Free Wi-Fi on some Southwest flights as carrier tests new internet service

May 6, 2022

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Passengers on certain Southwest Airlines flights could be treated to free internet browsing. The Dallas-based carrier is providing free access to full Wi-Fi on 40 aircraft as it tests out a new internet service.

Currently, Southwest — like many airlines — gives passengers free internet access on their devices for the purposes of watching inflight entertainment. If you want to be able to check your email and surf the internet, though, you have to pay $8.

The news was first reported by the Dallas Morning News, but confirmed with the airline by TPG Friday.

Southwest plane
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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Most travelers agree airline Wi-Fi service has been spotty for years, and Southwest has not been immune to those issues. On a recent trip to New England, I had to wait to file this TPG story I was working on until I got off the plane because I was unable to connect to the internet the entire flight. But I had reliable internet access and got several stories filed on the return flight and I even streamed music via YouTube as I worked.

That unpredictability is part of what the carrier is looking to improve as it experiments with ways to improve its internet reliability. The airline told TPG Friday, the tests is conducting is on “next generation” hardware from Anuvu. Southwest is hoping for its internet to reach faster speeds and higher capabilities, and is allowing all customers free access on the 40 aircraft where these tests are taking place.

“We’re industry-leading connectivity,” the carrier told TPG in a statement Friday.

screenshot shows Southwest free Inflight Entertainment portal
This 2021 screenshot shows Southwest’s free Inflight Entertainment portal, which is available through its Wi-Fi service. (Screenshot courtesy of Southwest)

Related: What to know about the latest inflight Wi-Fi pricing

Long term, it doesn’t appear free browsing will last forever. The airline made clear to TPG, its tests are primarily focused on the new equipment, not the concept of free internet.

However, this move by Southwest does represent the latest example of a carrier trying to upgrade its internet services. Just last fall, TPG tested out upgraded Wi-Fi on board a Delta Air Lines flight, months before the Atlanta-based carrier’s CEO told the Wall Street Journal Delta is in talks with SpaceX about the potential use of Starlink, Elon Musk’s satellite-based internet business.

We’ve also seen numerous carriers drop their prices, or — in the case of American Airlines — try out short, free browsing periods. (That said, I paid $19 for Wi-Fi on a two-hour American flight just this week.)

As for Southwest, the airline could not share specifics on which routes would include free internet, but said generally it will include flights over the western U.S.

Bottom line

Even if you’re not lucky enough to board one of the Southwest planes offering free browsing services, it’s nice to know the airline is actively looking at ways to upgrade its internet and help you stay connected on your future flights.

Featured photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy.

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