Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 | 1:58 p.m.
DALLAS – Southwest Airlines has settled on a price point for its inflight Internet service: $5 per flight, regardless of the length of the trip.
The company announced at its Media Day event today that it now has 32 jets equipped with the Row 44 satellite Wi-Fi system. With three production lines installing systems on aircraft, Southwest will have 60 planes equipped by the end of the year, its entire Boeing 737-700 fleet by the end of 2012 and every plane in its fleet by mid-2013.
Southwest has been testing various price points and the system itself on four aircraft since May 2009. Revenue service began today.
In early tests, Southwest charged for the service by flight segment – a certain price for every portion of a trip. But Dave Ridley, senior vice president of marketing and revenue management for the airline, said the company settled on charging $5 per flight regardless of the number of stops and length of the flight for simplicity.
Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said the airline expects to generate between $5 million and $10 million in additional revenue in the first year of the ancillary service.
While Southwest doesn’t have a schedule that shows which flights have Wi-Fi-equipped planes, the airline e-mails passengers the day before the flight to tell a passenger when a flight uses a Wi-Fi-equipped plane.
In other news from the Media Day event, Southwest began giving details of its partnership agreement with Volaris, Mexico’s second-busiest airline, and it unveiled the first tier of its Newark, N.J. service schedule.
Volaris will begin its International Connect partnership with Southwest via Los Angeles International Airport, Oakland and San Jose. Southwest, which has sold domestic tickets for Volaris on its website for several months, began selling connecting flights from Sacramento, Calif.; Spokane, Wash.; El Paso, Texas; and Tucson, Ariz. today.
The second tier of connecting flights will include tickets for trips to and from McCarran International Airport and Reno-Tahoe International Airport and will be available online by the end of November. Other cities in the second tier: Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; and Albuquerque.
The third phase of the rollout is expected to occur in early December and include Phoenix; Denver; Ontario, Calif.; San Francisco; Orange County, Calif.; Burbank, Calif.; and Boise, Idaho.
Volaris is in the process of getting permission to fly more transborder flights that could someday include direct service to and from McCarran.
From Los Angeles, Oakland and San Jose, Volaris flies nonstop to Mexico City, Cancun, Morelia, Zacatecas and Toluca and connects to 20 other cities.
Southwest also announced that its initial schedule of service to Newark Liberty International Airport would include six daily flights to and from Chicago’s Midway International Airport and two to and from St. Louis with service beginning March 27. Flights to Chicago and St. Louis will offer connecting service to Las Vegas.
Because Southwest has the right to operate 18 round trips a day from Newark, additional flights are expected to be announced in the weeks ahead.
The new Newark service strengthens Southwest's presence in the New York area, with flights to several New York area airports, including LaGuardia International Airport and Long Island’s MacArthur Airport.