Live from 40,000+ feet: Southwest Airlines WiFi

Live from 40,000+ feet: Southwest Airlines WiFi

Summary: Now, there's no excuse for your work to be lateMy flight tonight is a special wi-fi equipped Southwest Airlines jet with free wi-fi on-board. This post is hitting the ZDNet mother server via this aircraft as we cross over Colorado.


Now, there's no excuse for your work to be late

My flight tonight is a special wi-fi equipped Southwest Airlines jet with free wi-fi on-board. This post is hitting the ZDNet mother server via this aircraft as we cross over Colorado.

How’s it working? Pretty good!

To be honest, my expectations weren’t very high. I remember earlier air-borne technologies that never performed well and cost a fortune. Anyone ever do a phone call on one of those in-flight phones? I did once and quit. I couldn’t hear anything and I had to almost scream to be heard.

For SWA’s wi-fi, I’ve already checked email and surfed the web. I’ll be hitting the send button on this post in a minute. Hey, even the ads ZDNet places on my blog are loaded and their animation is working! Not bad….

Well, I’ve got some client work to finish. My review of this technology:

- It’s not blazing fast but definitely a viable answer to sending and receiving email. - I’m not sure you’ll want to watch streaming video over this or fire off a 10 mb email attachment - Would I use again? Absolutely.

*************** UPDATE ********************* The service works so well, I'm even getting most critical emails. In the last few minutes, I've apparently won a foreign lottery and might collect millions from someone's estate in Nigeria. Wow!

Sadly, I also got a few work emails, too.

I can think of two things SWA could do to make the experience even more complete:

- don't let seat backs recline. I can't surf the net when someone's cranked their seat back and the only view I have is of their dandruff and not my laptop screen. - put those power sockets under the seats like American Airlines does

************************************************* ***************** Additional Update ******************

After reading the comments to this post, I decided to add the following:

- Yes, I knew I was on a wifi flight. SWA sent me an email two days before departure advising me of this capability. I agree that when an airline promises a particular aircraft, it may not deliver it due to some mechanical or scheduling issue. But, this a brand-new service from SWA and I'm fairly sure that they wouldn't have promoted the service if they weren't pretty sure that they could deliver that aircraft the next day.

- Yes, a netbook is far preferable to a notebook on an airline. No argument there. Although I do enjoy the occasional DVD I can watch on my laptop on transcontinental flights. Many netbooks have no DVD player. Netbook or notebook, the real issue is the lack of personal space on airplanes. I don't want to watch video on IPods or netbooks. I'd like to stretch out and not be intruding on someone else's space (or vice versa). *************************************************

Topics: Collaboration, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi


Brian is currently CEO of TechVentive, a strategy consultancy serving technology providers and other firms. He is also a research analyst with Vital Analysis.

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  • Did you know beforehand?

    Did you know you would be on a plane with wifi? Where there any signs on the plane? Obviously planes break and plans can change, so even if you booked a seat on a wifi plane you may not get it.
  • This is where netbooks come in handy (nt)

  • RE: Live from 40,000 feet: Southwest Airlines WiFi

    I clearly remember a UAL flight that I took from Portland, OR to SFO about 10 year ago. I had an aisle seat and the only empty seat on the entire plane was the middle seat next to me. As the attendents closed the door, this 300+ pounder waddled down the aisle and, of course, attempted to fit into the middle seat next to me. I had to aggressively lean into the aisle to avoid her flab! Then to make matters worse, as soon as we were airborn, she reached down, grabbing her Apple, and opened it up on top of her belly - there was no opening the tray table! She proceeded to attempt to type all the way to SFO!!

    I'd like to see laptops and cell phones go the way of cigarettes on airplanes - totally banned:)
  • RE: Live from 40,000 feet: Southwest Airlines WiFi

    I'm a VERY frequent SWA passenger who looks forward to this convenience.

    Unfortunately, SW is initially testing the service on ONE plane with plans to expand it to FOUR of its 536 planes - if all goes well.

    I've been on six SW flights since the test began and haven't hit the Wi-Fi jackpot yet. I've got four more before the end of this month, so I'll keep spinning that wheel.

    It will also be interesting to see what price they settle on for the service. SW has been pretty clear that it's "FREE during the evaluation period...for Customer feedback." And that they're, "still working to determine the cost for Customers if [they] equip the entire fleet with the technology."

  • RE: Live from 40,000 feet: Southwest Airlines WiFi

    I'm with you there on banning the cell phones. I'll never forget a flight I was on several years ago. The minute we took off the clown several rows back swiped his credit card and proceeded to talk for 2 hours straight! The entire plane could hear him!
  • Sounds good... until the comments pointed out downfalls

    The lack of personal space for setting up your own laptop, or the person who sets theirs up and you have to be constantly distracted by video or other motion on their screen - ugh. And of course, never lift the cell phone ban.