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Southwest Airlines Testing In-Flight WiFi

Another airline is launch in-flight Internet.

Southwest Airlines, one of the most popular airlines in the U.S., is set to bring WiFi to 30,000 feet. In collaboration with Row 44 and Yahoo, Southwest has already outfitted one jet with WiFi, and plans on adding three more by the end of March.

Row 44, which uses a satellite network to provide broadband internet access, is the company behind Southwest's WiFi program. Offering "terrestrial-strength" broadband for airplanes, Southwest is the first major airline to use the company's services. While the offering is currently considered a "test run", it will be completely free of charge to those passengers who find themselves on a WiFi-enabled flight. While other airlines like American Airlines, Qantas and Lufthansa offer in-flight WiFi, Aircell and OnAir have been the companies behind their respective services.

"Internet connectivity has been high on our list of priorities for quite some time," said Southwest SVP Dave Ridley. "We look forward to the feedback from our Customers."

The software behind the new service will be provided in part by Yahoo. The internet search giant is behind the service's homepage, which will offer pertinent data relevant to the flight. Along with a flight path tracker, Yahoo has included a point of interest "fly-over" feature, which uses Flickr to provide pictures of whatever notable monuments or landmarks you may be flying over. Other features include weather updates, destination guides, and local event coverage. Combined with standard web browsing, the Southwest offering should make for an impressive service.

While airlines have been cutting back on "frivolous" items such as free in-flight food and gratis extra carry-on luggage, the industry as a whole seems poised to take advantage of one's need to be constantly connected to the outside world. American Airlines charges $12.95 for its WiFi service, and other more "upscale" airlines have the service charge built into the ticket price. Since the WiFi service form Southwest is still in testing, it is not known whether or not they will charge for the service if they implement it across their entire fleet. As long as the new service from Southwest has no adverse affects on the company's reputation of offering no-nonsense flying at a reasonable price, they will likely remain one of America's preferred airlines.

  • hellwig
    What is all this crap the FAA gives us about no cell phones, no wireless devices, no GPS (which are receive-only by the way), yet airlines can implement WiFi that apparently doesn't affect the plane? I know these things don't actual affect the plane, so why doesn't the FAA just drop that stupid requirement on the passengers.
  • tayb
    They don't effect the plane. The airlines themselves have admitted that they don't effect the plane. I wasn't aware that GPS is banned (why would you want to use it anyways?) but the reason cell phones continue to be banned is because they are dangerous projectiles in turbulent situations.

    Even if you consider that reason frivolous I don't really care. I am glad you aren't allowed to use your cell phone because I, for one, don't care what you are talking about and don't want to listen to your conversation from six inches away.
  • Blessedman
    I thought it had something to do with coordination (didn't want a coordinated attack). Not to mention just plain annoying on a 4hr flight to have someone have an argument that you can't end. You are unwittingly brought into peoples lives and then when you become annoyed they tell you to mind your business... When in fact it is them that should be minding theirs.
  • hellwig
    I never said I felt compelled to use any of these items. I was simply listing the ones that are not allowed to be operated while the plane is flying. I also don't like listening to people talk on their phone, but that's because I don't like assholes in general, tayb.

    It's completely pointless to ban them. Terrorists will use them if they want to, because you are still allowed to take them onto the plane. I assume the reason they ban GPS is on the same note, they don't want terrorists knowing where the plane is at the moment. It's all pointless though, terrorists aren't going to let some warning from the flight attendant stop them.
  • crom
    Well if they start offering Wi-Fi, maybe they should start putting electric plugs in every seat.
  • dannyaa
    tayb I am glad you aren't allowed to use your cell phone because I, for one, don't care what you are talking about and don't want to listen to your conversation from six inches away.
    That's nice. consider it a moot point with WiFi. Heard of skype, iChat, Jajah, etc.? It's all over for you... hehe