In an email to their RapidRewards members (myself included), Southwest Airlines stated that they had rolled out a new WiFi program that sets them apart from the rest of the industry. They will be enabling users to use the in-flight WiFi from gate to gate, meaning that users will never lose internet connectivity while flying. In the past, all airlines, Southwest included, turned off all WiFi below 10,000 feet automatically as part of regulations to ensure safe air travel. Now that the FAA has released new guidelines for people’s personal electronic devices, it appears that all airlines are starting to become much more relaxed and enabling them to create new programs such as this one.
"Southwest Airlines is excited to offer a robust entertainment offering via the largest satellite-based WiFi system in the world, and you may now use your approved electronic devices gate-to-gate! WiFi will remain on and accessible for taxi, takeoff, and landing. By accessing the WiFi ?hotspot? onboard, you can make time fly on your own personal electronic device!"
Since Southwest’s system is satellite-based, any and all aircraft equipped for WiFi will be able to enable this new program from Southwest. There is no additional charge, you still pay the same fees and you still get DISH for free, but it does mean that you will get more internet time for your money and you won’t have to worry about losing internet. That means you won’t have to wait to get that important email until you land, or end your riveting Facebook chat conversation with a friend. All that you need to do is keep your device in airplane mode and connect to the WiFi and you can have internet from gate to gate, which is really spectacular.
This means that Southwest has finally adopted the new FAA policies, because when I flew them last week they were still making us turn off our personal electronic devices. What is interesting is that Southwest Airlines has not said anything about that, but you can assume that it would have to be put in place because it isn’t possible to use WiFi gate to gate if your device is off. I’m looking forward to this new policy and hopefully it will make the holiday travel for many of you just a bit less stressful.