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Southwest to Begin Wi-Fi Installation in Q2

Southwest will begin adding wireless internet to its aircraft sometime this spring, according to Southwest senior vice president of marketing David Ridley, writing for the airline’s blog.

“We expect to install equipment on around 15 aircraft per month initially,” Ridley writes, “with the goal of increasing that number to 25 aircraft a month as we ramp up the process.  With this schedule, we estimate that our full fleet of more than 540 planes will be outfitted with wi-fi service by early 2012.”

Unlike most of its competitors, which use Aircell’s Gogo service for in-flight Wi-Fi, Southwest has contracted with Row 44 to handle its service. Southwest has not said how much its service will cost, and says it has tested several price points. Unlike Gogo, Row 44 does not post a standardized pricing scheme on its website.

On the subject of price, Southwest finds itself in an awkward position. On one hand, low fares and minimal fees are the airline’s M.O., and while wireless is an entirely discretionary perk, the cost associated with it will be scrutinized by analysts and customers alike. On the other hand, with its lack of fees, especially for bags, the airline already presents a solid value, and wireless may not seem like “just another fee.”

Southwest is a little late to the game, as far as installation is concerned. AirTran has been finished for months, while larger airlines such as Delta and American are swiftly bringing aircraft along.

Readers, do you think Wi-Fi is a good thing for Southwest? Would you pay for it?

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