By Chase Hagl
Southwest Airlines Announces WiFi Changes, In-Seat Power Additions To Come
Southwest Airlines on Wednesday announced plans to enhance the customer experience for its passengers moving forward, providing a long list of upgrades to come soon. The plan comes at a hefty price tag of two billion dollars and will incorporate changes to things such as Wifi, overhead bins, power ports and other pieces of the onboard product.
Southwest Airlines has trailed behind its competitors for some time now when it comes to the modernization of its cabins. Passengers have quickly come to learn to charge their phones and surf the web before their flight with the Texas-based carrier, because one could expect a questionable WiFi connection and no access to in-seat power. However, Wednesday’s announcement pledges to fix that by providing its guests with notable upgrades.
“You can never stop working to get better, and as our beloved Founder Herb famously said, ‘If you rest on your laurels, you’ll get a thorn in your butt!’ We have a long and proud history of offering Legendary Customer Service and warm Hospitality, and we have bold plans and significant investments to modernize and enhance the Southwest Experience,” said Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Officer Bob Jordan.
At the forefront of their to-do list, Southwest looks to enhance inflight connectivity. The carrier began testing inflight Wifi on its aircraft in 2009, through a partnership with Row 44, a company that specialized in the offering of broadband internet systems for airplanes but was bought out by Global Eagle Acquisition Corp.
“Top of our list is giving our Customers reliable connections in the air to those things that are important and accessible to them on the ground,” said Southwest Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Green in a statement. “We’re investing in our onboard connectivity and bandwidth available to each Customer with upgraded technology that’s now installing across our existing fleet, a strategy to diversify our WiFi vendors on upcoming aircraft deliveries, and plugging Southwest Customers into in-seat power to keep them charged while in the air.”
In partnership with legacy connectivity provider Anuvu, testing is already underway. Southwest looks to immediately double the current bandwidth offering on some of their aircraft and up to 10 times the bandwidth on 350 aircraft by the end of October.
Another selling point for the carrier will be the long-overdue addition of in-seat power ports on their aircraft. Starting with their Boeing 737 Max, Southwest will begin adding both USB-A and USB-C power ports to every seatback, starting early next year.
“The ability to keep your devices charged while you are connected inflight is a request that we’ve heard consistently in ongoing conversations with our customers,” said Tony Roach, the airline’s Vice President of Customer Experience and Customer Relations, in a release. “With so much that our Customers love about doing business with Southwest, we’re constantly listening to our Employees and our Customers for improvement opportunities, and we’re excited to share some additional news and updates on this ongoing work.”
A less distant change passengers can expect is the enhancement of in-flight entertainment options. The airline has plans to double its selection of movies as well as introduce an improved flight tracker with “3D and cockpit views.”
Through Southwest’s unique boring process, it is not uncommon for guests in boarding group C to be left with little to no overhead bin space for their carry-on luggage, leaving them with no other option but to check it. The carrier looks to fix this problem through larger overhead bin space, a change that will accompany aircraft deliveries beginning early next year.
One last notable change is the new alcohol options onboard. It will include a Bloody Mary mix and new options for Hard Seltzer and Rose. The additional options will be rolled out in September, later this year.
“We listen to our customers, and their insights help us deliver on and exceed their expectations,” Jordan said. “Behind these commitments stand the legendary People of Southwest Airlines—ready to welcome Customers onboard with warmth, Hospitality, and LUV.”