Skift Take

Want to reinvigorate the Southwest brand? Just think of the market share gains that Southwest would earn if it made its TV Flies Free promotion permanent. Free Wi-Fi, baby.

Southwest has gained considerable market share with its Bags Fly Free policy, and now that the airline began its TV Flies Free promotion in cooperation with Dish Network, the once-maverick airline should consider making the free TV and its Row 44 Wi-Fi service free to passengers on an ongoing basis, as well.

It is widely acknowledged that passengers’ Wi-Fi adoption on airlines is probably in the single digits, and it is a money-losing proposition anyway.

Just consider how Southwest, which has been accused of going all corporate with a recent advertising campaign, would invigorate its brand if it took a stand and announced henceforth that Wi-Fi on its fleet, including the new Dish TV service streaming to iPads, iPhones and other Internet-connected devices, would be free.

Let the JetBlues and Deltas continue to charge their passengers for seatback entertainment and in-flight Wi-Fi while Southwest would win the hearts, minds and souls of its loyal passengers by enabling them to break out their mobile devices and get their Wi-Fi entertainment, email and work all accomplished in-flight for free.

Southwest would have to pay the bill to partners such as Dish and Row 44, but the street cred and good graces it would earn from existing and newly won-over passengers would be enormous.

For now the new Dish service to passengers’ mobile devices through Row 44 is free, saving passengers $5 per flight, but the airline and Dish have announced the service is only gratis on a promotional basis.

Southwest and Dish kicked off the service July 2, handing out free iPad 2s to surprised passengers on a Boston to Baltimore fight, enabling them to casually view for free on-demand programming and the regular lineup from Bravo, CNBC, FOX 5 New York (WNYW), FOX Business Network, FOX News Channel, Golf Channel,, MSNBC, NBC 4 (WNBC), NFL Network, Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel.

Southwest would have to hasten its orders of new aircraft if it just let competitors continue to keep charging fees for movies and TV shows on seatbacks and passengers’ personal mobile devices if Southwest were to decide to extend Bags Fly Free, its allotment of two free checked bags per passenger, to TV Flies Free on an ongoing basis.

Southwest would have to upgrade its Row 44 Wi-Fi as the airline is poised to launch international service soon.

Free onboard Wi-Fi, baby. It would be a gigantic winner for Southwest.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: entertainment, southwest airlines, wi-fi

Photo credit: Dish's "Boston Guys" presented unsuspecting passengers with free iPad 2s on a Southwest Boston to Baltimore flight July 2 to begin a free TV promotion. Southwest Airlines

Up Next

Loading next stories