Southwest becomes first airline to offer gate-to-gate Wi-Fi

Just in time for the holiday rush, Southwest Airlines is ready for everyone to surf the friendly skies with gate-to-gate Wi-Fi on flights from the budget air carrier. On Wednesday, the company said passengers on Southwest flights could now stay connected with a tablet-sized device or smaller from takeoff to landing.

The new Southwest policy follows the FAA's October ruling removing prohibitions against using personal electronics below 10,000 feet. Even though the FAA is cool with letting you play Words with Friends for your entire flight, individual airlines still have to pass a few regulatory hurdles to get the go-ahead for gate-to-gate Wi-Fi.

Southwest appears to be the first airline cleared for all-flight Wi-Fi, but the eased restrictions aren't entirely permissive. Bulky laptops and any other device larger than a tablet (we're guessing 20-inch slates don't count) must be stowed during taxi, takeoff, and landing. These larger items may pose a hazard during contact with terra firma due to their size and weight, Southwest says.

airplane travel

But as long as you're working with an iPad, Nexus 7, or a Nokia 1520, you should be good to go for the duration of most flights—battery life permitting.

Southwest says it now has Wi-Fi connectivity available on the majority of its flights, so most holiday travelers should find connectivity on their trip home. In June, a Routehappy.com survey said that only 800 of Southwest's more than 3,000 daily flights were connectivity challenged.

Southwest charges $8 per device for all-day in-flight Wi-Fi.

When the FAA announced its reversal on personal electronic devices (PEDs) it expected most airlines to be approved for gate-to-gate Wi-Fi by the end of the year. But with Southwest ready to go before Thanksgiving, we might see other airlines gear up for the holidays including Wi-Fi-ready leaders like Virgin and Delta.

If you're traveling this holiday season, also check out our survival guide for finding free Wi-Fi when you reach your destination.

Lead image: Angelo DeSantis via Flickr/Creative Commons.

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