Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wi-Fi on Southwest Airlines


Today's flight from Chicago Midway to Salt Lake International via Southwest Airlines offered a pleasant diversion -- Wi-Fi (for a price) above 10,000 feet. While there are no electrical outlets, those with charged batteries are sure to have access for at least an hour or so. This might justify the purchase of additional battery packs for business class laptop users.

  • During the test period, the costs range from $2 to $12.
  • The signal was a strong 5 bars most of the time.
  • The login screen was simple and quick with industry standard secure server credit card processing.
The opening screen features the Southwest flight plan, showing our progress across the country. Also on the opening screen is a "Destination" tab with a map of Salt Lake, points of interest, local hotels, etc.

The advertising flyer in each seat pocket explains:
  • "All you need is a Wi-Fi-enabled device, with an internet browser. Please note that cellular devices without a Wi-Fi component will not work with this system, and their use is restricted to Game or Airplane mode per current regulations."
  • "Please keep in mind that some heavy bandwidth applications (video downloads, voice calls, etc." will be blocked to preserve a high quality experience for all users onboard." This means I won't attempt to look at multiple Ancestry.com document images, but I wouldn't consider it unwise to use the Family History Library Catalog to do last minute preparations for a research trip. OK, that's a double negative.
  • "As is common on many other public networks, we will attempt to filter indecent content." Great! I wouldn't want to sit next to someone looking at a porn site.
If you decide to open additional browser tabs (I'm using Windows Vista and Firefox 3.0.12), there is a minor inconvenience that reminds users this is the Southwest Wi-Fi service. Its an unobtrusive, dedicated 1.5 inch top border advertising Southwest airlines, a banner ad from a partner (in this case Springhill Suites) and indication of destination (Salt Lake City); current altitude (23, 978 feet); and time-to-go (2 hrs, 50). But unlike the old freebie webspaces, this banner ad scrolls out of the way -- something useful for laptop users with smaller screens.

It would seem to me that the advertising revenue from the vendors at the destination city should more than cover the cost of providing the Wi-Fi on this Southwest flight, so I hope Southwest takes that into consideration.

BRAVO! to Southwest for thinking outside the box.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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