Southwest to extend inflight connectivity across fleet

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A Southwest aircraft in flight.
A Southwest aircraft in flight.

Southwest Airlines says it is committed to enhancing the customer experience and improving inflight connectivity on Southwest flights across the U.S. and near international destinations.

The carrier has entered into connectivity agreements with Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) and Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE).

The agreement with Panasonic provides for their Global Communications Services, which include WiFi and live television, to be offered on a portion of the carrier’s fleet, with the first Panasonic equipped aircraft scheduled to enter service in late 2017.

The agreement with GEE extends the carrier’s use of the company’s Airconnect inflight connectivity system and services. Both of the agreements support Southwest’s focus on yielding greater WiFi bandwidth available to customers on WiFi-equipped aircraft.

Southwest inflight connectivity

Southwest’s agreements with Panasonic and GEE align with next year’s planned retirement of the carrier’s non-WiFi-equipped 737-300 Classic aircraft and the introduction of the new Boeing 737-8 (MAX).

By the end of 2017, Southwest Airlines says it is targeting to operate a 100 percent WiFi-equipped fleet of more than 700 aircraft.

“As the largest domestic airline in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded, carrying more than 100 million customers a year, we are committed to providing an enhanced inflight connectivity experience for our customers,” said Ryan Green, Vice President Marketing for Southwest Airlines.

“We’ve led the way in customer experience, being the first U.S. carrier to offer gate-to-gate connectivity to our customers while having the foresight that they prefer to use their own devices to stay connected.

“Going forward, our customers will have the capability to stay connected on Southwest Airlines flights with even more bandwidth at their disposal.”

Southwest says the customer experience with connectivity remains a top priority.

In mid-2017, Customers will be able to browse the Internet at increased speeds as a result of an expected bandwidth increase of at least three times more than what they currently experience, with an additional expected bandwidth increase in mid-2018.

Connectivity speeds are expected to increase, and Southwest plans to develop relationships with content providers to bring even more exclusive content to its customers while on flights.

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Global Eagle Entertainment

Dave Davis, CEO of Global Eagle, said: “We are pleased to extend and grow our relationship, including continuing to install GEE’s Airconnect system, WiFi and television services on Southwest Airlines aircraft.

“We’re committed to continuously improving the inflight connectivity experience for Southwest’s passengers with our next-generation high performance network, our live television portfolio, and our new passenger experience platform.

“Global Eagle’s new agreement and contract extension with Southwest Airlines highlights our long-term commitment to enhancing inflight entertainment and connectivity.”

Panasonic Avionics

Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer for Panasonic Avionics said, “We are both honoured and excited to partner with Southwest on a programme of this size and magnitude.

“Over the past year, we’ve been rolling out industry-leading high-throughput satellite services, and we’re already evaluating new technologies such as XTSTM (Extreme Throughput Satellite) services, new modem designs and cutting-edge antenna technology that will ensure the best possible WiFi and entertainment experience for our customers and their passengers.

“We look forward to being a valued partner for both WiFi and entertainment services with Southwest for many years to come.”

“Panasonic has a longstanding reputation within the inflight entertainment and connectivity space and we are excited for them to join our inflight experience.

“Global Eagle Entertainment has been the inflight connectivity provider for Southwest over the past six years and has continued to grow with our business, extending connectivity to millions of our customers annually,” Green said.

“We are pleased to have both partners helping to provide an improved inflight experience over the next 18 months as we continue to see an increase in demand for inflight WiFi connectivity.”

Customers will continue to enjoy the current onboard entertainment offerings they experience with Southwest today, such as free live TV and $8 per device per day for WiFi inflight connectivity across all WiFi-equipped planes.

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