Southwest Airlines announced Thursday that it will be selling a live television service on a select number of planes starting in July. Initially, five planes will be equipped with the programming while Southwest plans to expand to 20 aircrafts within a month.
The way in which the service will work is passengers will have the option of buying the live television package, which will sell for between $3 and $8. The airline will not have screens built into the seat back in front of passengers.
Instead, the service will be available through one's own device. A wi-fi enabled smartphone, tablet or laptop computer will let passengers log into the service and watch live television from seven networks. The channels initially available through the service are NBC Sports, MLB TV and the NFL Network, as well as news outlets CNBC, MSNBC, FOX News and FOX Business News.
Southwest hopes the programming proves to be popular, at which point the company plans to expand it to all of its wi-fi enabled planes. Currently, 250 of Southwest's 550 Boeing jets offer wi-fi with plans for expansion through 2013.
The move to bring live television to passengers is another attempt to sway business in the ever-competitive airline industry. Several other airline companies already provide live television on flights, and Southwest hopes its competitive prices and new added perks will make it the preferred choice of travelers.
By comparison, Frontier Airlines charges $6 for access to 25 live channels, but preferred members receive the service for free. United Airlines charges between $6 and $8 for live television, depending on the length of flight.
For avid television watchers, JetBlue Airways and Virgin America seem to be the best options. Both companies feature mini screens inside the seat-back in front of passengers, and the programming is available at no extra charge. Some premium television has an added fee, but channels including ESPN, TNT, TBS and Comedy Central are freebies.
It is unknown if Southwest plans on expanding its seven channel lineup in the future.
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