets such as Buffalo – Phoenix and Albany – Las Vegas.  Southwest has also recently entered heavy-duty business markets at New York LGA and Boston.  A four-aircraft test that has been going on for nearly a year has seemingly convinced Southwest’s management that passengers are willing to support wi-fi service. 

By this summer, Southwest will ramp up installations to approximately one plane every two days, which means it will take up to two years to fully equip the Southwest fleet.   

Air Tran, one of Southwest’s most aggressive low-cost competitors, already has wi-fi on its entire fleet, joining Virgin America as the first two carriers to offer internet service on all of its planes.  Legacy carriers American, Delta, United, and USAir are already offering various levels of internet service on its flights, with Delta being the carrier most likely to have its entire domestic fleet outfitted first. 

All of the carriers, as well as federal law, prohibit using the internet service for VoIP phone call services, such as Skype, although SMS and e-mail services are both viable.

With Southwest’s announcement that it’s committing to full scale rollout of Internet Access, it’s become clear that Email in the air has come into its own, and only the smallest regional carriers will not be on board.

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