Southwest Announces $2 Billion Investment to Enhance Customer Experience
Southwest Airlines has announced plans to bring the next generation of Customer Experience in travel through more than two billion dollars in investments. These initiatives are designed to enhance and simplify customers’ journeys. That includes booking trips, traveling through airports, and delivering an even more enjoyable, efficient, and productive in-flight experience.
On the ongoing journey to modernize the Customer Experience, Southwest revealed commitments to:
- Bring enhanced WiFi connectivity onboard aircraft;
- Install latest-technology onboard power ports to charge personal devices at every seat;
- Offer larger overhead bins with more space and easier access to carryon items;
- Launch a new fare category with added flexibility and value, Wanna Get Away Plus™;
- Introduce more entertainment options and a wider selection of refreshments in the cabin; and,
- Enable new self-service capabilities to bring elevated ease in doing business with Southwest, benefiting Employees and Customers.
These investments were included in the Company’s five-year annual targets through 2026 for operating costs and capital spending provided at its Investor Day in December 2021—annual inflation in operating expenses per available seat mile (CASM, or unit costs), excluding fuel, profitsharing, and special items, in the low single digits range, and average annual capital spending of approximately $3.5 billion—and do not change guidance provided in the Company’s first quarter 2022 financial release.
- Southwest is upgrading WiFi 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 WiFi equipment is now underway on some routes over the western mainland U.S. As part of the test, Southwest is offering free WiFi 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 industry-leading satellite connectivity provider Viasat to provide high quality internet and live television programming onboard newly delivered aircraft beginning in the fall of this year.
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.
More Room for Carry-ons
Alongside its famous “Bags Fly Free” promise that provides every Customer onboard a Southwest flight the option 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.
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.
The carrier’s previously announced additional fare, Wanna Get Away Plus, is expected to become available to Customers later this month, bringing a new ability to transfer travel funds1 and to confirm a same-day change2 to an available seat on a different flight between the same origin and destination, without a change in base fare. Southwest also offers a wide variety of accepted payment methods, and provides My Account information in mobile friendly views across the carrier’s digital platforms.
More Drinks and Entertainment
Adding to an expansive beverage selection featuring a number of alcohol options, additional refreshment offerings 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. 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 your flight itinerary.