Southwest Joins Delta and Alaska With Free Inflight Messaging – While American Says No

Delta and Alaska offer free inflight messaging, you don’t have to buy internet. Days after Delta announced it in September of last year, American announced that they would do it also.

Yesterday I got an admission from American that they were walking away from their promise to offer free inflight messaging.

It turns out that Southwest is rolling free messaging too. That’ll leave only major U.S. airlines that have been run by Scott Kirby not offering it. (Update: although iMessage and some Google services work on some United aircraft without purchase as a result of poor programming.)

Some Southwest Airlines flights already have the free messaging in place, though Southwest hasn’t promoted it beyond inflight.

It has started to slowly roll out already.

On planes with free messaging available, you will see a “Free Access” button instead of a link to payment page on the messaging tab in the WiFi portal. The service is limited to iMessage and WhatsApp and does not support sending photos.

Need I remind you that American’s CEO Doug Parker explained why he’d never give you as much flexibility as Southwest does?

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. These are two different things… allowing actual text messaging (SMS/MMS communications) in flight involves actually connecting into a service that will allow those messages to be sent through the major wireless carrier’s networks and then allowing incoming messages to be returned back to the device.

    What Southwest, Delta, and others are doing are allowing certain messaging apps (iMessage, WhatsApp) that use standard internet protocols to access in-flight WiFi for free. That’s similar to how airlines let you access their app/website for free while in flight. But that also means that whoever you’re messaging has to have the same app… so grandma trying to send a text message in-flight on her flip phone still won’t work on any of these airlines, nor will you be able to send/receive messages from Android users through iMessage.

    With AA rolling out TV and next-gen WiFi to their fleet adding this type of “messaging” (allowing certain services access to WiFi for free), that’s as easy a flipping a switch. I have a feeling that AA will be following suit rather quickly.

  2. Dug and I love being different, even if it does cost us passengers.

    IIRC “we” will not allow this type of messaging until the price of oil drops below $20 a barrel. (i.e. never)

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