In a move that caught some passengers by surprise, Southwest Airlines changed its pricing policy for onboard internet last week.
Previously, the airline charged $8 for internet per day, which benefitted travelers with connecting flights or layovers. Now, however, Southwest charges $8 per flight, or as the airline specifies, “$8 per device from takeoff to landing.”
It should be pointed out that while Southwest now charges $8 per flight, it does offer free messaging on iMessage and WhatsApp. Other inflight entertainment, including live TV and movies, is also free.
There are, of course, some important caveats to Southwest’s new internet service. For instance, that price is subject to change, and the service “May not be available for the full duration of flight,” Southwest explains on its webpage.
Furthermore, “to provide a top-notch internet experience, we prohibit access to certain high-bandwidth applications and websites,” Southwest continues.
The Reason For The Change
Southwest’s change in what it charges for in-flight internet service comes as the airline upgrades its internet service. That upgrade entails adding new hardware to support faster speeds on existing aircraft as well as Southwest beginning to work with a new service provider.
Indeed, Southwest’s current aircraft have internet service provided by Anuvu. Aircraft that begin entering Southwest’s fleet next month, however, will be Viasat-equipped planes, USA Today reports.
“With two vendors providing connectivity in our fleet, we’re introducing a new pricing model for onboard internet. Effective Tuesday, February 21, onboard internet will be purchased per-leg, from ‘takeoff to landing,’ rather than our current per-day, DayPass,” a Southwest spokesperson said, according to USA Today. “We currently have more than 350 aircraft upgraded and expect the full fleet to be completed by the third quarter of this year.”
Importantly, many Southwest passengers take nonstop flights, so the new pricing won’t apply to them, the spokesperson continued. It only applies to passengers who have connecting flights or have stopover itineraries.
In Line With Industry Changes
Although it is a change, Southwest’s new pricing structure isn’t out of line with what other airlines are charging.
JetBlue explains that it “offers free, high-speed wi-fi at every seat, on every plane.”
Delta Air Lines
Delta notes that it offers “free Wi-Fi for SkyMiles Members, now available on most domestic U.S. flights.”
“Wi-Fi is available on almost all routes for as little as $10,” American explains.
Alternatively, travelers who fly American often can take advantage of the airline’s Wi-Fi Subscription Plan, which costs $49.95 per month.
Wi-Fi is available on United’s U.S. domestic and short-haul international flights, such as Mexico and Canada, for $8 or 1,600 miles, for those passengers who are MileagePlus members, United explains. For everyone else, the service is offered for $10.
Alternatively, United also offers what it calls “a Wi-Fi Day Pass” for travelers who have connecting flights and don’t want to pay per flight.
Know Before You Fly
If you are planning to fly and make use of the airline’s in-flight internet offering, you’ll want to check on the details and fine print with your carrier before your flight. Service is not always available on every flight or for the duration of the flight.
Details of in-flight internet service may also vary considerably if your flight is a long-haul international flight, such as from the continental U.S. to Europe or to Asia.