In conjunction with service provider Row 44, Southwest Airlines is adding to its wireless in-flight entertainment options with a preview of live television on five of the carrier’s aircraft, with plans to expand the service to 20 aircraft by mid-July.
Customers on the Southwest Airlines aircraft trialing the service will now have the option to purchase live TV, consisting of seven sports and news channels, and view the TV programs on their personal devices.
“We believe our customers will enjoy the opportunity to access live TV, in addition to WiFi, using their personal devices, and we look forward to their feedback on the product,” says Dave Ridley, Southwest Airlines’ chief marketing officer and senior VP marketing and revenue management.
Flight attendants will notify Southwest customers onboard a TV-enabled Wi-Fi aircraft about the service.
Those interested in using the TV service during this preview period will have the opportunity to log on to the service through the Wi-Fi portal via their personal Wi-Fi-enabled device (tablets, laptops, Wi-Fi-enabled smart phones, etc).
Live TV is offered as a separate charge from Wi-Fi, so customers do not have to purchase Wi-Fi to purchase live TV. The airline will evaluate different price points from $3 to $8 throughout the trial period, with instructions on how to access live TV available via a link on the Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi portal.
Southwest Airlines will offer seven live TV channels on the five aircraft so that customers can stay abreast of the latest news or sports scores while flying at 35,000 feet.
The channels are NBC Sports; MLB live games from MLB.com; NFL Network; CNBC; MSNBC; Fox News; and Fox Business News.
According to Row 44, its in-flight Wi-Fi system was created with live TV in mind. Customers who are watching TV are accessing a separate portion of the bandwidth specifically dedicated for that use.
Both live TV and Wi-Fi usage will be monitored to determine if they perform together seamlessly, and if the trials are successful, live TV will be available to all Wi-Fi-enabled Southwest aircraft by the end of the year.
Southwest Airlines claims it maintains the world’s largest satellite-based Wi-Fi fleet, with more than 250 connected aircraft and plans to equip the entirety of its Boeing 737-700 and 737-800 fleet (70 per cent of its total fleet) by mid-2013.
Delta Air Lines would disagree with this claim, because it already has more than 550 mainline aircraft fitted to offer in-flight Wi-Fi and its regional-airline subsidiaries and partners in the Delta Connection network operate another 250-plus Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft.
In addition, Delta said on June 28 that it would also install satellite Wi-Fi capability on 150 long-haul international jets by 2015, taking to more than 1,000 the number of aircraft it will have equipped for satellite-based Wi-Fi by that date.
According to Southwest, Row 44’s system offers Southwest the ability to be flexible as the airline’s needs evolve, and the service provider’s satellite-based technology will ensure that customers’ access to Wi-Fi and in-flight live TV will be uninterrupted during near-international flights over water.
For a look at the Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi portal, including visuals of live TV instructions, visit www.southwest.com/wifi.
JetBlue Airways, which owns in-flight entertainment provider LiveTV, has provided 35 channels of free in-flight live TV service to all passengers on all its aircraft for several years.
However, the live TV channels are provided on passengers’ setback in-flight entertainment screens, not via Wi-Fi to their personal digital devices.