During an early March flight to visit family in Sacramento (SMF), I logged on to Southwest’s (NYSE:LUV) in-flight Wi-Fi service to check e-mail and do some other business. At a cost of $8 for the 1 hour, 45 minute flight, I thought the price was quite reasonable.
Until it actually came time to use the service.
Once connected, I found the speed to be painfully slow at 0.2 Mbps, as measured by Speakeasy.net/speedtest. For comparison, my Wi-Fi connection on a recent flight on United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) yielded 0.6 Mbps, while many of the hotels at which I’ve stayed connect at about 1.0 Mbps. My Internet service in my home office is about 40 Mbps.
In fairness, I should point out that the speed experienced by each individual user depends in part on how many fellow passengers are also connected. That’s because there is just a single connection from the aircraft to the satellites or the ground, and you’re all sharing that one pipeline.
Because I could get virtually nothing done, I sent Southwest a message via its web site on Monday following our return, explaining my experience and asking for a refund.
On Thursday, just three days later, I received the following reply:
As I told Southwest in my original communiqué, $8 is not going to affect my lifestyle but I didn’t get what I purchased. Props to Southwest for recognizing that, and for speedily ordering a refund.Dear Carl,We know that you expect things to work when you pay for them, and we’re sorry that we let you down when the WiFi wasn’t working on your recent flight to Sacramento. We’re not exactly sure which of the bits and bytes were out of service, but we have a dedicated Team who will help ensure we make good on our promise to provide inflight connectivity the next time you’re onboard.As for the $8.00 WiFi charge, we’ve requested a refund for that, and you’ll see a separate e-mail when that’s complete.We are constantly working to improve our Inflight WiFi product and will make sure to pass your feedback along to the appropriate Team. We look forward to sharing the skies and the net again soon.Sincerely,(Name withheld), Southwest Airlines Headquarters
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