Sky Talk

Southwest Airlines ups bandwidth with new Wi-Fi agreements


Southwest Airlines is improving Internet service on its flights with two new Wi-Fi agreements.

The Dallas-based airline said it signed a new connectivity agreement with Panasonic Avionics and extended an agrement with its existing provider Global Eagle Entertainment to offer faster Internet service on Boeing 737 aircraft. Both providers use satellites to provide Internet service to aircraft as opposed to air-to-ground technology.

By the middle of 2017, customers will be able to surf the web at 37,000 feet three to four times faster than the current speed, said Ryan Green, Southwest’s vice president of marketing.

“We want to improve the amount of bandwidth that they have access to while they are in flight,” Green said.

Southwest did not disclose financial details of the deal, although Green noted the carrier will be investing in upgrading some of the Internet equipment on its aircraft. Shares of Southwest (ticker: LUV) rose 18 cents to close at $49.55 on Tuesday.

With the retirements of its older Boeing 737-300 Classic fleet next year — 88 aircraft that do not have Wi-Fi equipment on board — all of Southwest’s flights will have Internet service.

“Customers will no longer wonder if they are getting on a Wi-Fi-equipped flight,” Green said.

Currently, Southwest offers free live TV to personal devices and charges $8 per device per day to use in-flight Wi-Fi. Green said the new Internet agreements will allow Southwest to make enhancements to its entertainment offerings, which the carrier will announce at a later date.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk