Live TV Comes to Southwest Planes – But Bring Your Own Screen (and Wallet)

As of this week, Southwest Airlines now offers live TV – via WiFi – on five of its planes. By month’s end, the carrier expects another 15 planes will offer this entertainment option, and by year’s end, about 70 percent of the Southwest fleet will provide passengers with live TV.

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Two important notes: Don’t look for any seatback screens – Southwest does not have any and has no plans to install them. Instead, flyers will use their own devices – tablets, smartphones and laptops – to connect to and view the live TV. And it won’t be free, either: Southwest now charges a fee of $5 per day per device.

In contrast, JetBlue and Virgin America offer a wide selection of entertainment options – for free – that can be viewed on individual seatback screens.

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8 Channels Feature News and Sports

For now, Southwest offers eight inflight channels that are heavy on news and sports: CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business News, MLB (baseball), NFL Network, NBC Sports Network and NFL Redzone (once football season gets underway). It’s possible more channels will be offered in the future after Southwest completes its analysis of passenger response.

How to Access Southwest TV

To find out if your Southwest 737 comes with live TV, look for a sticker on the plane that proclaims “Southwest Airlines Hotspot” or just ask a flight attendant. As you connect your device, you’ll be directed to pay via credit card.

Note: Those who wish to watch live TV do not have to purchase WiFi, just as those who want to access the net for work or other reasons do not have to purchase live TV. However, there are separate fees of $5 per day per device for either service.

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Published: July 3, 2012