December 13, 2016 – Southwest Airlines has entered into connectivity agreements with Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) and Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) with a view to yielding greater wi-fi bandwidth on its aircraft. The agreement with Panasonic is for the company’s Global Communications Services, which include inflight wi-fi and live television, to be offered on a portion of the carrier’s fleet, with the first Panasonic equipped aircraft scheduled to enter service in late 2017. The agreement with GEE, meanwhile, extends the carrier’s use of the company’s Airconnect connectivity system and services.
The agreements with Panasonic and GEE align with next year’s planned retirement of Southwest’s non-wifi-equipped 737-300 Classic aircraft and the introduction of the new Boeing 737-8 (MAX). By the end of 2017, Southwest Airlines is targeting to operate a 100% wi-fi-equipped fleet of more than 700 aircraft.
“As the largest domestic airline in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded, carrying more than 100 million customers a year, we are committed to providing an enhanced inflight experience for our customers,” said Ryan Green, VP of marketing for Southwest Airlines. “We’ve led the way in customer experience, being the first US carrier to offer gate-to-gate connectivity to our customers while having the foresight that customers prefer to use their own devices to stay connected. Going forward, our customers will have the capability to stay connected on Southwest Airlines flights with even more bandwidth at their disposal.”
In mid-2017, when the services are available, the airline expects that its customers will be able to browse the Internet at increased speeds due to an expected bandwidth increase of at least three-fold, with a further bandwidth increase expected in mid-2018. Connectivity speeds are expected to increase, and Southwest plans to develop relationships with content providers to bring more exclusive content to its flights.