“Y’all are my first email from SWA Wifi. It’s awesome! Speed is good. Customers obviously luv it.”
And with that simple email to Southwest’s executive planning committee, company CEO Gary Kelly issued in a new era for the low-cost giant and the industry as a whole.
Southwest, the carrier that has prided itself on offering the barest of bare bones service has officially upped the ante in the in-flight sector, bringing Row 44′s high-speed connectivity to passengers.
Row 44′s is the very first Ku-band-based service to come to the commercial market since Connexion by Boeing shuttered its operations at the end of 2006.
The Row 44 system went live today amid an avalanche of protests from Row 44′s rivals, which do not believe the California-based company has the appropriate FCC authority to launch commercial trials on Southwest or Alaska, which by the way is next in the queue.
But today, as Southwest formally began those trials on a single Boeing 737 (after a few informal tests), the controversy that has surrounded Row 44′s ambitious plan subsided for a moment as the industry took in the gravity of situation.
Southwest, the engine that could, has given Row 44 its stamp of approval. That’s huge. The carrier will equip three more aircraft by early March. Passengers can use the service for free until the FCC grants permanent approval to Row 44.
And so, despite plenty of prior obstacles, and with the spectre of many more ahead, Row 44 – like Aircell before it - gets a golden ticket. That makes two. There were five tickets, remember? But who will be the ultimately triumphant Charlie Bucket?
Well, we’ve got three more tickets to award and a factory tour to take first!