Southwest Airlines says it has become the first airline to offer its passengers gate-to-gate Wi-Fi services.
From November 20, all Southwest Airlines passengers may use small portable electronic devices (PEDs) in “airplane mode” from gate to gate.
This means that passengers may use the airline’s onboard Wi-Fi, which is available on the majority of the aircraft in Southwest Airlines’ fleet, for wireless Internet connectivity from the time they step on to a Southwest plane to the time they exit.
However, it does not mean yet that Southwest passengers are allowed to make voice calls from their cell phones at any time during a flight. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has not changed its rules prohibiting calls made from cell phones from airborne aircraft.
According to Southwest, it is the only airline to date that offers gate-to-gate Wi-Fi connectivity on the majority of its fleet.
The move by Southwest to implement gate-to-gate Wi-Fi follows the FAA’s decision on October 31 that airlines could safely expand passenger use of PEDs during all phases of flight.
On the same day, JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines immediately allowed passengers to keep their PEDs turned on from gate to gate. Other U.S. airlines quickly followed suit.
However, until November 20 no airline had yet made Wi-Fi connectivity available from gate to gate.
Southwest says the use of portable devices was a factor in the carrier’s initial Wi-Fi investment. The airline is making the extended use of service on Southwest’s Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft available for the same price it was previously offering for onboard Wi-Fi service: $8 per device, all day, including stops and connections.
The airline’s passengers can also now watch free live TV compliments of DISH and $5 movies throughout their flights with no interruptions. Customers do not need to purchase Wi-Fi in order to access movies or TV.
“We know this is something customers have wanted for some time now, and we’re excited to give them the freedom to use personal devices while in the air and on the ground,” says Kevin Krone, Southwest Airlines’ chief marketing officer.
According to Southwest, before implementing the changes the airline carefully vetted all new procedures through its safety risk management process to ensure safe and efficient implementation.
Bulky laptops and devices larger than a tablet must still be stowed during taxiing, take-off, and landing. Any device that is larger than a tablet may pose a hazard due to its size and weight, according to Southwest.
For more information, visit www.southwest.com/wifi/.