Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 on a taxiway. (photo via Southwest Airlines Media)
Southwest Airlines, which offers Wi-Fi connectivity on flights to passengers for an $8 charge, will experiment with free Wi-Fi on select flights during a test run of its service upgrades.
The free Wi-Fi will be available on flights mostly in the western United States from today, May 4, to Tuesday, May 10, according to a memo seen by CNBC.
“This trial will allow Customers to stream, browse, and engage on the internet at no cost just like other complimentary services,” Tony Roach, Southwest’s vice president of customer experience and customer relations, wrote in the memo to staff.
“Our goal is to evaluate how the new hardware improves performance while delivering a reliable internet experience used by a large volume of Customers.”
Late last month, Hawaiian Airlines announced it had cut a deal with Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink to provide free Wi-Fi to passengers on long-haul flights by next year. Starlink is a network of more than 2,000 satellites designed just for high-speed internet access.
Ironically, Hawaiian Airlines does not offer in-flight Wi-Fi despite having a vast route network of long-haul flights that traverse the oceans to the mainland United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
“Historically, we’ve looked at our market and not seen great options over the Pacific. We actually don’t have any connectivity on our fleet today,” Avi Mannis, Hawaiian’s chief marketing and communications officer, told CNBC. “The options have been improving over time, but we have waited until there was a product offering … that we thought would live up to the expectations of our guests.”