Southwest Airlines Rolls Out App-Free In Flight Entertainment

Southwest Airlines passengers can now look forward to a complete inflight entertainment (IFE) solution without the need to download an app. Customers will be able to stream content directly to their own personal devices app-free, thanks to an improvement upgrade courtesy of Global Eagle.

Southwest app free IFE
Southwest is now offering IFE without an app. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Bring your own device

Southwest Airlines has been offering free inflight entertainment for some time, albeit on a bring your own device (BYOD) basis. Southwest’s fleet of 737s does not have seatback screens, so for some years, passengers have become accustomed to using their own phone, tablet or laptop for entertainment.

Way back when, Southwest didn’t even offer this level of IFE for free. Until late 2018, the carrier used to charge $5 for access to its movie selection, something that did not resonate well with its customers. But, by the start of 2019, all its WiFi-equipped aircraft allowed passengers to watch a selection of up to 30 movies in flight for free.

Southwest app free IFE
No seatback screens means you bring your own device. Photo: Southwest Airlines

The only downside to this was the fact you had to ensure you’d downloaded the Southwest app before boarding the aircraft. If you forgot, the only option would be to pay a fee of $8 for internet access (per device) and hope that the onboard WiFi was decent enough to download the app after take-off.

Now, the guesswork has been taken out of the process, thanks to an IFE upgrade from Global Eagle.

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App free streaming

Announced today, Global Eagle Entertainment is in the process of applying a series of improvements across the Southwest Airlines fleet, to enable passengers to stream without any app download. Global Eagle says that its Common Media Application Format (CMAF), a high tech media encryption standard, means all movies and TV protected under Digital Rights Management (DRM) will now be playable on select browsers.

While the announcement didn’t detail precisely which browsers will be supported, it did state there would be compatibility with Windows, iOS and Android, suggesting most mainstream browsers will work. Per Norén, President at Global Eagle, commented on the move, saying,

“At Global Eagle, we are passionate about providing airlines and their customers with seamless access to inflight entertainment. This release enhances the customer experience, helping to drive engagement and consumption of onboard content and connectivity.”

Southwest app free IFE
Global Eagle will add animated cinemagraphs to the portal to promote the service. Photo: Global Eagle

To promote the upgrade, Global Eagle says it will be adding Cinemagraphs to the portal of Southwest’s IFE solution. These GIF-like animated posters are designed to catch the eye and encourage passengers to make use of the service.

Southwest Airlines has long been known as an airline that cares for its customers. Despite the challenges faced by the airline in the current climate, it’s clear Southwest is still keen to put the passenger first.

Still, it’s slightly surprising to see Global Eagle investing in upgrades at the present time. The company has been showing signs of financial stress and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a month ago.

Are you pleased to see access to Southwest’s IFE offering now available without an app download? Let us know what you think in the comments.