Lyn blogs about Southwest Airlines on GotoTravelGal.com and has written a free ebook titled, “The Step-by-Step Guide to Earning the Southwest Companion Pass” to help those of you looking to fly one person nearly free with you for up to TWO years. Since she and her family regularly fly Southwest, I’ve asked her to share her best tips for using the airline’s in-flight entertainment system.
Lyn: My family has flown all over the US on Southwest Airlines. We have mastered the use of Southwest’s entertainment systems. With kids ages 9 and 13, digital devices are key to keeping occupied.
I’ll explain your options for inflight entertainment (along with the cost), show you how to use Southwest’s entertainment system, and share which devices are compatible.
How to Check If Your Southwest Plane Has Wi-Fi
Link: Southwest Wi-Fi Access
While Southwest says all planes will have Wi-Fi by the end of the year – and that they are upgrading the quality and speed of their Wi-Fi – unfortunately, not all planes are Wi-Fi equipped right now. If there is no Wi-Fi, there is no entertainment, other than what you bring yourself. Books, anyone?! 🙂
To check if your plane has Southwest Wi-Fi, visit Southwest.com/wifi within 24 hours of your flight’s departure time. Enter your flight confirmation number and passenger name. Then click “Continue” to see if you’re in luck!
When I booked a flight recently it showed me on the reservation confirmation my flight would have Wi-Fi. So you can check there, too.
If you forget to check ahead of time, look for the Southwest Wi-Fi sticker as you board the plane both on the outside (right) when you enter and inside where the flight attendant is typically standing when you board.
Southwest Entertainment Options
If your Southwest plane DOES have Wi-Fi – hooray! Now you can take advantage of their entertainment options. Some of which cost, while others are free.
Here is what you can choose from.
1. Live Television and On-Demand TV Episodes
Link: Southwest TV Channels
Live television on 18 channels and select on-demand television shows are currently your free options for entertainment on Southwest. You can watch them free on any compatible device (read below for compatible devices on Southwest).
I was disappointed to find on our most recent flight that Cartoon Network, my kids’ favorite TV channel, is not an option any longer – bummer! But you can choose from 18 channels that include ESPN, Fox News, HGTV, CBS, Discovery, Disney, Bravo and FX. View the complete list of Southwest TV channels.
There are also on-demand TV shows available for viewing. These seem to vary. During our last flight there were some HGTV and National Geographic options, as well as some older classic TV shows.
2. Flight Tracker
While this is nothing you’d want to do the whole flight, it is fun to see where your plane is geographically and see how much time is left in your flight. You can keep an eye on both for free by visiting SouthwestWifi.com during your flight.
For $5, you can watch a movie on your device, but first you will need to have downloaded certain plug-ins, which include the free Airtime Player from iTunes or the Google Play Store. Be sure you do this while you STILL HAVE ACCESS TO WI-FI BEFORE boarding the plane. We have been burned on this one a couple of times! Even if you already have the app, you’ll want to be sure it’s updated before you get on the plane.
To watch a movie on your laptop, Southwest says you will be prompted to download a plug-in once you try to watch the movie. I have not tried to watch a movie on my laptop yet, as I am always working when flying! I like to call planes my office in the sky. 😉
You can also watch the same movie across multiple flights within the same day. Just reopen your app or browser, go to SouthwestWifi.com, find your movie and select “Watch Now.”
Web Browsing: $8 per day per device
Messaging: $2 per day
Your fourth option for Southwest inflight entertainment is Wi-Fi either for Web access or for texting. For full Wi-Fi access, select the $8 option, which also includes messaging. They do limit access to some high-bandwidth applications and websites like Netflix, HBO Go, and VoIP.
If you just plan to send a few texts, go with the $2 option. You will need to use pre-downloaded apps, which include iMessage, WhatsApp, and Viber. For texting, both parties must be connected to the same app. For iPhones and iMessage, that means the blue “bubble” instead of the “green” bubble (which means they may be using a different type of phone or are not connected to Wi-Fi).
I always purchase full Wi-Fi and my web surfing experience has varied from so slow it’s unusable to decent. I am looking forward to the upgrade in Wi-Fi service to increase speeds and make it more useful!
5. NFL RedZone
Football fans, good news! For just $4, you can catch your favorite NFL teams on Sundays during football season with this option.
How to Use Southwest Wi-Fi
1. Find the Network
No matter which entertainment option you choose, start by turning your device to Airplane Mode in Settings and then connect to Southwest Wi-Fi under Wi-Fi options on your device.
2. Navigate to SouthwestWifi.com
Next, go to SouthwestWifi.com in your browser where you can select a free service, like live TV or the flight tracker, or paid options like a movie or Wi-Fi.
3. Watch Live TV on Southwest
To watch TV, you’ll typically see an option to “Watch Live TV,” which then forces you to watch a video commercial. Once the commercial is done, look for small print – usually on the bottom right of the commercial – that says “Take Me to Live TV.“
Click that link and then scroll through the live TV channels and on-demand TV shows.
4. Watch Movies on Southwest
To watch a movie, on the main SouthwestWifi.com page, view your movie options below the TV choices, select a movie, and enter credit card information online to pay.
5. Text or Browse the Internet
Similar to movies, to enjoy texting or internet access, you will select that option and then enter your credit information.
Compatible Devices on Southwest
Southwest does not offer seatback screens, so you will need to bring your own device with you on board.
For Wi-Fi only, you can use:
- Any Wi-Fi-enabled device (802.11a/b/g or n) with a browser
For TV or Movies, bring:
- Laptop with operating system of Windows 7.0 or OSX 10.9 or higher
- iPhone, iPad, etc. with operating system iOS 8.0 and above
- Android phones and tablets with operating system Android 4.1-4.4 and above
There are no outlets or charging devices on board Southwest planes, so be sure to arrive with a fully-charged device or carry a portable charger with you. Also, if you pay for Wi-Fi or other entertainment and it doesn’t work, call Southwest afterward for a refund and be sure you have your flight number and departure time. Or, you can send them an online message.
Parents, Southwest does attempt to filter inappropriate content though it may not catch everything, so keep a look-out on your little ones if they are surfing the web!
Southwest Wi-Fi can be convenient and entertaining if your flight has it! Be sure to bring a compatible device like an iPhone, laptop or iPad to access. By logging on to SouthwestWifi.com on your device, you will be able to enjoy everything from live TV and movies to internet access and texting.
Check out my complete tips on Southwest Wi-Fi. Happy surfing!