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.