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Southwest to roll out Wi-Fi service

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  January 29, 2010 06:36 PM

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   Southwest, which has been testing WiFi on a handful of planes since March, has decided to jump in and wire its entire fleet.

   The Texas-based carrier said on Friday that it would start installing the equipment in the second quarter of this year. Initially, Southwest is shooting for wiring about 15 aircraft per month with the goal of getting to 25 a month. At that rate, the entire fleet would be outfitted by early 2012.

   In the past couple of years, airlines have grown increasingly more interested in offering WiFi. Currently only AirTran and Virgin America have it on all flights. Delta, which has committed to wiring its entire mainline fleet, has already completed about 350 planes and expects to complete the final 200  -- which are planes that it got though its merger with Northwest -- by the middle of this year. American and United offer WiFi on a limited basis.
     
      Of those carriers not offering the services, most are either planning to put WiFi on some planes or are seriously looking at doing so.

     While Southwest has made the decision to outfit its fleet, the carrier is still undecided about pricing. Dave Ridley, senior vice president of marketing and revenue management at Southwest, wrote on the airline's blog, Nuts About Southwest, that the carrier will "have a decision on price in the second quarter of 2010  —  rest assured that, just like our fares, it will be a great value.''

     Pricing for the service looms as a major issue in the industry. Right now, most airlines charge $5.95-$12.95 per flight, depending on the distance, but passengers have not wholeheartedly embraced it. Forrester Research estimates that only about 15 percent of passengers on WiFi-enabled flights use it, according to the Chicago Tribune.

 

   

 

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