Southwest Airlines selected Viasat‘s next generation, Ka-band satellite in-flight connectivity (IFC) system for upcoming aircraft deliveries, starting this fall. New 737 MAX aircraft will see the Viasat kit installed by Boeing on the factory line, arriving at Southwest with the WiFi service ready to fly.
The overall passenger experience is enhanced by delivering connectivity inflight that is the same as the on the ground experience, from streaming your favorite video content to live television and accessing other internet-based applications during all phases of flight. We look forward to being a part of Southwest’s commitment to continually upping the bar.– Don Buchman, Viasat’s vice president and general manager, Commercial Aviation
The Viasat service will include live television, similar to the current offering from Anuvu (formerly Global Eagle). The Viasat version of WiFi on Southwest Airlines “will provide customers enhanced internet capabilities while onboard, including the ability to stream content and entertainment.” That is an upgrade from the existing service.
We’re investing in our onboard connectivity and bandwidth available to each Customer with upgraded technology that’s now installing across our existing fleet, a strategy to diversify our WiFi vendors on upcoming aircraft deliveries, and plugging Southwest Customers into in-seat power to keep them charged while in the air.— Ryan Green, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.
Last week Southwest began offering free WiFi on some flights to test upgraded hardware on Anuvu-connected planes. This effort was linked to, among other things, plans to include streaming levels of service on those aircraft. The company expects bandwidth to the aircraft to increase by a factor of 10 with the new kit.
Those upgrades would appear necessary to match the service levels Southwest expects from the Viasat solution. Southwest expects 50 aircraft in service with the new hardware by the end of May 2022. It expects that number to rise to 350 by the end of October.
In-seat power, too
Southwest airlines will offer passengers USB-A and USB-C power on board, starting in 2023. Power will be available at every seat in the aircraft, with a space-saving system that will not compromise legroom. The airline plans to bring this new convenience and capability onboard 737 MAX aircraft beginning in early 2023.
“The ability to keep your devices charged while you are connected inflight is a request that we’ve heard consistently in ongoing conversations with our Customers,” said Tony Roach, Vice President of Customer Experience and Customer Relations. “With so much that our Customers love about doing business with Southwest, we’re constantly listening to our Employees and our Customers for improvement opportunities, and we’re excited to share some additional news and updates on this ongoing work.”
Taking another go at supplier diversity
This is not the first time Southwest has chosen a second connectivity vendor. The company signed a deal with Panasonic Avionics in 2017 to split its connectivity services. The first installation from that program came in September of that year.
Panasonic teased plans for up to 400 Southwest aircraft eventually carrying its WIFi hardware. Alas, it failed to deliver on expectations, while Global Eagle boosted capacity and performance on board. Viasat’s track record on installations and performance, as well as anticipated capacity growth with upcoming satellite launches, should not present similar troubles this time around.
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