Southwest, Dish team up to offer free in-flight TV on mobile devices


Detailed by USA Today this week, Southwest Airlines and Dish Network has teamed up to offer free access to live television as well as on-demand content to passengers on all Wi-Fi enabled planes within the Southwest fleet. Streaming to devices like the iPad, iPhone and other mobile platforms, passengers will be able to choose from thirteen live TV channels and at least 75 on-demand shows from Dish Network’s lineup of channels. Approximately three fourths of the Southwest fleet is Wi-fi enabled. 

southwest-planeThe live TV channels will include HGTV, Food Network, Bravo, Travel channel, Golf Channel,, NFL Network, FOX News, MSNBC, CNBC and FOX Business Network in addition to the New York feeds of networks NBC and FOX. Access to the television feeds will be powered by a company called Row 44.

While airlines like Virgin America and JetBlue already offer access to live TV to passengers, viewing is restricted to the television screen mounted in the headrest of the seat directly in front of the passenger. Mobile device implementation offers the passenger greater freedom in viewing angles and seating positions when watching television.

When asked about the partnership, Southwest Airlines chief marketing officer Kevin Krone said “Southwest Airlines continues to innovate and evolve our on-board customer experience. We started with Wi-Fi and now have expanded to television. This new offer puts free television in the hands of our customers.”

It’s important to note that the passenger doesn’t have to pay the $8-per-day Wi-Fi access fee in order to watch the live television feed, but would still need to pay for access to surf the Web or check their email. In addition, the passenger doesn’t have to download any special software to access the video feed. All video playback is handled through the browser on the laptop, tablet or smartphone. 

From the perspective of Dish Network, this exposes the service provider’s content to thousands of passengers that fly Southwest each day and provides a platform to encourage people to switch from cable to the satellite company. In addition to the in-flight service, passengers that sign up for Dish’s Hopper Whole Home DVR  service and a subscription package will receive 12,500 Southwest Rapid Rewards frequent flyer points as well as the option of an Apple Ipad 2 over programming discounts applied to the first year of service. 

Dish Network Hopper

One issue that passengers will have to contend with is the lack of battery charging ports on Southwest planes. Passengers will need to charge up their mobile device prior to getting on the plane or carry additional battery packs to recharge their devices in order to continue watching streaming television feeds. Hypothetically, Southwest could offer power outlets and USB charging stations at each seat, but that would require a significant upgrade to planes within the fleet. 

In order to celebrate the launch of the partnership, Dish Network representatives announced the service on a flight from Boston to Baltimore and gave away free iPads to all 130 passengers on the plane to allow them to try out the streaming video service on the Apple tablet.

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