Most major airlines already allow passengers to use their portable devices from takeoff to landings, under a new policy from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Now Southwest Airlines is going a step further by letting them connect to the plane’s wireless Internet service throughout the flight, even when the plane is on the tarmac.
Southwest says it is the only airline to offer gate-to-gate Wi-Fi because it relies on satellite-based connectivity provided by Row 44, a Westlake Village subsidiary of Global Eagle Entertainment Inc.
Many other airlines, such as American, United, Delta and Alaska, rely on Wi-Fi services that use air-to-ground towers similar to cellphones, which are switched on only when a plane is above 10,000 feet.
Southwest, the nation’s largest domestic carrier, said its online service is available on more than 435 Wi-Fi-equipped planes.
The FAA announced Oct. 31 that it was lifting its ban on the use of portable electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. Cellphone calls are still banned throughout commercial flights.
“As the only domestic carrier with active satellite-based Wi-Fi, they have yet again raised the bar,” John LaValle, chief executive of Global Eagle Entertainment, said of Southwest. “We are proud to provide the service that allows their passengers to stay connected to the Web and use their portable electronic devices to access the entertainment they love through all phases of flight.”