With an increasing number of US flights offering WiFi Internet access, Southwest has found a different way to slice and dice the market – it's now offering inflight connectivity on a 'per app' basis, starting with Apple's SMS-like iMessage chat software.
Available on iPhones, iPads and MacBook laptops (as well as the less airplane-friendly Apple desktops), iMessage is essentially an SMS system which uses the Internet instead of a mobile phone network.
From today, Southwest will let passengers use iMessage inflight for $2 per flight, compared with $8 for the complete Internet 'experience' of email, Web browsing and so on.
The airline says that "Android-friendly messaging apps will be added early in 2014" – a set that's likely to include the highly popular WhatsApp, which runs on Android as well as Apple devices.
Southwest is the only US airline carrier to offer WiFi below 10,000 feet, which means travellers can iMessage on a 'gate to gate' basis.
Also being served up free 'for a limited time' over the holiday period is a suite of 13 live TV channels streamed over WiFi to laptops and Apple's iOS devices.
In November this year the USA's Federal Aviation Administration approved the use of gadgets such as tablets, smartphones, iPods and ebook readers during the take-off and landing stages of flights as well as taxiing to and from the gate.
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