Southwest to rig entire fleet for wi-fi

Photo by deanoly

I’ve written a bit about Southwest Airlines, and written some more about in-flight wi-fi. This morning we offer a two-fer: Southwest is on its way to having wi-fi on every flight.

Gratification will not be instantaneous, however. Even at a pace of between 15 and 25 installations per month, it will be 2012 before each of Southwest’s more than 540 jets are outfitted. Nevertheless, it is another reason to put Southwest near the top of a business traveler’s preferred airline list.

As The Cranky Flier points out, wifi fits Southwest’s business model and passenger culture. Seat yourself, and be in charge of your own entertainment or productivity.

For Southwest, this is the perfect technology. They’ve long avoided inflight entertainment because it adds cost. Airlines haven’t been able to charge for overhead movies for a long time, and in-seat video is costly. It’s not just the content but also the weight and the extra pieces that can break in each seat. It’s just not a Southwest way of doing things. But wifi is different. It does add a little weight, but it only gets installed in one place so you don’t run the risk of having a problem at every seat.

More importantly from a business standpoint, Southwest’s testing on a limited number of flights has shown customers are willing to pay for a wi-fi perk. There’s been no announcement yet for what the pricing will be, though. Southwest promises an answer to that question in Q2 2010.

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