OffBeat

Free pretzels, $2 iMessage: Southwest enables Apple messaging service in-flight

Southwest passengers can now use iMessage in-flight.

Above: Southwest passengers can now use iMessage in-flight.

Image Credit: Photo Illustration: Eric Blattberg

If you’re flying Southwest, you’re now free to iMessage from gate to gate.

Southwest Airlines announced Wednesday that passengers with Apple devices (on iOS 5 or later) can purchase a service for $2 that enables them to use iMessage from takeoff til’ landing. Android device owners will have to wait until next year for a similar service, said the airline.

“Tell us what your favorite Android-based messaging apps are and we’ll ask Santa to make it happen early in 2014!” wrote Southwest marketing manager Angela Vargo in a blog post.

The airline is partnering with Global Eagle Entertainment to offer the in-flight iMessaging service. Southwest, which also offers gate to gate Wi-Fi for $8, was the first carrier to allow Wi-Fi use during every part of the flight.

A recent decision from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows passengers to use portable electronic devices below 10,000 feet, but it’s up to the airlines to determine their own policies.

The new FAA rules don’t extend to cell phones, which need to remain in airplane mode throughout the flight, although the organization is considering changing that policy, too. But Southwest, along with Delta and Virgin America, stated that they’re unlikely to change their policies on in-flight calls even if the FAA lifts the ban.