Installation of Row 44's high-speed Internet equipment on Southwest Airlines' fleet is taking longer than the carrier had hoped, but chief executive Gary Kelly says the airline is not at a competitive disadvantage due to the overall soft take-up rates on in-flight Wi-fi.
Dallas-based Southwest selected Row 44 as its Wi-fi service supplier in 2009 and signed an equipment purchase contract with the company early this year.
During a 29 July earnings call Kelly explained that Southwest has various certifications it must complete regarding installing the equipment on its Boeing 737-300/500 classics and 737-700s.
"We are in the process [of installing] and it's been slower than I would like," says Kelly. "On the other hand, as you know, the take rate among customers on this product has been slow to take off so I don't think we're missing out on anything yet."
He says Southwest's Wi-fi investment is "for the future, and in the meantime our overall customer experience I think is performing very well".
Kelly states that equipment installs should be complete by 2013.
Row 44's system operates over Ku-band satellites, and requires a sizable antenna and radome to be installed on each aircraft. Rival Aircell offers an air-to-ground service via a network of cell towers. Installation can be achieved overnight. Row 44's other customers include South African operator Mango and European operator Norwegian.