Southwest Airlines Offers App-Free IFE Via Global Eagle’s Airtime Portal


Southwest Airlines customers will notice several changes to the airline’s IFE, including app-less access and animated images for select titles. Image via Global Eagle

Global Eagle is pushing ahead with updates to its IFE offering, despite cutting costs and filing for Chapter 11 in July, with the goal of eventually emerging from bankruptcy protection. The company is the latest IFE provider to make content available to passengers without requiring an app download.

Southwest Airlines passengers can now access the airline’s wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) portal via their device’s browser, without connecting to in-flight Wi-Fi or downloading an app. The change was rolled out last month by Global Eagle, whose Airtime Portal is the basis of Southwest’s wireless IFE system.

VIDEO: Learn more about Global Eagle’s app-free IFE in this week’s APEX Weekly Wrap

All titles are available on the app-free version, except early window content, according to Per Norén, president, Global Eagle. The company uses the latest media encryption standard, called Common Media Application Format (CMAF), so that multiple digital rights management (DRM) technologies can be used on a single video file.

“This release enhances the customer experience, helping to drive engagement and consumption of onboard content.” – Per Norén, Global Eagle

While Global Eagle’s app-free Airtime Portal is already used by airlines including Air France, Southwest is the launch customer for the updated version, which incorporates CMAF to provide both optimized passenger experience and technical efficiency, Norén told APEX Media. The technology is compatible with selected iOS, Android or Windows operating systems, on Safari and other selected browsers.

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

Browser-based IFE has been a trend for several years – IFE providers including AirFi, Bluebox and CastLabs have offered solutions that allow passengers to access DRM-protected content without downloading an app.

Global Eagle has also introduced cinemagraphs in the form of animated movie posters for select titles, and plans to announce additional changes to the IFE portal in due course.