As Southwest rolls out Panasonic Ku every tail counts for IFC providers

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Now that Southwest Airlines is celebrating delivery of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 (it cancelled last week’s press event due to Harvey), there seems to be some questions about whether MAX deliveries to the carrier are carrying Global Eagle Ku-band connectivity or Panasonic Ku, and when a cutover may transpire.

But both Southwest and Global Eagle have reiterated to RGN that the MAXs – at least the initial ones – are fitted with Global Eagle Ku. “I confirmed that our MAX Aircraft are equipped with GEE Ku service,” Southwest Airlines communication lead Michelle Agnew said in an emailed statement.

Added Global Eagle VP communications and marketing Mike Miller via telephone: “Michelle is correct that the latest MAXs have Global Eagle Ku. Those coming off the line.”

Intriguingly, Miller suggests that Global Eagle recently secured a bit of extra, related business from Southwest. “We are pleased that Southwest has asked us to equip additional aircraft with Global Eagle products and services. Southwest is our biggest customer and we will always help them as need be.”

Global Eagle reveals it has secured some additional connectivity business with Southwest Airlines. Image: Southwest

This additional business for Global Eagle may be a result of a delay in Panasonic’s program for Southwest (understood to be related to a software optimization issue that will be resolved shortly). Even so, the first Panasonic Ku-fitted Southwest 737-800 has broken cover, as spotted by journalist Paul Thompson and shared on Twitter.

Though the initial Southwest MAXs are not carrying Panasonic Ku, per Southwest and Global Eagle’s public statements, it is believed that Panasonic is in line to secure business on some future MAX deliveries beginning in 2018.

But Panasonic isn’t confirming, telling RGN: “Our program with Southwest continues to move forward as expected, and we are thrilled to partner with them on inflight connectivity. Panasonic will continue to provide updates, in partnership with Southwest, as appropriate. Any questions about Southwest’s fleet should be directed to the airline’s PR team.”

If nothing else, the intrigue around Southwest’s decision to go dual source – and how that will play out from both a logistical and #PaxEx standpoint – speaks volumes about the hugely competitive nature of the business right now. In short, every tail counts.


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  1. Greg

    Is that conjecture that MAX is fitted with Global Eagle Ku because Panasonic’s Ku installation has experienced “delay”? Or do you have any data /info that supports that?

    Once would think line-fit decisions have to be made well in advance of the delivery date (as I understand the OEMs require at minimum 8-12months of lead time), so it is a bit perplexing that there is a suggestion that Panasonic delay might have resulted in MAX being delivered with GEE Ku,

    • Mary Kirby

      Hi Greg,

      Global Eagle says it has picked up additional work with Southwest but it has not detailed what that work entails (does it constitute additional aircraft for its full suite of IFEC services or simply supporting the PAC rollout with some of its services)? Global Eagle’s exact quote is: “We are pleased that Southwest has asked us to equip additional aircraft with Global Eagle products and services. Southwest is our biggest customer and we will always help them as need be.”

      As mentioned in the piece, it is believed that LUV MAX deliveries with PAC Ku could roll off the line in early 2018. If correct, then that is roughly within the window for a linefit decision (recall that Southwest announced the deal with PAC in December 2016). Original press release:

  2. Greg, this lack of transparency reflects poorly on SW. Especially for an airline which brags about transparency – I know they spell it differently 🙂

    I qualified for A List preferred and with it for free wi-fi last year. I was not excited about it till I read SW had signed on with Panasonic Aviation with a much faster Ku-band network. As you know.. the previous provider Row 44, acquired by Golden Eagle has had poor performance for years. Best I can tell even today only a small portion of the fleet connects with Panasonic so they continue with the miserable speeds of prior years while making it look they have improved.

    I have asked them to share with me under NDA (I am a technology adviser) metrics and not just words it is improving. They have refused. I have asked them to share with the broader customer base speed and other metrics – not difficult to do on a periodic basis. They have refused. Us passengers see all kinds of on-time, customer service and other metrics. It is not some high-security secret to share data that shows if the performance is actually improving.

    Anyone can run Speedtest on any flight and get the upload and download speeds but it would be nice for SW to step up. As they say step 1 to solve any problem is to acknowledge you have one. For 5 years, SW has not been willing to acknowledge that productivity in the air is an important matter for business travelers. And that they should push their wi-fi providers to improve it.

    Can you imagine if their fuel supplier supplied sub standard fuel or their catering service provided contaminated food? They would fire them in a heartbeat. For whatever reason they seem content to not push their wi-fi service providers.