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Southwest Airlines, which had reliability issues with its onboard internet, is removing Wi-Fi systems from some of its aircraft and replacing them with a new platform after it ended an agreement with provider Panasonic Avionics late last month, an airline spokeswoman said.
“Southwest and Panasonic made the mutual decision to end our business agreement for inflight entertainment and connectivity, as we shift our focus to other priorities,” Southwest spokeswoman Michelle Agnew said in an email. “The process of removing equipment onboard equipped aircraft has started with plans to complete removals by the end of 2019.”
The news was first reported by Runway Girl Network, a trade publication covering inflight connectivity and the passenger experience. Southwest will replace the system with a competing one from Global Eagle Entertainment by the end of this year, Agnew said.
Agnew declined to say why Southwest is removing the systems.
Global Eagle had long been the sole provider of Southwest’s Wi-Fi, but in late 2016, the airline said it would begin installing Panasonic platforms on a “portion” of its fleet. Agnew declined to say how many aircraft have Panasonic Wi-Fi, though last April Southwest told Runway Girl Network 18 aircraft had been equipped with the technology. Global Eagle had remained Southwest’s dominant connectivity provider.
Southwest has had some reliability problems with its Wi-Fi over the past year, according to reports, though the airline has not publicly blamed Panasonic. Last year, the Chicago Business Journal obtained a Southwest memo in which airline management said, “As many of you are aware, our customers may currently be experiencing an inconsistent Wi-Fi product.”
According to the memo, Southwest had de-activated the Wi-Fi on more than two dozen of its Boeing 737-800s.