Announced on the official Southwest blog earlier today, the airline has launched the addition of gate-to-gate messaging using Apple’s iMessage as an optional, premium service on all Wi-Fi-enabled flights. While the new messaging service is currently limited to Apple devices running iOS 5 or higher, Android support is also in the works and the company plans to roll out that functionality during early 2014. Of course, this service isn’t being offered for free. Southwest passengers will have to pay $2 per day to use the iMessage service while flying.
Prior to this point, Southwest only offered an $8 per day option to enable Wi-Fi connectivity on mobile devices while on the plane. In order to access the new iMessaging option, passengers have to connect to the Southwest Wi-Fi network and open up the Web portal to purchase access to the Apple texting service.
While 435 Southwest planes offer Wi-Fi service, that doesn’t cover the entire fleet. Flyers taking a Southwest flight during the holidays can check to see if their plane includes Wi-Fi connectivity by visiting this page on Southwest.com.
Southwest is able to offer the iMessage connectivity to passengers due to a recent FAA ruling on the use of portable electronics aboard planes that are currently below 10,000 feet. Southwest was also one of the first carriers to announce gate-to-gate Wi-Fi connectivity, basically allowing passengers to constantly surf the Web or perform other actions that require a Wi-Fi connection during the entire flight. Earlier this year, Southwest announced a partnership with Dish Network that provides live access to popular channels during a flight, ideal for anyone that needs to kill time during a lengthy, cross-country flight.