Southwest Takes a Page Out of JetBlue's Playbook

It's not just JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU  ) offering passengers access to satellite television at no additional cost.

Southwest (NYSE: LUV  ) is announcing this morning that it's teaming up with DISH Network (NASDAQ: DISH  ) to offer complimentary access to 14 live TV channels as well as 75 on-demand shows through the airline's more than 400 Wi-Fi-enabled planes.

If you're wondering who will pay to install monitors for every seat you may have missed the Wi-Fi component here. Unlike JetBlue -- which has seatback monitors delivering 36 DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV  ) television channels and most of Sirius XM's (NASDAQ: SIRI  ) satellite radio stations, but is late to the game by just now starting to update its fleet for Wi-Fi -- Southwest won't be providing monitors. Passengers will use their Wi-Fi tablets, laptops, and smartphones to log into the Web-based service that DISH has been advertising in recent months.

Southwest charges passengers $8 a day for Wi-Fi access, but they won't have to pay if all they want to do is access DISH's video offerings.

It's a smart move for DISH which will pay for the service in exchange for running ads during the broadcasts and receive promotional signage. Just the process of passengers accessing streaming video via DISH should serve as potent marketing for the second-largest satellite television provider's Hopper service.

It may be a coincidence that DirecTV and Sirius XM have exploded in popularity since being added to JetBlue flights, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have the visibility of captive passengers.

Southwest wins because it won't have to deal with the technical snafus that JetBlue has to contend with through its offering.

I flew two JetBlue flights last week, striking out on both in receiving the three-dozen DirecTV channels that I was promised. On a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles on Monday I had the misfortune of sitting in one of six seats with inoperable monitors. No DirecTV. No Sirius. No available seats to move us to. Stewardesses handed us vouchers with instructions on how to redeem $15 in credit on a future flight. On the way back on Sunday, Sirius was fine but no one had access to DirecTV's 36 live channels. JetBlue responded by making the three premium movie channels free for all passengers.

With DISH servers and a third-party Wi-Fi provider doing the heavy lifting, Southwest can free itself of the tech hassles that JetBlue seems to be facing with alarming regularity if my experiences are common.

Southwest has made a name for itself with frills-free and fee-free flying, but it seems as if even the airline darling can't resist the call to entertain its passengers once on board.

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