Southwest Airlines announced Wednesday that it plans to begin trials of satellite-to-airplane broadband Internet service sometime this summer.
Spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said Wednesday morning that initially Southwest plans to test the service on four planes. But because the airline's planes fly many different routes, she did not anticipate--at least not yet--that travelers would be able to plan to fly on one of those planes.
That means that in the early going at least, the service--which will allow passengers to access the Internet if they have their own Wi-Fi-enabled laptops--will be available at random.
McInnis did not say if Southwest's service would limit what kind of sites or applications passengers could access, as does JetBlue's recently added service.
But she pointed out that because the service is satellite-to-plane--whereas JetBlue's, for example, is ground-to-air--it would ensure consistent connectivity, even over water.
It's not entirely clear what benchmarks Southwest will use to determine the success or failure of the trial. McInnis said that the airline will examine whether the technology works and whether it performs according to plan.
As a frequent Southwest traveler, I guess I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it would be great to have connectivity while on the go. On the other, as many have discussed previously, bringing Internet to the few places where it's not currently available limits the places you can get away from work.
Still, I suppose I'm in favor of the advance. Now if only airlines can work on bringing power outlets to all seats--not just those in business or first class--so that those of us in coach flying long flights can power up the whole way.