40 Success Stories: When Global Eagle Put Beats in the Sky

Image: Stephen M. Keller via Southwest Airlines Community, November 2014.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of APEX EXPO this year, APEX Media is looking back at “40 Success Stories” in the form of its members’ most significant achievements. Today, we check out how Global Eagle helped Southwest gain a lasting reputation for offering great music onboard.

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In November 2014, Global Eagle announced a partnership between its customer Southwest Airlines and Beats Music (now Apple Music) that allowed passengers to stream customized playlists to their personal electronic devices on Southwest aircraft equipped with its Airtime in-flight entertainment and connectivity solution.

Individual playlists were created using Apple’s automated playlist technology based on passengers’ responses to four questions about their preferred location, activity, surroundings and musical preferences. The content, which consisted of over 3,000 tracks in total, was delivered to the aircraft and updated wirelessly over Global Eagle’s satellite broadband network.

Global Eagle updated the service to Apple Music in July 2015 to coincide with Apple’s acquisition of Beats Music.

“We were able to demonstrate how a marquee global brand could be integrated as part of a customized passenger experience,” explained Duncan Abell, Global Eagle’s VP Marketing and Communications. “We showed how a connected entertainment experience could be financially viable while simultaneously generating a uniquely memorable passenger offer.” The project was led by Kuan Chin, Global Eagle’s senior product manager.

Southwest celebrated the partnership with the unveiling of a Boeing 737 featuring a special Beats-themed decal that made it look like the aircraft was wearing a pair of the company’s headphones. It also put on two in-flight concerts – one with American dance-pop band Cobra Starship and another with folk music group Elephant Revival.

Beyond the end of the Apple project in 2016, Southwest has continued to differentiate itself through with unique music offerings, including its “Live at 35” in-flight concert series and another partnership, enabled by Global Eagle, with iHeartRadio announced in May 2018 – a project that was onboarded in just three months.

See more posts from our 40 Success Stories campaign.