Row 44 strikes Wi-Fi deal with Southwest Airlines


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Row 44 Chief Executive John Guidon, left, and President Gregg Fialcowitz on the wings of the company’s 1950 Grumman Albatross Seaplane that it uses for equipment testing. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Row 44 of Westlake Village has landed a contract with Southwest Airlines to provide Wi-Fi service on the airline’s fleet of more than 540 planes.

It is a tremendous boost for the small, 25-employee firm, which had been in a testing phase with Southwest since last year. Southwest said it would begin installing Row 44’s equipment in the second quarter at a rate of 15 to 25 aircraft per month.


If the Dallas-based carrier can maintain this schedule, it will have the full fleet wired by 2012.

Still, the biggest question remains: How much will passengers be asked to pay to use the service?

“We don’t have an answer to that quite yet,” said Dave Ridley, senior vice president of marketing and revenue management, on the Southwest company blog today. “We’re still testing a variety of price points on the four aircraft that currently have Wi-Fi. We’ll have a decision on price in the second quarter of 2010.”

Row 44, named after the last row on a DC-10 commercial jet, uses a network of telecommunications satellites belonging to Hughes Network Systems. By tapping into Hughes’ network, Row 44 has the potential capability to provide worldwide Internet access.

The company’s small size has allowed it to quickly adopt the latest advancements in technology that have made equipment lighter and cheaper. With the Internet omnipresent these days, demand is surging for constant connection.

-- W.J. Hennigan