One beer or one Wi-Fi: It's not a surprise that the airline known for simple pricing and one-class cabins with no seat assignments opts for a flat rate. Southwest Airlines says it will charge $5 for in-flight Wi-Fi via Row 44 no matter the duration of the flight nor the device used. Other airlines, which use Aircell's Gogo Inflight Internet, are following a multi-class script, with different prices for red-eye flights and flight length, as well as a discount for mobile devices. $5 is the cheapest regular rate Gogo charges, and that's for overnight flights.
Southwest says it tested various prices, and this is what it came up with. I'm sure its passengers would prefer free, but $5 is a nice round number that seems low, and it will appear low in relation to fees charged by other airlines. I'll be curious if competitors react, but I doubt it. Southwest may be highly profitable and have a model that works, but it's still a "discount" airline; the full-service airlines try to retain a distinction, and charging more is one of those.
Southwest will have 32 planes equipped with Row 44 satellite gear by the end of December, and its fleet will be fully outfitted by the end of 2012, the Denver Business Journal reports. This is the first airline launch for Row 44, which has been pursuing customers since about 2006. Aircell has over 2,000 equipped planes in the air, and snatched Alaska Airlines away from Row 44 this year. (Aircell recently lit up some air-to-ground towers in the state of Alaska, with more to come.)