Southwest set to roll out on-demand movies

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Southwest Airlines next week plans to roll out on-demand TV shows and movies, which passengers can watch on their personal electronic devices.

The airline had been testing the on-demand service on 20 of its planes, and now will add the service to the rest of its WiFi-equipped aircraft. Southwest said that about 75% of its fleet (417 planes) have WiFi.

Last summer, Southwest introduced in-flight television with eight networks streaming live to its passengers.

The movies and the television shows, the latter including the live streaming and on-demand programming, each cost $5. WiFi is a flat $8 per day.

Southwest’s planes do not have seatback video players. An airline spokeswoman said that in 2007, when the carrier was planning its in-flight entertainment offerings, it decided that the seatback players were expensive and heavy. So, Southwest opted to have customers stream programming to their own devices.

At that time, portable devices were mostly limited to laptops; iPads were as yet unknown. Since then, technology developments have worked in Southwest’s favor.

Row 44 is Southwest’s WiFi provider. A Row 44 spokesman said that its satellite-based service is generally faster than the air-to-ground WiFi offered by other airlines.

Southwest’s television programming is on a different signal than Internet service, so TV viewing shouldn’t slow Internet access for other passengers.

Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.

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