The good news, I guess, is that recently I have been traveling a bit more so I’m finding myself in the position of using in-flight WiFi more. Hopefully, these reports will help you understand what airlines offer what service, and how good that service is. Of course, this is just my experience. Yours may vary.
By the way, hardware-wise I use a MacBook Pro or an iPad Pro (which I’m typing this article on right now). I’m actually in transit right now so I’m using Southwest Airlines WiFi to write and post this article.
I’m in route to Las Vegas, a four-hour flight, so there’s plenty of time to write. Let’s get right down to it.
The only downside of Southwest is that there are no “extra legroom” seats, so I’m having to prop my iPad Pro up against the seat-back in front of me. The person in front reclined their seat a bit and thankfully did not just shove it back as far as it goes. Still don’t understand people like that, of which one I am not. Flight is completely full. I boarded Group A-45 so most of the choice seats (bulkhead, exit row) were already taken.
Getting onto Southwest Wifi is fairly simple. There’s a SSID (or wireless name) called SouthwestWIFI. You select that and then use your browser to head to any site. I always use Google on traditional HTTP and this usually kicks in the “purchase” screen. Suprisingly the cost is only $8 for this 4-hour trip, where the trip on United, which was just about 5 hours, was $14.99. I think last time Delta cheated me $12.99. So Southwest, you win the price war.
Although you can enter your Rewards number into the purchase screen, you cannot sign in so I’m assuming the cost is $8 per device. Supposedly United allows you to sign–in and switch devices, but as I noted, I was not able to sign in on United’s site.
You’re then presented with a confirmation screen and Southwest immediately emails you a receipt, which is great for business trips. The receipt arrived quickly. You then are brought to a web page that gives you a trip summary and plops you on their home page. At that point, you can toddle off to do your browsing.
Southwest offers an even cheaper version of their WiFi if you only intend to use it for gaming (or via apps). This means you would not be able to Browse to sites, and I’m not sure what it means regarding using Outlook. I’m guess it will work with Outlook. The cost for this limited WiFi is $4, which is bargain basement. Clearly Southwest is not trying to make a killing on this service.
Texting to my iPhone friends using Message seems to work fine. However, text messaging using SMS does not appear to work (sorry Android!). That needs to be corrected.
The speed overall is good – not blazing – but good. Some sites are slow to load, but most are just fine. I’ve not had to reset my browser nor have I had to ask them to reset their Internet connection.
So, well done, Southwest Airlines! At this point, you’re comparable to Delta and way ahead of United in terms of WiFi. Plus, you’re flight attendants do live up to that “I enjoy my job”tag line you guys do, which makes the flight at least a little more enjoyable.
Should I encounter any issues with the rest of my flight’s WiFi, or on the return flight, I’ll post an update.