Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Flying First - In Flight WiFi

Shira and I are on our way back from Boston, and were given quite a treat on our Southwest flight home - free, inflight, WiFi. I'm currently blogging this mid flight, a first.

Overall, I've been very impressed with Southwest. Mostly, it's their upbeat, laid back attitude I like. The fact that we could change our tickets without fees as also a big plus. Not to mention, I find their seats to be larger and more comfortable than even my United trip overseas. And now they give me free WiFi - what else could I want?

The WiFi is only available on 4 Southwest planes, as they are just testing it out.

Why am I not surprised that Southwest offered WiFi before say United or USAir? It's in their culture to do more with less, and this seems like another example. WiFi seems like a smart investment - it provides both entertainment to passengers as well as infrastructure you can build on later (perhaps allowing folks to use free cheap laptops during the flight). I can't imagine the WiFi is much more expensive than outfitting your plane with TV screens like Jet Blue.

On the technical side, the WiFi has been slow in terms of accessing pages. Though, according to some quick measurements, I'm getting 300kb/second download rates.

This, I believe, is a taste of the future. I think WiFi is probably going to be common on flights before we're making cell phone calls from the air.

Part of me is a little disappointed about this. Flight time is usually a chance for me to either relax, or focus on stuff without interruptions. It's one of the few times that I had the perfect excuse to chill. Not anymore. This Southwest flight is now as much an office to me now as my desk at home, the waiting room at the hospital and the lobby of a hotel. Oh well, that's as much a good thing as it is a bad.

OK, I should be working. But, perhaps I have a responsibility to fully test this connection? YouTube, here I come...

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