Southwest Airlines offers Wi-Fi service from gate to gate

No need to wait till the aircraft reaches 10,000 feet. Southwest's use of a satellite Internet system means passengers can connect as soon as they board, and stay connected.

Southwest Airlines.

Less than a month after the Federal Aviation Administration approved the use of portable electronic devices on airplanes from takeoff to landing, Southwest Airlines is looking to maximize passengers' wireless mileage.

The airline announced Wednesday that its passengers will have the option of connecting to the aircraft's wireless Internet service from the time they board the aircraft to the time they leave, including layovers. Southwest said its extended offering is possible because it uses a satellite-based system from Global Eagle Entertainment subsidiary Row 44. Passengers on most other airlines that use Gogo, which relies on air-to-ground towers, must wait until the aircraft reaches 10,000 feet for the service to be activated.

The new policy applies only to smaller devices such as tablets, e-readers, and MP3 players; larger devices such as laptops must still be stored during takeoff and landing out of safety concerns. The Dallas-based airline said the $8 service is available on 435 of its airplanes.

Bans on using electronic devices on airlines have been in effect largely because of concerns that they could interfere with an aircraft's radio communications. But such concerns have largely been dispelled.

The FAA lifted its ban last month on the use of portable electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. But use of cell phones for voice communications is still banned throughout flights due to Federal Communications Commission regulations that prohibit airborne calls with cell phones.

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