Texas-based Southwest Airlines has crafted a multi-billion-dollar set of initiatives designed to simplify travel, beginning with booking trips, on to traveling through airports, and finally while in air that includes launching a new fare category, adding entertainment and refreshments, and updating the technology.
Connectivity: Southwest is upgrading Wi-Fi equipment on its existing fleet with longstanding connectivity provider Anuvu's latest-generation hardware capable of providing a significant improvement in speed and bandwidth up to 10 times the current hardware onboard.
Plans are for the Anuvu latest-generation hardware to be onboard 50 in-service aircraft by the end of May, with a projected 350 aircraft upgraded by the end of October.
Testing the upgraded Wi-Fi equipment is now underway on some routes over the western mainland U.S. As part of the test, Southwest is offering free Wi-Fi to all customers on select flights to understand how the upgraded equipment performs with a large number of customers using the equipment simultaneously.
Alongside its relationship with legacy connectivity provider Anuvu, Southwest recently entered into an agreement with satellite connectivity provider Viasat to provide internet and live television programming onboard newly delivered aircraft beginning in the fall of this year.
In-seat power: Southwest plans to install latest-generation onboard USB A and USB C power ports on every seat in the aircraft, with a space-saving system that will not compromise legroom. The airline plans to bring this new convenience and capability onboard 737 MAX aircraft beginning in early 2023.
Bigger bins: Alongside its "Bags Fly Free" policy allowing customers to check two bags for free (weight and size limitations apply), the carrier is making room in the cabin for carryon items with larger overhead bins that also bring easier access to store and retrieve luggage onboard. The larger overhead bins will be on aircraft deliveries beginning early next year.
Online ticketing: New functionality for the carrier's digital platforms and airport kiosks give customers the ability to handle common requests and help them move more efficiently from curb to gate. By late summer 2022, customers will be able to purchase Upgraded Boarding A1-A15 positions (when available) on their mobile devices without standing in line at the airport. Also on the horizon, an ability to add lap child travelers when booking online, and the airline recently added lap child check-in at self-service kiosks. Introducing more self-service options builds on the carrier's effort to reduce wait times with improved and simplified online change functionality; recent improvements have reduced the need for customers to call to make flight changes, and subsequently reduced hold times to allow Southwest Representatives more availability for specialized hospitality and customer service.
New fare: The Wanna Get Away Plus fare is expected to become available later this month, bringing a new ability to transfer travel funds and to confirm a same-day change to an available seat on a different flight between the same origin and destination, without a change in base fare.
Food and drink: Additional refreshments will begin this summer with a Bloody Mary mix, followed by a ready-to-drink cocktail in September, alongside new options of hard seltzer, and rosé.
Entertainment: Southwest also will enhance its inflight entertainment portal to more than double the number of free movies currently available by end of year and coming late May will update the flight tracker to provide 3-D views that offer aircraft information and customized destination guides based on flight itinerary.
These investments represent an investment of $2 billion and are included in the company's five-year annual targets through 2026 for operating costs and capital spending.
"As we continue to welcome back loyal customers and win new ones, these initiatives, combined with the best people in the industry, support our purpose of connecting people to what's most important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel," says CEO Bob Jordan in a statement.