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Southwest Airlines to install Wi-Fi on fleet

Southwest Airlines, the biggest carrier at Long Island-MacArthur Airport in Islip, says it plans to offer Wi-Fi service on all its planes, and it will begin installing the equipment on its aircraft this spring.

"The road to onboard Wi-Fi has been a long one, but this week we took a major step that gets us closer to rolling out the system fleetwide," Dave Ridley, the airline's senior vice president for marketing, wrote on his company blog page.

"We ended the equipment 'testing' phase and signed an equipment purchase contract with our Wi-Fi provider, Row 44. That means we now begin the process of getting equipment ordered and aircraft scheduling in place to begin our full fleet installation."

Installation will begin this spring on about 15 aircraft each month to start, with an eventual goal of equipping them at a rate of 25 per month, Ridley said. The airline hopes to have all its 540 planes carrying Wi-Fi equipment by early 2012.

Ridley said it's not clear yet how much the initiative will cost. "We're excited about this new in-flight amenity and we promise it will be well worth the wait ... Your chances of traveling on a Wi-Fi plane will increase soon."

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