Earlier in the month there was some big news from in-flight internet provider Row44 – they received approval from the FCC to operate their gear on airplanes in the USA. The other shoe dropped yesterday, with Southwest announcing that they are going to be equipping their entire fleet with the system.
Southwest Airlines and Row 44 are continuing plans to roll out wi-fi beginning in the first quarter of 2010. Beginning this fall, Southwest 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. The airline has been testing the service on four aircraft since Feb. 2009 and has received fantastic Customer feedback on the product.
Their plans for deployment fleet-wide are not the first (AIrTran Virgin America have previously committed to fleet-wide deployment) but they are the broadest. By far. Southwest operates over 3200 flights/day on about 550 planes. That is a lot of systems for Row44 to sell and a lot of coverage to provide.
The pricing has still not been determined (or at least not announced) so that remains a big question mark. Southwest is different than the other carriers offering WiFi in that their average stage length is much shorter – only ~650 miles per flight. For a per-flight subscription they’d likely have to charge much less than the others to have a fairly valued offering. Or they could just offer a 24-hour plan to cover all the hops on Southwest that day. That makes more sense given the flight patterns and route scheme that Southwest uses.
More coverage from Runway Girl, who apparently got a head’s up prior to the official announcement.
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