In light of the airline devaluations we’ve seen the past several weeks, just about the only good news in the airline industry lately has been regarding the use of electronic devices aboard planes, as the FAA has finally updated their in-air electronic device policy. Most of the major US carriers have updated their policies to allow the use of electronic devices under 10,000 feet, though only with airplane mode on and wifi disabled.

Southwest announced yesterday they’d be the first airline to offer gate-to-gate wifi, per an email they sent out to Rapid Rewards members:

No more powering down!  Starting today, you will be able to use your small portable electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, and e-readers, in “airplane mode” from gate-to-gate on all Southwest Airlines® flights!

Our satellite-based WiFi allows you to enjoy uninterrupted access to free live and on-demand TV compliments of DISH® or for $8 a day per device, you can stay connected onboard all day, even during stops and connections.

We’re proud to be the only airline to offer you gate-to-gate connectivity on the majority of our fleet.  So as you get ready to head out for your Thanksgiving travel, be sure to bring your fully charged WiFi-enabled device and headphones with you to stay connected and entertained above and below 10,000 feet!*

For more information, visit southwest.com/wifi.

See you onboard soon!

This is awesome news, especially when you factor in how much time usually passes between when the door closes and you pass 10,000 feet, and again between 10,000 feet and when you reach the gate — at many airports that translates to close to an extra hour of productivity. While I’m far from a tech expert, if I’m not mistaken Gogo’s systems aren’t designed to function below 10,000 feet, so it’s unlikely we’ll see Alaska, American, Delta, US Airways, etc., follow. Meanwhile those airlines with satellite based wifi technology (including JetBlue, Southwest, and United) should have no problem implementing such a policy.

Southwest-Wifi

  1. November 21st, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Andrew B said,

    The email did not specifically mention laptops. I’ve heard varying things about whether you’re allowed to use a laptop below 10k feet under the new rules. Some people are saying no, since it could be a heavy projectile…but when I was on 4 US Airways flights last week, people were using laptops from gate to gate and flight attendants didn’t seem to mind.

  2. November 21st, 2013 at 8:05 am

    MJM said,

    @Andrew B — I was on a SWA flight last night and I’m pretty sure they said laptops should be stowed due to the possible projectile issue. I used my iPad gate to gate.

  3. November 21st, 2013 at 9:27 am

    BallardFlyer said,

    I’m sure gogo can work under 10k as long as the altimeter automatic shutoff is disabled. It would be a mod on every plane on each carrier – maybe a software update but could be a hardware update too.

  4. November 21st, 2013 at 10:50 am

    lsbuffs said,

    I enjoyed this new benefit yesterday DEN-PHX. I continue to be impressed with just how well their wifi works. I’ve used it on roughly a dozen flights, some up to four hours in length, and have had no issues. Streaming quality is just excellent.
    Also appreciated my first WN Pre Check at DEN. Unfortunately the Pre Check line was about triple the length of the normal lines, but that’s not Southwest’s fault.
    Even with the minor devaluation of their WGA awards next year, I’m appreciating that at least you know what you’re getting with them as far as award travel. Didn’t think I’d ever say it, but in light of the Mileage Plus, Delta, and soon-to-be AA devaluations, I’m liking the revenue-based award model more and more.

  5. November 21st, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    David C said,

    @BallardFlyer GoGo’s issue isn’t with the equipment onboard, but rather with the way the ground stations are configured. They are almost undoubtedly using directional antennas pointed skyward. While some reception may be possible, the system isn’t designed or optimized for that mode of operation.

    This is analogous to the situation with using mobile phones while airborne: the system simply wasn’t designed to accommodate users at a positioned above the tower and moving at 500+ mph. While it may work sometimes, the quality of service is hit or miss and not guaranteed, especially if there are lots of similar users.

  6. November 21st, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Matt P said,

    Southwest now has mobile boarding passes too!

  7. November 21st, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    ncSam said,

    Speaking of Southwest, I just got an email from them with the 50k bonus points offer. Guess it wasn’t completely over on Monday.

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