Southwest Airlines to Commence Inflight Entertainment
The airline says that it will eventually roll the TV channels out to all of the planes that are equipped with Wi-Fi. This fleet of 250 planes should have inflight entertainment by the end of 2012. Southwest plans to add Wi-Fi and TV service to another 150 planes by 2014.
Southwest will start its inflight TV service with seven channels that are aimed to primarily entertain business travelers. Among the offerings are the sports stations CNBA, MLB, NBC Sports, and the NFL Network. Some news channels will also be available on these flights. These include Fox Business News, Fox News, and MSNBC.
Of course, this inflight entertainment will come at a price. The airline currently charges $5 per passenger for Wi-Fi. The company has not yet divulged the price for live television. Prices could vary depending upon whether or not TV is purchased alongside Wi-Fi or on its own. The cost is thought to be $3 to $8 per flight. This is converse to Southwest's Wi-Fi policy, which allows those who purchase to pay only one fee per day. This is significant to those frequent flyers who may take multiple flights within 24 hours.
One of the primary differences between Southwest and the other airlines that already offer live TV is that Southwest requires passengers to carry their own Wi-Fi devices. Passengers often travel with laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Southwest is using this fact to lower their cost while offering the service. Other air carriers that offer live TV on planes include Frontier, JetBlue, and Virgin America. United also has the service on some of its planes. However, in all of these cases, the viewing devices are provided by the airline and not the passengers.
Southwest passengers who wish to know if their flight offers Wi-Fi or TV access can search for their flights online. Otherwise, they will be informed via signage or can ask flight attendants while onboard.
The move to offering inflight entertainment is expected to be a lucrative one for Southwest. The cost for offering live TV is a very small one, which will be greatly offset by the number of passengers who are expected to pay the nominal fee. Southwest hopes to add more business travelers to its flights. The company, which was previously the most profitable airline. That spot has been taken over by fellow low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines. Southwest has dropped to fifth place under Delta, United Airlines, and JetBlue.