Southwest signs deal to boost onboard Wi-Fi service

Baggage carts are towed to a Southwest Airlines jet at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Ark. Southwest Airlines announced plans to improve its Wi-Fi service next year.
(Danny Johnston / Associated Press)

Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest domestic carrier, has good news for fliers who want to stay connected: The Dallas-based airline plans to offer Wi-Fi service on all of its planes by the end of next year.

Even better: The connectivity speeds are expected to increase by at least three times the current speed for all passengers.

For the last six years Southwest has had a contract with a Marina del Rey company, Global Eagle Entertainment, to provide satellite-based Internet on nearly 90% of its fleet of about 720 planes.


But Southwest representatives say the demand for faster Wi-Fi speeds on more planes has prompted the airline to add a second provider, Panasonic Avionics Corp., based in Lake Forest.

“Where our product is today is not good enough,” Southwest spokeswoman Michelle Agnew said.

The expansion of onboard Wi-Fi on more planes coincides with Southwest’s plans to replace older Boeing 737-300 planes that lack Internet equipment with new Boeing 737 MAX planes.

The price to connect to the Wi-Fi is not expected to rise from the current charge of $8 a day, per device, and live television will remain free.

Virgin America leads U.S.-based airlines in the percentage of planes with Wi-Fi service, followed by Delta, Southwest, United and American, according to a survey by Routehappy, a company that tracks onboard amenities.

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