Leak: Southwest Airlines WiFi To Become More Expensive For Connecting Passengers

Inflight internet on JetBlue is free. Delta Air Lines has made wifi free as long as you join the free SkyMiles program (this lets them market their credit card to you).

Southwest Airlines, whose bags fly free, is going the opposite direction with internet. In a change expected to be announced on Tuesday, they will be making it more expensive for passengers that have to take more than one flight to reach their destination.

  • Currently Southwest charges $8 per day for internet
  • They’re switching to $8 per flight for internet

According to an internal Southwest company communication reviewed by View From The Wing,

To support the current and upcoming WiFi enhancements, Southwest is implementing a new internet pricing model. Effective Tuesday, February 21, internet will remain $8 but will be purchased per-leg (being introduced as “Takeoff to Landing”). We will no longer offer an $8 DayPass for internet.

The new per-leg model, entitled $8 Internet

  • Supports the introduction of Viasat and allows us to use two vendors without integrating the two payment systems.
  • Provides an experience with which Customers are familiar, as most other airlines follow a per-leg internet pricing model.
  • Impacts a small subset of Customers due to our robust network of nonstop flights and a small percentage of internet Customers choosing to use paid internet across connecting flights.

As a result passengers who take connecting flights will pay more (at least double) what they do today. And Southwest Airlines connecting flights can be confusing, since they sell ‘through flights’ with a single flight number where you don’t have to leave the aircraft when the plane stops in an intermediate city.

For instance, here are 3 flights between Washington National airport outside of D.C. and San Diego. The first stops in Oklahoma City first, the second stops in Omaha first, and the third stops in Austin. The only cities where you’re stopping are revealed in initial results are in Phoenix, because those involve plane changes. Internet on the first two one-way itineraries will cost $24!

Alaska Airlines charges $8 for functional internet. United Airlines charges $8 for barely-working internet, though they’re finally starting to install ViaSat on their domestic fleet. When they make substantial progress I’ll no longer consider United to be unflyable.

So, to be clear, Southwest’s pricing will remain competitive with Alaska and United. American Airlines has fast internet but charges more than anyone else for a single flight (it can be $10 – $20).

And Southwest Airlines internet is getting better, heading in the direction that other carriers are heading. They’re adding USB seat power, too. On net I’d be happier paying more for good internet than less for internet that doesn’t work or barely functions. In the meantime, though, while they still rolling out ViaSat, you’re paying more for the same internet on most connecting itineraries.

By the way, did you know that WiFi doesn’t actually stand for anything? It’s not an acronym. It was a name developed by marketing consultants at Interbrand.

Now that Delta and JetBlue offer it free, though, the idea of the airline which promotes free checked bags, free changes, and no seat fees charging for it seems a bit backward. But they lost $825 million in their holiday meltdown so every dollar counts!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Wow, Southwest is adding USB seat power…but only on the new MAX aircraft deliveries.

    In other words, it’s still 2010 in Bob Jordan’s world (unless he’s flying first class on AA).

  2. Thats OK, I avoid SW as much as I can. And with AA, and DL at least, I get wifi for free with T-Mobile.

  3. Just curious, do people understand how much it costs to retrofit an aircraft? Where do people think all of this money to pay for new services is going to come from amidst high fuel costs and some of the steepest labor inflation rates we’ve ever seen. Unions, primarily pilots are increasing their unit economics by 30%+ over the next 4 years (see Delta contract), do we really think that Passengers are come to pay up to cover all of that, as well as all the other investments being made in the industry?

    I hope Captain Freedom is not an actual airline captain…the public should do some research into how much they make per year….

  4. Gary, an honest question:

    I haven’t had any complaints about United’s Wi-Fi since around 2020. I sort of assumed they’d made some massive, fleet-wide stability improvement. On their wide-bodies, even YouTube streaming often works for me…

    I trust your opinion, but it just doesn’t match my experience with them of late. Have you flown them a lot lately? Am I just getting lucky? Do I have impossibly low standards for in-flight Wi-Fi after flying United for all these years?

  5. @A guy who knows finance – I’ve had bad luck with United wifi (though it’s aircraft specific) and I get complaints from readers and friends all the time, even literally today. They are putting in new wifi service which should be fantastic. And they finally have a plan that should, in theory, mean doing it quickly. I cannot wait!

  6. Click bait? I bet fewer than 15% buy wifi on SWA. Your headline I dictates more expensive for all or most pax. And those that buy are likely business expenses.

    Headline should say ” for some”.

  7. @Mike c – the headline literally says wifi is becoming more expensive FOR CONNECTING PASSENGERS

    So not all passengers, not folks who travel non-stop.

    And if you don’t buy wifi then it’s not getting more expensive for you, but I did not say Southwest is raising ticket prices…

  8. @Rjb thanks for allowing me to prove my point, a simple google search of Southwest’s financials shows that from 2019 to 2022, unit costs grew 44% while unit revenue grew 34%. This is while the industry has not restored capacity to precovid levels leading to higher overall fares (although Southwest has recovered relatively more). So if as you say Customers are already getting sticker shock, what happens when airlines have to continue to increase prices to cover further cost growth? On top of adding capacity back which generally leads to lower fares.

    A slightly more detailed search of inflation adjusted fares shows that over over history airfares really haven’t increased. Do the same for their costs. There’s a reason airlines usually go bankrupt

  9. I bounce back and forth mostly between SWA and UAL, depending on destination, schedule, and pricing; not unusual. But a constant peeve of mine on both lines is the lack of dependable wifi and, in general, on board “screen efficiency.” I have tried and failed numerous time to even be able to make the “free TV or movies” work at all, whether on my own device or “in seat.” Since the only way from “here” is “up,” I guess it’ll have to get better???

  10. You are correct to day that wi-fi is not an acronym, but incorrect to say that it doesn’t stand for anything. It stands for wireless fidelity.

  11. I never pay for airplane internet. Is it THAT difficult for so many people to be disconnected for a couple of hours? I have plenty I can work on offline – and if some work crisis happens while I am in the air, I have lots of competent people on my team that can manage through a problem and get me caught up when I land. Most carriers have free entertainment that can also keep the averge person occupied for a while if you forgot to download something. I see people texting non stop for hours during flights and I am somewhat amazed.

  12. Gary, sorry – you are wrong, it is you who has fallen for the common misconception! You should search for the WiFi alliance and read their history, from their own organisation, not from third parties.

  13. I travel weekly SNA to BHM back and forth and have for 10 yrs or so. SWA has the worst WifI in the industry. 75% of the time it’s not even working.
    Love this airline but IMO they have some serious stones raising their WifI prices.

    And they have raised their fares 25-40% on the trips I take. Gotta be due to all the reimbursements they paid out from the holiday breakdown. So I’m basically laying back my refund every trip. That’s beyond wormy

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