Southwest Airlines has announced dual-sourcing of its onboard connectivity and entertainment, as new aircraft enter the fleet and aircraft without Wi-Fi are retired.
Panasonic Avionics will deliver their Global Communications Services, including onboard Wi-Fi and live television, to be offered on a portion of the carrier’s fleet. The first Panasonic equipped aircraft are scheduled to enter service in late 2017.
The airline’s agreement with GEE extends use of the company’s Airconnect connectivity system and services.
Southwest says both agreements support its focus on “yielding greater Wi-Fi bandwidth available to customers.”
Southwest will retire 737-300 Classic aircraft which are not equipped with any onboard connectivity or entertainment services throughout next year, and will take delivery of fully equipped 737-8 (MAX) aircraft. Southwest aims to offer 100-percent Wi-Fi equipped fleet of more than 700 aircraft by the end of next year.
“As the largest domestic airline in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded, carrying more than 100 million Customers a year, we are committed to providing an enhanced inflight experience for our Customers,” said Ryan Green, Vice President Marketing for Southwest Airlines. “We’ve led the way in Customer experience, being the first U.S. carrier to offer gate-to-gate connectivity to our Customers while having the foresight that Customers prefer to use their own devices to stay connected. Going forward, our Customers will have the capability to stay connected on Southwest Airlines flights with even more bandwidth at their disposal.”
Southwest says the performance of its connectivity solutions will improve, as will onboard entertainment offerings.
“In mid-2017, Customers will be able to browse the Internet at increased speeds as a result of an expected bandwidth increase of at least three times more than what they currently experience, with an additional expected bandwidth increase in mid-2018. Connectivity speeds are expected to increase, and Southwest plans to develop relationships with content providers to bring even more exclusive content to its Customers while on flights,” the airline states.
“We’re committed to continuously improving the inflight connectivity experience for Southwest’s passengers with our next-generation high performance network, our live television portfolio, and our new passenger experience platform. Global Eagle’s new agreement and contract extension with Southwest Airlines highlights our long-term commitment to enhancing inflight entertainment and connectivity,” said Dave Davis, CEO of Global Eagle.
Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer for Panasonic Avionics said, “We are both honored and excited to partner with Southwest on a program of this size and magnitude. Over the past year, we’ve been rolling out industry-leading high throughput satellite services, and we’re already evaluating new technologies such as XTSTM (Extreme Satellite) services, new modem designs and cutting-edge antenna technology that will ensure the best possible WiFi and entertainment experience for our customers and their passengers. We look forward to being a valued partner for both WiFi and entertainment services with Southwest for many years to come.”
Green concluded: “Panasonic has a longstanding reputation within the inflight entertainment and connectivity space and we are excited for them to join our inflight experience. Global Eagle Entertainment has been the inflight connectivity provider for Southwest over the past six years and has continued to grow with our business, extending connectivity to millions of our Customers annually. We are pleased to have both partners helping to provide an improved inflight experience over the next 18 months as we continue to see an increase in demand for inflight WiFi connectivity.”
Southwest has said live TV will still be free and Wi-Fi connectivity will remain at $8 per device per day.
The airline expanded its international service on Monday with its first flight to Havana becoming Southwest’s 100th destination.