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It Is Official--Wi-Fi Is On The Way!

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Hello everyone!  You probably saw the title of this blog post and thought, “haven't I heard that before?”  True, the road to onboard wi-fi has been a long one, but this week we took a major step that gets us closer to rolling out the system fleetwide.  We ended the equipment "testing" phase and signed an equipment purchase contract with our wi-fi provider, Row 44. That means we now begin the process of getting equipment ordered and aircraft scheduling in place to begin our full fleet installation.

We’ll begin installing the equipment in the second quarter of 2010.  We expect to install equipment on around 15 aircraft per month initially, with the goal of increasing that number to 25 aircraft a month as we ramp up the process.  With this schedule, we estimate that our full fleet of more than 540 planes will be outfitted with wi-fi service by early 2012.

So, on to the next pressing issue… what will it cost to connect?.  We don’t have an answer to that quite yet.  We’re still testing a variety of price points on the four aircraft that currently have wi-fi.  We’ll have a decision on price in the second quarter of 2010—rest assured that, just like our fares, it will be a great value. You can count on it!

We’re excited about this new inflight amenity and we promise it will be well worth the wait! We’ll have more updates along the way, but, in the meantime, keep booking those Southwest flights! Your chances of traveling on a wi-fi plane will increase soon!  (And don’t worry, we won’t tell your boss that you've been surfing the Internet.)  😉

457 Comments
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How about if you're on a flight that requires you to change planes, you pay once for access for both flights? You could get a scannable receipt on the first flight that would allow you access on the second.
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Wi-Fi on a flight is AWESOME!!! I have flown other airlines that offer it but have never taken advantage as it does cost money. I don't think you should increase/include it in the price of a ticket as not everyone will use it. I think charging a small fee for the service as it does cost to add the equipment to the planes and it is not cheap. I do agree with the others that including Wi-Fi on the Business Select tickets or those in the A-List club. Maybe even give those who get a free flight an option of free internet or drink coupons. I'm sure as you do with flight prices, you will run promotions on the Wi-Fi! Looking forward to the new things to come on Southwest. Y'all are still the #1 airline in my book!
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Everyone's commented on Southwest's "bags fly free" deal, but no one's mentioned that you're already charging for the option to pay $10 per one-way trip to get your boarding pass sooner. So I'd say that SWA has already joined the Nickel & Dime Club. That said, why should the many passengers who won't use wi-fi pay for it? I agree that a reasonable charge would be fine, but not in the $10 range some airports charge. I like the ideas of an annual or monthly fee for frequent fliers and of allowing drink coupons to be used for wi-fi. But I say there's no need to let the Business Select passengers have it free all the time; the vast majority of them will be vouchering the expense anyway. And I hadn't thought of the VOIP issue, but I second the suggestion to ban it!
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I would rather pay for it separately than have to pay extra in the ticket price. It's a cool perk, but I see no reason to pay extra for my 2 and 5 year olds tickets because of it! Also, I second the power outlet motion. We just took a cross-country, 3-stop jaunt on Southwest and having power available for that portable dvd player and such would have come in really handy for entertaining the young'uns. I could surf the net, they could watch movies - I see a pretty future flying Southwest.
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I love the idea of wi-fi, but as traditional airplane reader, non-business woman, travel-for-fun type, I don't like the idea that this may be an additional cost added into my airfare. just charge for it, like you do drinks. or for the rapid rewards members of credit card holders, add it in as an extra perk for being a loyal southwest flier.
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As someone said, ban VoIP -- or there will be an epidemic of Air Rage from people driven insane by in-flight jabbering. Charge for it. Since you already charge $10 per segment for automated early check-in, there's precedent for fees for services not everyone wants. Let people who will use Wi-Fi pay for it; don't increase fares for the likely majority of passengers who will NOT use it.
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Hope there is Laptop power plug at the seat...
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I would pay up to 5 dollars per hour tops perhaps. However, you need some charging ports for computers. My battery lasted about 7 hours brand new lasts about 2 now.
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I love the idea of wi-fi! I think you should at it to the price when you buy your plane tickets, if and only it you want to use the wi-fi. If you just add it to the price I dont want to pay for it (in my plance ticket price) if Im flying with my 3 year old. A lot of us dont carry cash when we fly, so to have to break out my wallet would an inconvenience. Thanks
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It should be an optional pay-as-you-go service, just like buying a beer. I would use it if priced right e.g. $2.00 for a short flight, $10.00 across the USA. If priced excessively, I'll pay Solitaire or watch a movie on the netbook or just read.
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Think about a monthly plan too, I hate to pay 3 bucks here, 7 there, etc for a service I plan to use many times a week while on board...
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Agree with the guy who says raise ticket prices one or two bucks and make it free!! That will really pack your planes, oh no! But bags free and wifi free! Sounds like you will need more planes!
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I would rather pay extra than have it built into my ticket. I won't use it, so I would rather not automatically pay for it in the form of an increased ticket price, BUT, that's just my viewpoint. :-) My husband? He is chomping at the bit. He cannot wait. Either way, 100% of my travel is on SWA. It they don't fly there, I don't go there. That's my motto.
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I hope that, for those of us who are not big drinkers, you'd consider sending a few coupons for wi-fi for a flight with our rapid rewards notifications. In terms of price, I think $10 or less is fair, and you should have a way to pay for a day in case you have to switch planes on the same day. Thanks for keeping your prices low and your customer service and quality high! Dana
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That's great. Now if you can solve the problem of shitty service I've had on the last half dozen flights, that would be great. Late, surly gate staff, waiting eons for luggage, surly gate staff, giving away seats before the 10 minute time period, surly gate staff, not announcing passenger names at gate before giving away seats, surly gate staff, late flights ... Frankly if these tickets hadn't all been purchased for me by clients, I'd never have flown Southwest again after the first couple of utter crap experiences. Short of always free Wi-Fi and some new gate staff - especially in San Francisco - not sure that wild horses could drag me back.
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Free with a business ticket would be nice. Though after the free drink I'm not sure that I should have access to my corporate email....
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Whatever you do, keep up your tradition of "under promising" and "over delivering". You would get a lot of complaints if you listed which flights had WiFi and people booked them based on that information... If then there was an unscheduled a/c change, people would complain because they didn't have access when they thought they would. I'm sure you guys will make this work just fine... You always do 🙂
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Don't raise the fares for all of us because we're not ALL going to use the wifi! I use the flight as my time to relax and prepare for whatever lay ahead when I land. I love the cheap fares on Southwest and I don't want to give that up. I'd rather pay a few bucks for that rare time that I actually use it than pay for it in the price of my ticket and not actually use it. Come on Southwest, you know I love you, don't make any dumb mistakes now and start acting like other airlines.
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Come on, folks- what more do you want? No charge for luggage, great fares . . . I truly doubt everyone will want to make use of a WiFi connection, so why should those who don't need it or want it be expected to help pay for those of us who will choose to use it? Keep the cost reasonable, and I'm sure those of us who wish to use it will have no problem paying for it.
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Wow thanks for your comments folks. I'm not an expert on the subject but I can answer some questions. First off, the advantage of a satellite-based system is that there shouldn't be any "dead zones" that come with ground-based systems. We have made a decision not to allow voice programs like VOIP. As to power ports onboard, these won't be included. We do offer charging stations in almost all of our gate areas so that should help. As to pricing, as Dave writes, nothing has been decided, and we continue to test price points on a variety of service ranging from short to long flights. Keep in mind that this is a very expensive system to install on almost 540 aircraft. Your suggestions will be read with interest, and I am guessing that many of them have been under consideration. And to Cathy Brooks, I am so sorry for your disappointment with Southwest. I am confident in saying that your experience is not the rule, but the exception. Thanks again for sharing your interest. Brian
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One more perk for A- list or Companion pass holders 😃 Free internet!!! Please....
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First off @Brian, thank you, thank you, thank you on the VOIP issue. I hope you also ban torrent sites, not only because of the bandwidth, but the potential legal liabilities. @Larry "No charge for luggage, great fares . . . I truly doubt everyone will want to make use of a WiFi connection, so why should those who don't need it or want it be expected to help pay for those of us who will choose to use it?" Larry, I personally don't make use of luggage, yet it's a standard airline amenity. Also so are non-alcoholic drinks, safety equipment, and bathroom supplies. Not everyone uses them, yet, they are all built into the cost of a ticket. Truthfully we are paying for everything on an airline; Southwest has just decided not turn what we all take for granted sometimes into a separate revenue-generating stream. They can do that, keep prices reasonable and still turn a profit more often than not. A trick those nickel-and-dime you to death airlines haven't done yet. Truthfully, I'm for either method, but I lean towards having it built into my ticket price, not just for budgeting reasons (I like that fixed fee that I've had to pay in ONE transaction) , but for not having to whip out my credit card and typing it in while in flight (possibly allowing my neighbor to see my numbers -- though privacy screens will become more commonplace soon.), having the flight attendants busy taking wi-fi orders separately from drinks, not having to turn it in as a separate expense and justifying it just to keep in touch with the office, and yes -- to make sure that Southwest can recoup the costs of building the infrastructure, thus making it more likely they'll KEEP Wi-Fi. I do sympathize though with those who don't want to pay it because they don't use it, but I see building it into the ticket price as something that makes sense.
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Why does there have to be a fee at all? You'll get more business and that will pay for it over time. Be the one that lets your bags fly free AND free wi-fi...now there's a ticket!
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I like the idea of using drink tickets as one method of wifi purchase. Also, would assume wifi included in Business Select. I don't believe ticket prices should be raised to cover wifi for all - would estimate maybe 25% of passengers would use wifi at any point in time and then probably only on longer (> 2 hours) flights.
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I love Southwest and I fly it everywhere I can. Unfortunately, I don't always fly SW because I have a daughter in Atlanta, so I have to choose some second-rate carrier to get me there. I can't wait for Southwest Wi-fi. It's great news. I trust SW to create a reasonable pricing structure - I don't mind paying for the service. Keep up the good work, Southwest! Cover the nation!
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I think it would be great if we get a choice of drink coupons or a couple of free days of internet, if we could be "frequent purchasers" of WIFI for a better price....like $100 for six months....or if you have a SW credit card you get a couple of free sign ons a month....I think your frequent flyers would be the highest users of this service...I know I will. Thanks for listening! Also...if we have WIFI we need electrical outlets!
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Please consider letting us pay for Wifi with drink coupons. (I have LOTS of books. Happy to trade .)
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@JamesN "I personally don't make use of luggage, yet it's a standard airline amenity. Also so are non-alcoholic drinks, safety equipment, and bathroom supplies. Not everyone uses them, yet, they are all built into the cost of a ticket." I think we'd have to consider checking luggage, non-alcoholic drinks, bathroom supplies, and safety equipment as “basic” amenities that virtually all passengers might need at one time or other whereas having a WiFi connection is not. I certainly have no problem if airlines have built in the cost of "basic" amenities (particularly the safety equipment) into the cost of a ticket. I'd hate to have to take the time to pull out my Visa card should the need arise to make use of the floatation device or oxygen mask!
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Another vote for keeping the ticket prices down and charging for Wi-Fi if you have to; I can cope off line for the length of a flight but I don't see why I should pay extra to cover people who want to go online 😉 It's not like charging for the luggage because it's hard to do without clothes for a week!
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Love it that SWA is getting wi-fi! My suggestion kinda of combines some of those above. I like the idea of wi-fi coupons that would come with free flights (with the drink coupons or just be able to use the drink coupons for the wi-fi) and/or just charging $1 more for each and every ticket for everyone every flight. That would pay for it and then it could be free to all! You guys are GREAT!! And we, your customers, like FREE a lot!
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We really appreciate the encouraging comments about our news that we are moving ahead with Wi-fi installation on all of our aircraft. To those of you who wish we could get the fleet equipped sooner - believe me, we're right there with you. We'll be pulling out all stops to get the fleet equipped asap, but with 540 planes, it's a pretty big task. And thanks for the feedback on pricing.Almost everything suggested is in our pipeline for consideration. But wherever we end up, you can count on one thing for sure - the pricing will be consistent with the great value you always get flying SWA.
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I fly Southwest frequently and personally I wish Southwest would of went the route of installing Direct TV and charging for it like Continental is doing. My laptop batteries don't last long on a full charge and I don't think Southwest has in seat power outlets. So my in flight internet surfing would be limited anyway. That being said I hope Southwest has an in route map on your internet in flight homepage. It might sound stupid but I find that feature entertaining on other airlines. The ability to see where the plane is at any given time is pretty great!
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It is amazing that it takes until 2012 to complete this task, especially given the fact that other airlines already have it. I for one, will not pay for it. If there is a charge I simply will not use it.
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Let me begin by saying that I have been totally in LUV with SWA for well over a decade. I talk you up to all my family and friends, and simply cannot understand why they – or anyone else, for that matter – would fly any other domestic airline. I currently have over 330 Rapid Rewards credits over the last two years (a combination of many flights, two credit cards, and making liberal use of SWA’s car and hotel partners), am an A-List member, and annually earn a Companion Pass. Not bragging, just expressing my long-standing appreciation for SWA. At the same time, I’m setting the stage for my post on this blog. First, quotes from the first and last posts at the time I read the blog, which apparently are from SWA employees: “So, on to the next pressing issue… what will it cost to connect?. We don’t have an answer to that quite yet. We’re still testing a variety of price points on the four aircraft that currently have wi-fi. We’ll have a decision on price in the second quarter of 2010—rest assured that, just like our fares, it will be a great value. You can count on it!” “And thanks for the feedback on pricing. Almost everything suggested is in our pipeline for consideration. But wherever we end up, you can count on one thing for sure - the pricing will be consistent with the great value you always get flying SWA.” I have to say I am not confident that SWA’s Wi-Fi pricing will be a “great value.” Not if my only experience of the test planes was any indication. It was on a very short – what, maybe and hour in the air? – flight from Boise to Reno. The cost was something like $12. Of course, out of those fifty minutes in the air, I would have only been able to log on for about thirty minutes (above 10k feet). My first thought was, “What? $12 for this? No thanks, SWA.” However, that price point was consistent with the direction SWA seems to be going with many of its prices, especially its fares. I never dreamed I’d see round trip fares nearing $1,000 on SWA. I never thought I’d see anything much over about $500. I still get my share of “cheap” fares, but way too often I have had to swallow hard and pay several hundred dollars more than I remember having to pay any time before the last year or two. I’m not really sure how I’d like to see the Wi-Fi priced, probably a buck or two added to my ticket. Of course, how would we ever know that way how much we’re really paying? Like the “no hidden fees,” and “bags fly free,” c’mon, we all know that bags don’t “fly free” on any airline. Maybe that’s where the recent inordinately high fares on SWA are making up for the bags and other “non-hidden” fees. I’ll close by saying much of what I said at the beginning, that is, I remain a SWA junkie, and have no immediate plans to start flying another airline. But there are others out there, SWA, and I just hope you take stock of your loyal, longtime customers’ thoughts and resist the temptation to go down the path that all the loser airlines have taken and gouge your customers the same way. I think you have a real opportunity with your Wi-Fi decisions. I’m not about to think that my feedback will carry that much weight (“Who does this guy think he is , anyway?”), but I doubt that I am alone in noticing the direction you’re going. I say, “Keep up the great work,” but don’t forget those of us who helped you get where you are today, and have remained as loyal as we have because of the LUV you have always shown us.
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Hi anonymous 14:09 We rreally appreciate your support of Southwest Airlines. I do wish you had read the original post a little more closely. It was written by Dave Ridley our Senior VP of Marketing and Revenue Managment. So to answer your commet "who do he think he is?" Well, he is the man in charge of the entire Wi-Fi program. And he has read every comment on the blog. I hope that restores your faith in SWA a bit. Brian (By the way, I moderate the blog whenever you see my name.)
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I'm originally from Dallas and have been living in California for the past 20 years in the entertainment industry. I travel to Las Vegas, Dallas, Austin, Houston, and many other places in the Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma area. I'm so glad the peanut airline is still around and still offers a great value. In this blog, WiFi is just icing on the cake. WOW!! I too, have the Rapid Rewards miles, points, credit cards... all the "perks" of frequent travel tied to SWA. Sometimes I bring the laptop, sometimes I bring the iPod. For me to conduct cell phone business and email too is VERRRYYY GOOOODDD!!!!! I am always on the phone or email, so this will allow me something I've never been able to do before. Very good!! Just a couple of questions? 1. When do the first planes get their WiFi? 2. Is this satellite based or cellular? 3. Do you have to change all the seats out to put different monitors or backs on the seats? If so, how quick is the turnaround for a plane to get this...start to finish? 4. As a frequent passenger, we do seem to have a sense of 'entitlement' when it comes to flying, hence the resistance for paying too much for WiFi. Have you considered just simply raising the ticket prices for everyone $2-5 across the board? That would serve several points....one, we as passengers will not feel like we're paying 'extra' for something. Also, it would guarantee SWA a return on investment because I'm sure this system is not cheap. It also would keep in tradition with SWA being a little different from the others and not have the passengers pay extra for anything (for example, GoGo....you actually go to a totally different web site to pay). 5. It would be good, I guess when the time is right, to see an overview of just how this all works and who the players are. I'm guessing this is new technology and some would like to keep certain intellectual property to themselves. Call me curious. Lastly, I would like to say thank you for over 20 years of giving me and my friends and family a dependable, economic, and value added airline. I only hope you continued success in all of your endeavors. Thank you Southwest!! Regards, Malibu Man
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Brian, My comment, "Who does this guy think he is, anyway?" was meant to go together with my previous comment that I doubt that my feedback would carry much weight. In other words, I was talking about what SWA and its readers might think about me, not what I think about Dave Ridley. I was trying to make the point that I am merely a party of one, and that you have countless people providing you with feedback. Thus, the comment about myself. In other words, "Who does this guy think he is going on and on about this issue?" Just thought I would share some heartfelt opinions from a longtime, loyal SWA customer.
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I'd prefer to pay for WiFi extra as I'd pay for beer or priority boarding. I'd be nice to book access along with a ticket, maybe discounted for "early birds"? Also day passes are a great idea. $12 per 1hr flight somebody has mentioned is way too excessive though.
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Anonymous, thanks for clearing up my confusion. We always value Customer comments, and I am sorry I misunderstood yours. Malibu Man, Yes it is satellite based, and four aircraft have been equipped for over a year now as testbeds. Starting in April we will be doing about 15 aircrraft a month. No, there are no modifications to the seat backs, an antenna is installed on top of the fuselage. As Dave Ridley said above, we are considering most of the pricing options suggested in the comments, but no decision has been made yet. The prinicpal players are the Row 44 folks. Brian
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Hi Everyone - I've read all of your comments - thanks Brian for keeping the conversation going over the weekend. You deserve a vacation, Man. Brian answered most of your questions but I wanted to toss out a few more points. First of all, we do believe that, when it's all said and done, we'll have the best wi-fi in the sky and a pricing structure to fit most every passenger - whether they fly frequently or occassionally, longhaul or shorthaul. We've tested a broad range of price points from $2-$12 over the past 6 months. The great news about going with Row 44 is that we have complete control over the pricing so when we say it will be a value, it's because we've been surveying and talking to our Customers for many, many months and that feedback is shaping the decision. As far as advanced notice or purchase, that's going to be a bit tricky during the install phase. When you book a ticket it's not tied to an aircraft so, until we're full fleet, you won't see it available for sale on southwest.com. We will be letting passengers know via e-mail 24-hours prior to their flight that they are scheduled to be on a wi-fi plane so be sure to check your e-mail before you fly. There are currently no plans to put power it the seats so you'll need to make sure you're powered up and have an extra battery on hand for those long flights. Like Brian mentioned, VoIP is currently blocked and will remain blocked. Not only does it suck up a lot of bandwidth but it's disruptive to the in-flight experience. Thanks all for the comments and ideas. This is really exciting for Southwest and we can't wait to get going.
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I understand that the decision has been made to not add power outlets to your planes. I'm sure those would be quite expensive to add and in your opinion wouldn't be enough of a draw to be worth spending the money. I would ask that you consider maybe adding one power station to the planes like they have in the airports. This would probably require some minor modification to an area near the flight attendant station, but it sure would make a world of difference to those of us who fly multiple legs. Iphones and laptops are usually getting quite low on battery power after just one leg. If you're stuck on a flight that makes several stops, the electronics are usually dead by the end of the flight. This frequent flyer would greatly appreciate this service. Also, for what it's worth, I can see paying something like $10-15 for roundtrip WIFI service but not for each flight or each leg. Since most SWA flights I take are hops of an hour or less, there's no way I'll be willing to pay in that range for 30-45 minutes of service. Thanks for listening.
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Angela (or Brian), When the installations begin in April, will the systems be active? As an aside, I'm all for a yearly price point once >50% of the fleet is up and running. If it was reasonably priced, I'd buy a yearly pass without hesitation.
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How about using some "drink" tickets in exchange for Wi-Fi? Anonymous — Fri, 01/29/2010 - 11:31 What I came to say^^^^^^^^^^
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tusphotog, Yes as the equipment is installed, that aircraft will offer wi-fi. Brian
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Add me to the "I'd rather pay for it when I need it" camp. On the vast majority of my flights, I'm more than content to read a book, watch a movie on my laptop, do the crosswords, or sleep. I don't need to be connected to the internet every moment of every day. It would rub me the wrong way if I suddenly had to start paying more for my tickets to subsidize those who do have that need. When I want to be connected while airborne, I'll gladly pay for it.
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I may have missed it as I scrolled through the comments, but has anyone suggested using "SWiFi" as your service mark?
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Make the WiFi free and bump up ticket prices a tiny bit to cover it. The marketing/PR boost Southwest would surely get by offering FREE WiFi will fill seats in a big way and make your competitors scowl!
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This will be great- I also endorse that as you install the equipment for wi-fi, you need to install power AC adapters - at least 2 per group of three seats. Having one without the other does not make any sense.
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The WIFI is a great addition for those of us that want it. I do find it funny that people would want it for free. It will cost millions to outfit 540 planes. If we said 50k a plane that is about 27 million. That might even be too low of a cost per plane. Costs for repairs or upgrades are always high in the aviation industry. I don't think your shareholders would like it if it was free. I would love the outlets at each seat but that would cost millions as well. That too would need to be added to the cost of the ticket or at least a charge for use. I agree if you want to use it you should pay for it. This is the only way to keep your fairs lower than the rest of the industry. Everyone checks bags so the "bags fly free" is still the best value in the industry. I pay for drinks when I don't have coupons so I will gladly pay for WIFI. Thanks for being the best airline in the USA to fly.
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Free WiFi please! Remember those in flight phones at $1.00 a minute! They were eventually removed because NOBODY USED THEM. WiFi could go the same if too costly, plus the hassle of the transaction onboard, a total pain! Wouldn't it just be better to add the cost of WiFi to the ticket price. What could it be, maybe a dollar per ticket? The free perk will increase ticket sales and more than pay for WiFi's cost. Once known that SWA has free WiFi on every flight, millions of travelers will switch to Southwest from Delta, AA etc.