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Southwest Airlines says it will expand Wi-Fi

Southwest Airlines is on its way to providing in-flight Wi-Fi access on all of its aircraft.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Southwest Airlines Co. says it's finished testing Wi-Fi Internet access on four aircraft and plans to expand the service to all its planes beginning early next year.

The airline said Friday that the test has generated raves among passengers.

Southwest said it would continue testing prices for the service through the end of the year.

Dave Ridley, the discount carrier's senior vice president of marketing, said the company is happy with the technical performance of the in-flight service and the response of customers.

During the test, passengers have used the service for e-mail, streaming video and other content using laptop computers and smart phones.

Southwest uses satellite-based broadband access provided by Row 44. Other carriers, including Delta and American, that are farther along in outfitting planes with Wi-Fi service use another service from Aircell.

Southwest did not indicate how quickly it would outfit its fleet, which numbers more than 500 planes, but Row 44 President Gregg Fialcowitz said his company could do the work in 12 months.

Fialcowitz said that the percentage of passengers who used the service for free on test flights by Southwest and another customer, Alaska Airlines, was in the mid-20s but soared as high as 70 to 80 percent on some routes, such as between San Francisco and Seattle.

Demand among leisure travelers was just as strong as among business travelers, he said.

Southwest and Alaska will set the fees paid by passengers and keep all the revenue after paying a fee to Row 44, Fialcowitz said.