Southwest offering Live TV on select flights…but I won’t try just yet

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Last week, I was traveling to Denver from BWI on my preferred domestic carrier for business travel, Southwest. I am always (cautiously) thrilled when the flight attendants announce we are on a WiFi enabled plane, especially on a 3+ hour flight.

As an A-List Preferred member on Southwest, I have complimentary access to WiFi when it is available.  Otherwise it is generally 5 USD.  Access to the internet comes in handy for only the basics of email checking and the occasional iMessage on my iPhone because the internet on every Southwest flight I have ever been on is atrociously SLOW.  The satellite-based technology Southwest uses is supposed  to be better than ground-based services like Gogo but my experiences have not agreed with those claims.internetspeed

I have come to terms with the slow internet speeds and hope for improvement but I must say I was a little surprised to see Live streaming television offered on the flight.  Users have access to 7 channels on either a laptop or mobile device. The price is variably set based on length, with this 3+ hour flight asking for 6 USD.


I realize the technology allows dedicated bandwidth to the live TV service, but if the internet bandwidth can barely load an image on my laptop, I am not too confident the live streaming television will deliver. The sadistic side of me wanted to give it a whirl just to see how bad it really was given the internet bandwidth I was detecting on that flight but I just couldn’t get myself to try.

The bottom line

I would be happy to shell out 6 USD to keep me entertained on a long flight (especially to watch one of those feisty NFL games only on the NFL Network) but the  current state of the inflight internet will keep me away for now. That being said, I like to see Southwest exploring new ideas for inflight entertainment.

Has anyone tried this service?  Is that where all the bandwidth is hiding?!

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed.

About alex

Alex loves to travel and does so a lot. Logging 100,000 flight miles each year over the past 4 years, Alex uses points and miles to power his passion. Alex is continuously striving to experience the far reaches of the globe. In his day job, Alex is a Management Consultant frequently on the road advising Technology organizations. I love thinking about, reading about, and talking about all things travel. Feel free to reach me at

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  1. I think you should have tried it to let us know!

    That being said, I think this is the future. Tons of content, stored for on-demand or streamed live television available over a wireless network, and customers using their own devices. It is cheaper and easier to install/maintain than seat-back screens.

  2. I tried the tv service and it was flawless. Instant streaming and no buffering. It is a great product, and well worth the 6.00.

  3. I have to say that the Direct TV on United is 5-8 bucks but works fantastic.

    For doemstic flying, I switched back to United and find service and accesability to entertainment on the 73 to be awesome!

  4. I have used the IP T.V and it was awsome…watched the news and baseball. Not a problem and picture clarity was clear. I would recoment for long flights. Internet was also very fast. Worked on email and also surfed the WEB.i had no issues.

  5. One of the reasons we percieve satellite internet as slow is not the bandwidth, but the latency. When your computer sends a request to a server, it is a 44,000 mile trip and takes about 0.25 seconds. The server response has to do the same. So minimum time for communication is a half second.

    And server data is broken up into multiple requests, some happen concurrently, others happen serially (one after the other) so the delay stacks on each other. This may not sound like a lot of time, but as Google has discovered, a half second can feel like an eternity waiting for your computer to respond.

    There are some tricks to improve satellite latency, but they require some server and broswer support, as well as wasting some of the preciously expensive satellite bandwidth.

    The advantage to satellite over cellular (GOGO) internet is that satellite internet is available over 100% of the mainland US and most of the ocean. I’ve heard GOGO support can be sketchy over certain parts of the rural and desert USA.

  6. JetBlue has a great product with 36 free channels of Direct TV. And the best part is you pay NOTHING!!! If you fly out of the Direct TV viewing area you get free movies. Otherwise the movies they offer are 5.99 and change every month. Gotta love JetBlue!! Heard WIFI is being tested and will be on their planes in 2013.

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