Southwest Airlines made a teeny, tiny move toward in-flight entertainment by agreeing a deal with the A&E cable network to set up a ‘micro-site’ linked to the airline’s website that lets users download A&E shows to their personal laptops or to create a CD for viewing in-flight on a personal entertainment device. Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly has told reporters and analysts that the airline is considering several forms of in-flight entertainment. This is a major reversal of the airline’s long-standing belief, as expressed by founder and former chief executive Herb Kelleher, that “we don’t need in-flight entertainment because we have our wise-cracking flight attendants for that!” Kelly also said that the airline has issued a request for proposals to equip some of its planes to with on-board broadband capabilities.
The cable network, which rebroadcasts popular series like the popular Mafia-themed comedy, “The Sopranos” as well as its own programs, will also set up ‘entertainment stations’ at Southwest gates at various airports; this closed-circuit network will provide passengers with wireless access to A&E shows that can be downloaded directly to a passenger’s laptop before the flight. Southwest airport staff will also distribute free CDs with A&E content to passengers in the gate area.
This agreement with A&E, formerly the Arts and Entertainment Network, however, requires no special on-board equipment but instead acknowledges the fact that increasing numbers of flyers bring personal entertainment devices on board. The cable network features such shows as “Confessions of a Matchmaker” and “Dog the Bounty Hunter”. These are A&E-produced shows, and “the Sopranos, “CSI: Miami” and “24” will not be available.