Southwest Airlines will be the first US airline to offer passengers gate-to-gate wi-fi service after gaining an approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) throughout all phases of flight.

A majority of Southwest’s fleet is outfitted with a Ku-band satellite wi-fi system from Global Eagle Entertainment's Row 44. In addition, the airline provides live television and on-demand content delivered to passengers’ portable devices. All of these services will be available without interruptions to passengers throughout the flight on small devices such as tablets and smartphones in “airplane mode.”

"We know this is something customers have wanted for some time now, and we're excited to give them the freedom to use personal devices while in the air and on the ground," said Kevin Krone, Southwest Airlines’ chief marketing officer in a statement.

Southwest is one of the last major US airlines to gain the approval for PED usage below 10,000ft after the Federal Aviation Administration updated its guidance to allow the expanded usage on 31 October. However, the airline is so far the only one among its peers to offer connectivity during the full duration of the flight.

“Certainly, as the only domestic carrier with active satellite-based WiFi, [Southwest has] yet again raised the bar, and we are proud to provide the service that will keep their passengers connected to the web, as well as allow them to use their portable electronic devices to access the entertainment they love through all phases of flight,” says Global Eagle Entertainment chief executive John LaValle in a statement.

Many other US carriers are outfitted with air-to-ground (ATG) technology offered through Gogo, which is certified for use on the ground but would require some changes to be used throughout the whole flight. The connectivity provider told Flightglobal earlier this month that ATG is engineered to work above 10,000ft and said it is exploring what it would look like to change that.

ViaSat has said that its Ka-band satellite system is certified and designed to work during take-off and landing, however it has not yet been rolled out to passengers. The technology is expected to debut on a JetBlue A320 in coming weeks and has also gained the approval for installation on United’s 737s.

Delta Air Lines and JetBlue were the first airlines to gain FAA approvals to use PEDs from gate to gate on 1 November. Since then, American Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Alaska Airlines have made similar approvals. Virgin America has not yet announced its approval of gate-to-gate wi-fi but has said it is aiming to secure it before the busy holiday season.

Source: Cirium Dashboard