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Southwest Airlines first to offer gate-to-gate Wi-Fi

Southwest Airlines Plane 737-700

Starting today Southwest Airlines can call itself an international carrier.Reuters

Southwest Airline is now the first U.S. airline to offer gate-to-gate Wi-Fi service.  

This means that passengers can answer emails from the moment they sit in their seat until they arrive at their destination, as long as their devices are on “airplane mode."

Southwest's new Wi-Fi service relies on the satellite-based Row 44 that works below 10,000 feet.  Many other airlines, such as American, United, Delta and Alaska, use Wi-Fi services that use air-to-ground towers, which are switched on only when a plane is above 10,000 feet.

Laptops and devices larger than a tablet must still be stowed during takeoff and landing, and Federal Aviation Administration regulations still prohibit the use of in-flight calls.  

This comes after last month's ruling by the FAA that cleared the way for passengers to use their portable devices from takeoff to landings.  United and JetBlue are also reportedly working to install similar technology which may result in gate-to-gate service.

For now, Southwest's new service costs a reasonable $8, including stops and connections.