Read his entire guest blog here. Do you agree with Dan?
I love Southwest Airlines for a few reasons. Southwest is the largest carrier out of my home airport (Providence - PVD), offering the largest number of nonstop destinations and a convenient schedule. But I also love the Dallas-based carrier because I think it provides some of the best customer service among its competitors. I say that both as a Southwest customer, and a blogger, as Southwest is one of the few airlines that is very responsive to those in the "new media."
When Lumexis announced that an airline with a 737 fleet had become the firm's first customer, I naturally began to hope that my airline of choice was the mystery airline. I have always hoped that Southwest would install some kind of entertainment system throughout its fleet. In fact, I resorted to pretending that was the case during a recent trip this summer!
While IFE would certainly be a marked change in Southwest's business model, I think it could be a fit for the airline. Southwest originally focused on shorter hauls, where the lack of entertainment didn't make as much of a difference. (Southwest co-founder Lamar Muse also noted that passengers seated in aisle seats would get a nice view thanks to flight attendants in hot pants.) But these days, Southwest has some pretty long trips, such as Providence to Las Vegas, which clocks in at 6:15.
Granted, that's one of the longest flights in the Southwest system, but based on the airline's latest traffic numbers, the average southwest flight is now 838 miles, about 14.5% longer than five years ago.
Southwest has emphasized of adding value for customers, and some kind of IFE would certainly be a way to do that. Southwest could certainly find it appealing if it were convinced that it would attract new customers, and if such a system could be used to increase ancillary revenue.
NOTE: Southwest has said it intends to offer Row 44's high-speed in-flight connectivity solution across its entire fleet, and that it believes this will meet the entertainment needs of passengers (as it will support streaming video, etc).