Southwest offers free Wi-Fi on select flights to test service upgrades

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Southwest Airlines will temporarily offer travelers free Wi-Fi on select flights starting this week, as part of a trial to bring faster internet access to more customers.

The carrier has outfitted 40 of its Boeing 737s with upgraded hardware for its Wi-Fi service, according to a memo to employees sent Tuesday. Southwest’s Wi-Fi upgrades are an airline’s latest effort to improve onboard connectivity.

Hawaiian Airlines announced last week that it plans to offer free Wi-Fi starting next year through SpaceX’s Starlink service, which it hopes will bring fast internet access to passengers on long flights. travels over the Pacific Ocean. Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has repeatedly said the airline plans to offer free internet. The carrier tested free access before the pandemic.

Free Wi-Fi on Southwest will be available May 4 through June 10 on select flights in the western United States, wrote Tony Roach, vice president of customer experience and customer relations, in the note. to staff.

The airline currently offers Wi-Fi for $8 a day and states on its website that it blocks access to certain high-speed sites such as Netflix, HBO Max and Zoom.

“This trial will allow customers to stream, browse and engage on the Internet at no cost, just like other free services,” Roach wrote. “Our goal is to evaluate how the new hardware improves performance while providing a reliable Internet experience used by a large number of customers.”

Southwest declined to provide further details.

Correction: Southwest currently offers Wi-Fi for $8 per day. A previous version distorted the offer.

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