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Travel News

Southwest: You’re free to surf the Net, but you’ll have to pay for it

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Ding! You are now free to surf the Net — but on Southwest Airlines, you’ll have to pay for it.

Ding! You are now free to surf the Net — but on Southwest Airlines, you’ll have to pay for it.

The carrier that has been flying high by checking your first two bags for free announced plans this week to start installing wireless Internet on its entire fleet of 737s. But it won’t be free.

Installation of the Wi-Fi service, provided by Westlake Village-based Row 44, should begin in April and finish by early 2012.

Most airlines charge a fee to use airborne wireless Internet based on the length of the flight, ranging from $5.95 for flights lasting up to 90 minutes to $12.95 for flights lasting more than three hours.

When the airline announced this week that it was moving ahead with plans to offer Wi-Fi, its vice president for marketing and revenue, David Ridley, said in a statement that the airline was “testing a variety of price points” before making a decision this year.

But news that the self-proclaimed low-cost champion planned to charge for the service has sparked some anger.

On the Southwest website, several people posted comments suggesting that Southwest add a few dollars to all fares and include Wi-Fi for all passengers.

Others suggested that the airline stick with its no-fees campaign by giving the Wi-Fi access gratis.

“Southwest is harping on with the whole ‘bags fly free’ campaign,” an anonymous person posted on the website. “Why not build on that brand with free Wi-Fi?”

Said another: “Southwest already rocks the airline industry. Why not rock just a wee bit more and let us have Wi-Fi access for free?”

A Southwest spokeswoman said the airline would continue to rock the industry — but not for free.

It plans to charge only those passengers who use the service so that passengers who don’t go online don’t have to pay. “We want to give our customers the option,” spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said.