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Southwest Selects Wi-Fi for our Fleet

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As you know, we’ve been testing Wi-Fi on four aircraft since March.  I’m happy to announce we have concluded our testing for inflight Wi-Fi and we are very happy with both the technical performance of the system and the response of Customers who have used it. We are pleased to be continuing with our plans to offer satellite-enabled broadband access through California-based Row 44.

This fall we will be moving to the next step of certifying Southwest’s full fleet with plans to begin fleetwide rollout of the Row 44 satellite service in the first quarter of 2010.  Southwest is ready to have this service up and running as soon as possible and we are excited about these next steps.
 
Over the testing phase Customers have been utilizing the service for anything from e-mail to streaming video.  Those interested in using the service during the test period have had the opportunity to log on to the service via their own personal Wi-Fi enabled device (laptops, iPhones, Wi-Fi enabled smart phones, etc).  Additionally, Southwest has been testing a variety of price points for the service and will continue testing price points through the end of 2009.

The technology works, the product is great, and we look forward to offering more Customers Wi-Fi service in 2010. 

25 Comments
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Can you comment on why WN chose to go with Row 44's satellite service over Aircell's ground-based Go-Go service? What are the technical advantages that appealed to Southwest? It seems like the biggest advantage would be that it works over water ... which is an odd advantages for Southwest to be focused on ... or is it ...
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Thomas, here is the answer: Bandwidth and speed! This solution provides more bandwidth than the air-to-ground versions offered by carriers like American, AirTran, and Virgin America. We believe that this solution provides the most “at office and at home-like” internet experience for our Customers. By working with Row 44, we also have the ability to customize our product to best meet Customer preferences and evolving usage trends.
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Now if only Southwest would offer power outlets at the seats. As a constant business traveler taking many 3-4 hour flights, having the WiFi to entertain myself would be marvelous, except when my laptop powers off halfway through the flight.
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Earlier last year it was touted that SWA would be the first carrier to have WiFi in all it's aircraft. Obviously, that didn't occur but it seemed it would. What happened and why has it taken so long to get WiFi installed when other carriers have done it in less time?
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What if any is the fuel penalty because fo the drag from the dome on top of the aircraft? I have only seen it once but it's a lot bigger than the domes of the airlines with TVs.
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It would be great if Southwest comes up with an annual plan for those of us who live on your planes. Thanks! David Meyer Tampa, FL
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I love that Sothwest continues to be the leading airline in the U.S. I will not fly anywhere unless Southwest flies there....otherwise I know there will be complications. With this new feature to arrive in 2010 it reinforces the company's desire to accommodate their guests as much as possible. Way to go Southwest! I fly from Providence to Baltimore all the time to visit family while I'm away in college. I promise you my relationship will continue as you continue to impress me with your amenities and service. Thank you so much. John
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Any plans to offer A-Listers a discount or complimentary usage...?
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This is great news! Thanks SWA for all of your efforts! One question: have there been any determinations as to whether the service will continue to be free, or whether there will be a charge for the service?
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So what are your current thoughts on price points....$x per trip / segment; per day; depending on length of trip (ie: Chicago to Portland non stop > Chicago to Milwaukee?) etc?
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I dunno. With the rollout of LTE, unless Row44 is pushing a TON of bandwidth to each plane, not only will GoGo be faster, but it'll also have a LOT less latency. Which results in a better browsing experience. Just thinkin'...
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My wife and I use SWA extensively. If SWA lets people use their cell phones during flights we will be very upset. Since you cannot hear yourself talk through the phone (like regular phones) people tend to talk louder than normal. If you are sitting near one, it drives you crazy.
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I think SWA should have kept this release Apple style....install all of the working materials in each aircraft and announce the "flip the switch." Nobody wants to read a full blog post about waiting til Qx. Just my thought.
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Fair point, Floyd. But folks ask us for updates everyday. My understanding is that there won't be a "flip the switch" moment, but rather, aircraft will continually outfitted and reentered into the fleet.
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I am a very frequent flier - companion pass for last 5 years, so this is not just a snarky comment but a hope my bad experience with your wi-fly and that of 4 others on flight 624 on July 29 from Nashville to Oakland was an exception - I blogged about it below http://dealarchitect.typepad.com/deal_architect/2009/07/yearning-to-get-on-the-att-mobile-network.html
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@ John Runyan: Most likely the delays came from FCC certification issues. Row 44 kept having to fend off ViaSat's challenges to the system. IIRC ViaSat kept saying Row 44's system would interfere on their systems. Once the FCC gave Row 44 the green light, it wasn't very long until WN announced a fleet wide roll out--maybe two weeks. I second the need for a yearly pass. As someone who routinely is on one to two WN round trips a week, I would really appreciate a yearly pass. It would be nice if you could add an iphone and laptop to the same pass. Or at least update that pass between devices.
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So what will happen until the full rollout? Any wifi capability at all? Does the end of testing mean the end of finding yourself lucky to be on a wifi flight? :)
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Other airlines selected the less expensive, fielded and more reliable aircell. Southwest obviously did not research Row44 and Aerosat's poor reliability and lack of service support. Southwest has made a mistake and will disappoint many trusting travelers who will blindly carry the cost of this poor decision.
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What ever happened to smoking cigarettes and listening to music on airphones to pass the time?
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Hi everyone, Thanks for all your comments and interest in our announcement! A few questions I want to chime in on. Don't worry - we have no plans to allow cell phone calls or any type of voice service (VOIP) like Skype in the cabin! As far as pricing - y'all have given several great suggestions. We've been testing a variety of price points, ranging from $2-$12, since June. The price is determined by the distance you are flying and the type of device you are using to get online and will be displayed when you launch you Internet browser. We are doing extensive research about this product, and the way we ultimately offer it will be determined by Customer demand and responses to our various research tools. We are excited to have the ability to customize our inflight wi-fi service and plan to continue evaluating different pricing options for the next several months. So stay tuned... While we don't currently have plans to install in-seat power, don't forget that with the recent redesign of our gate areas, in most cities you can use our power stations to get your battery fully charged before your flight. For more information on our inflight wi-fi service, check out southwest.com/wifi! Thanks again for your interest and great suggestions. We LUV hearing this feedback! ~Micah Product Marketing
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I've used Go Go and the WN service and the WN service is much faster. I've also heard that the sat based service isn't obstructed by the aircraft banking or turning.
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This is such a great idea. I hope it is a blessing to SW and all of your loyal customers. Please keep it reasonable. I'd gladly trade my rewards drink coupons for airtime.
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How about complimentary WiFi access of Rapid Rewards members? This would ultimately be a differentiating factor and would become a great marketing opportunity. I can see the ads now: Passenger walks into airport, checks in at competing airline's desk. Looks at ticket and sees complicated table/graph showing the various costs for WiFi. Passenger faints, then the narrator comes on: "Wanna get away? At Southwest, we recognize the importance of inflight WiFi to our customers. Which is why we offer it for free to our Rapid Rewards members. Just another fee that doesn't fly with us." Screen turns black, displays the latest deal while narrator says "sign up for Rapid Rewards for free at Southwest.com." Display Southwest logo as we hear the ding and the narrator says "you are now free to move about the country."
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Just another suggestion about pricing. I am a frugal customer. This is why I fly SWA for business and pleasure for "peanuts". One option between the "free for all" or "free for rapid rewards members" and $2-$12 (yikes!!) might be the option to purchase 6 months or 12 months of WiFi service with your awards or at least some of your accumulated points. You could opt to accumulate points to apply towards free WiFi instead of a free flight perhaps? Or you could spend your already accumulated awards/points to get free WiFi? You could also send a free WiFi coupon (good for use on one trip) on rapid rewards members' birthdays. I have gotten all kinds of other SWA goodies on my birthday such as luggage handles, surgical booties for my feet during security lines, etc. and this would seem to be a nice addition to that list. (Hope this did not double post!)
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What is the approximate Cost ROW has charged to install there equipment on a single Plane?