Southwest Spends $2 Billion To Play Catch-Up on Product

Southwest

Southwest has finally decided it’s time to invest in its onboard product again. Yesterday, the airline announced it would spend more than $2 billion on a whole bunch of different projects. This is long overdue since Southwest’s product has lagged for years. It’s arguably not enough, but it’s not easy to get everything done when you fall behind the way Southwest has, so this is unquestionably a good step forward. It’s also a solid sign that the new CEO is going to lead the team to make some different decisions.

The list of improvements is long, though some are obviously more important than others.

  • Upgrading wifi equipment on existing aircraft to get up to 10x the current bandwidth with 50 aircraft ready by the end of this month and 350 by the end of October.
  • Start installing new ViaSat wifi systems on new deliveries beginning this fall.
  • Install USB-A and USB-C power outlets in each seat on all MAX aircraft.
  • Adding larger overhead bins on new aircraft deliveries starting next year.
  • Allowing travelers to purchase A1-15 boarding positions on mobile phones by end of summer instead of having to do it at the gate.
  • Letting people add lap children to bookings online will occur at some point “on the horizon.”
  • Bloody Mary mix will be stocked onboard this summer with some sort of “ready-to-drink cocktail,” a hard seltzer, and rosé this fall.
  • By the end of this year, Southwest will double the number of free movies it has available for streaming.
  • By the end of this month, the flight map will be updated “to provide 3-D views that offer aircraft information.”

It’s a long list, but I think we can all agree that some of these matter a lot and some are pretty irrelevant. Obviously the most important development is the improvement in the moving map, right? The rest is unimportant.

Ok, ok, let’s be serious. There are two enhancements that matter far more than anything else: wifi and power. The big bins would follow that.

Onboard power is something that Southwest has needed for AGES. I started searching my archives and I’ve mentioned it many times over the last decade. It was nearly 15 years ago that Southwest announced instead of power, it would roll out… outlets in gate areas. It stubbornly stuck to this strategy for far too long, even as it began flying long-hauls to Hawai’i with countless devices running out of juice along the way.

The good news is that Southwest has finally reversed course. The bad news is that this is what’s being installed.

Just kidding, just kidding. But would you have been surprised if Southwest went with one of the old cigarette-style DC outlets? Could have pulled a bunch of them off of American’s MD-80s in the desert. Just think how much that could have saved.

Instead, Southwest has still skimped to some extent, not going with full AC outlets and instead going with USB-only, albeit with 60w so it can power bigger devices. It is also only putting these on the MAX aircraft for now, but those are the airplanes that need it most, flying the longest distances.

I assume the idea here is that these new lighter systems that are USB-only will save weight and cost less. It’s obviously perfectly good for phones and even some laptops now, but the world isn’t quite there yet. Presumably Southwest is betting that by the time it finishes the retrofit in 150 years, AC power won’t provide any benefit over USB. (It’ll actually be done way sooner than that since this is only the MAX fleet.)

The other big news is the wifi. Southwest may have been an early adopter of wifi, but its system has been terribly slow on a good day and completely non-functioning on a more normal day. Yeah, yeah, it varies depending upon how many people are using the system and all that, but in a day and age where I can fly Spirit and have fast wifi or pay a bit more for full streaming bandwidth, Southwest was far, far behind. That’s being kind.

The solution here appears to be to upgrade equipment to get more bandwidth to each airplane… at least, it’ll go to 350 airplanes this year. If this is truly 10x more bandwidth to each airplane, it will actually become functional.

Getting ViaSat on some new deliveries will make a difference as well. ViaSat works well on a variety of airlines today, but to me what matters here is that this will make Anuvu — the current name of Row 44 turned Global Eagle that provides Southwest’s wifi today — feel the heat of competition. They’ll have to improve or risk losing more of the business. And Southwest’s business is a huge chunk of the customer base.

Even though this doesn’t give me everything on my wish list, it is a huge step forward that will make a very big difference for travelers on Southwest. Taking a step back here, I find it very interesting that this is happening not long after Gary Kelly stepped down as CEO.

Though I can’t know this for sure, it feels like Gary stepping aside and Bob Jordan moving in as CEO has cleared the logjam that will allow Southwest to start doing important things like this that have been on ice for years. It’s a very encouraging sign that things are changing for the better.

60 comments on “Southwest Spends $2 Billion To Play Catch-Up on Product

  1. Lol I didn’t even know they had flight maps!

    60 watts is a lot of juice for USB power, I don’t mind not having AC power so much as not doing this for the entire fleet. Plenty of non-MAXes fly long flights too.

  2. What else is on your wish list with Southwest. Also did you wright this while drunk? There was a lot more sarcasm than your typical post.

    1. “Also did you wright this while drunk?”

      Not sure if the pun was intended, but either way, bravo.

    2. SEAN – The wish list is mostly for broader coverage. I’d like to see power on the whole fleet, not just the MAX, for example. And AC power I’d like to see too. So yeah, it’s in the right direction, but at some point I assume the expense can’t be justified.

  3. I had to check the calendar and the dateline for this post, to make sure it wasn’t the beginning of April already…

    “Southwest”, “spends money”, and “product upgrade” (or “systems upgrade”, for that matter) are concepts I’m not used to seeing in the same sentence. :-)

    I know that these upgrades will take months to implement, but it will be interesting to see the extent to which these improvements help WN incrementally (even only slightly) with business travelers, or at least the extent to which WN markets these improvements towards business travelers… I know leisure travelers like streaming, power outlets, and WiFi as well, but I see those as being most important for the road warriors who need to make every minute count.

  4. It’s too bad that the bin upgrades aren’t getting retrofitted to the -700s. I’m also indifferent at best about them keeping Anuvu for WiFi at all; ViaSat is just so much better.

    60W over USB-C is plenty though. That’s enough to keep pace with most modern laptops, including mine. Won’t work out for everyone but it’s sufficient for my use cases such that I’ll no longer book away from them all-else-equal vs. someone with decent WiFi and maybe power (my flights tend to be shorter so power tends to be less important).

      1. 60 W would only be ~0.5 amps at 110-120 volts.

        After being tempted bring a Kill-A-Watt meter and a homemade electronic device to test aircraft AC ports the next time I fly, I decided that doing a bit of searching might be easier and less likely to lead to intensive searches at the TSA checkpoint.

        From what I found, sounds like the typical AC ports on planes are limited to around 225 W per 3 seats (or roughly 75 W per seat or per outlet, not sure if the limit is on the outlet side or the box underneath the seats).

        To your point, if WN’s USB-C ports can supply 60 W each, there isn’t a huge performance penalty in terms of wattage when you compare that to AC ports limited to ~75 W, just the hassle/convenience factor (in the sense that not everyone has USB-C electronics capable of taking advantage of 60 W of power, while AC adapters are still pretty universally carried). In contrast, the weight/reliability/cost factor for WN may be significant.

        As a pax, I’d still really prefer to see AC outlets instead of USB-C (or, ideally, both AC outlets and USC-C outlets), but I can see why WN likely made the decision they did.

  5. Cranky,

    I heard that the new wifi will be AOL dial-up and the expanded movie list is just adding Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest Saves Christmas, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Scared Stupid and Ernest Goes to School.

    1. Not only will the new WiFi will be AOL dial-up, but only the first 15 customers who “dial in” (er, “check in”) exactly 24 hours before the fllight will get the full 56 kbps speed; everyone else will get 2400 baud speeds and have to pay long-distance telephone charges as well. :-)

      Oh, and AOL-branded drink coasters (er, “CDs” and “floppy disks”, remember those?) will provided to each passenger upon boarding, free of charge.

  6. “…by the time it finishes the retrofit in 150 years…” I lol’ed for a good minute reading that. Well done.

  7. Adding USB, especially a 60W one, is great and all. But I really wish they can add AC outlet. Juice Jacking is a known strategy to data hack. It is not an easy attack let alone doing it on a plane, but it is none-zero risk. Personally, I avoid public USB charging ports like the plague. But if its my only option, I would use it to charge my battery bank and use the battery bank to charge my other devices. For folks with real data security concernn, well, you probably have the right gears and SOP to secure your data.

  8. Unfortunately for Southwest, the MAX hysteria delayed their upgrade of the WiFi for three years. However, being that Southwest was the first to use satellite based WiFi, it was nice to watch the NFL playoffs during my entire flight to Hawaii. No other carrier has that capability. Not a big fan of the USB ports because that only means extra weight and maintenance costs but it is what the customer demands so It’s understandable. To me the customer experience enhancement will mean more than anything else to Southwest. Given that they are still the largest airline in the world (in regards to the daily schedule) it will have a vast impact.
    As an investor, I’m more impressed that Southwest has an expectation of being completely out of debt by the fourth quarter. The legacy carriers will never have the opportunity to spout that about their business models. Considering that Southwest is 2/3’s hedged this year, the company will be in expansion mode next year. They’ve almost completed their maintenance infrastructure enhancements as they complete their 6 massive hangars at locations around the country so expansion and, the possibility of another airframe, are looming on the horizon.
    Cranky, Southwest is already adding on to their brand new training center for an additional 4 simulators. The building, upon completion, will be close to 600,000 square feet which I believe will make their training center the largest in the world. Any idea if those simulators will be 737 or something else? It’s going to be interesting to watch Southwest in the future.

    1. as an investor that owns both DAL and LUV stock, I don’t care whether a carrier is debt free or not – and LUV will not be debt free.
      Investors look at bottom line earnings which includes debt service. If a company pays its debt service and still ends up with margins as good as its competitors, they are managing their debt as well as a “low debt” competitor.

      DAL and LUV are guiding to very similar margins – and LUV will actually only have about a 5% fuel cost advantage because of hedging over DAL whose refinery strategy is directly addressing a large part of the reason for high jet fuel prices – high jet fuel crack spreads. DAL and LUV had pre-covid margins within 1/10th of a percent of each other.

      DAL’s fuel price will be closer to LUV’s than AAL and LUV and much, much lower than JBLU and SAVE. There is a pretty strong correlation between fuel cost and efficiency and expected 2nd quarter and beyond profitability. DAL and LUV both have advantages compared to their direct peers in those advantages.

      As for WN’s “enhancements” they are at best narrowing the gap between themselves and most of the legacy airlines; DAL and soon to be UAL will offer much more onboard amenities than LUV.

      LUV has known just how much it needs to offer customers. It isn’t a surprise that LUV is now moving in part because UAL is going even further “upscale” with seatback AVOD. LUV competes directly more with LUV than with any other airline.

      Considering that LUV only flies 737s, if they are having to train more pilots than legacy airlines that fly similar fleet sizes and have multiple aircraft types, the problem is clearly that LUV is not retaining pilots -and anecdotal evidence says that more and more pilots are going to legacy carriers because they can upgrade faster and have higher career earnings potential due to widebodies and longhaul international flights.

      1. This article was not about Delta at all. Literally didn’t mention it once. You mentioned it 7 times in this comment. How did an article about Southwest’s wi-fi and power outlets lead to a comment about Delta’s fuel strategy and pre-covid margins? How deep does this obsession with Delta go?

        1. Because he is blinded by current DAL numbers. People always forget how DAL bent over their employees in 2006 but many DAL employees have not forgotten. If and when another 9/11 happens, having figures in the black will save furloughs and create job opportunities. Let him live in his fantasy world.

          1. a wise Ghost that frequents this site accurately says that airlines don’t have to be alike – and in this case that could not be more true.

            Southwest does not have a corner on profitability or industry leading financial performance.

            And its execs have not said it will be debt free. Not at the end of the year or ever.

            Other airlines are generating similar financial if not better financial results than LUV.

            Southwest just happens to generate its profits with a different strategy than other airlines but not all low cost carriers end up with the same financial results any more than all global carriers do.

            Sometimes, in reality, airlines of different types generate comparable or better financial results to other types of airlines.

            1. Nearly 50 years of profitability compared to nearly 50 years of debt is your comparison between Southwest and the legacies. At the start of the stupidity of the ChiCom cough, Southwest was $7 billion in the black compared to their nearest competitor, Delta, who was $14 Billion in debt at the onset.

              You’re incorrect, their execs do expect a return to a debt free balance sheet by the end of the year and have stated as such. Given Southwest’s track record and financial strategy, they are the gold standard upon which other companies, not just airlines, imitate.

              As the consolidation of airlines begin and Southwest begins its intercontinental expanse (with a new platform but still 5 years away), it will be interesting to see where a strong balance sheet will drive their profitability.

            2. Jenny
              I am sorry but no company the size of Southwest can be debt free and they have never said they would be.
              Southwest has said they will pay down the debt they acquired during covid.
              There is a big difference between the two.
              Again, bottom line net profits include debt service payments. if a company can pay their debt and still show profits comparable to their peers, then they are managing their balance sheets well.

              And covid was a much, much worse hit to the airline industry than 9/11.

              Again, I own both DAL and LUV. The two have exchanged the position of world’s most valuable airline based on market cap for years – and that position continues to change.

              I invest in high quality companies but I am capable of seeing the value in how different companies reach that goal.

              intercontinental expansion? hmm. DAL and UAL are the US’ two 6 continent airlines. As of this year.

      2. Tim makes a couple of comments that prove that he is not an expert in analyzing a company’s balance sheet or financial performance. This is as good of a reminder as any that anyone can post anything on the internet and that amateur financial analysis at sites like SeekingAlpha is just that — amateur analysis from folks who may or may not have a clue. Two comments to deconstruct:

        “as an investor that owns both DAL and LUV stock, I don’t care whether a carrier is debt free or not” — this is a clueless statement for an investor to make. From the equity investor standpoint, most companies should have some level of debt. Not a careless level, but a reasonable level. The reason? The cost of debt can be much lower than the cost of equity. A good company can borrow at say 4% right now. The cost of equity is, depending on the company, twice that or more. So the return to the equity holder will be higher if the company has a reasonable level of debt because they are taking advantage of a lower-cost source of capital. Tim’s statement shows that he doesn’t understand this. And this is terribly basic. Like Finance 201 basic.

        “I am sorry but no company the size of Southwest can be debt free” — I am sorry Tim, but this is wrong. If a company is capitalized with all equity, it can be debt free. If a company grows only with retained earnings and doesn’t finance growth with debt, it can be debt free. Of course, depending on the availability of willing investors, this can be a significant constraint on growth. Just take a look in Silicon Valley to find companies much larger than Southwest that are, in fact, debt free (or have no net debt after netting out cash) — Alphabet (Google), for example, has a negligible amount of debt. It’s possible, just not always desirable. Especially in the airline industry, because planes are relatively easy to borrow against because they are good collateral (insurable, generally easy to track, and generally easy to seize if in default — the current Russia war being an exception).

        Tim fancies himself an equity analyst. It’s clear that he’s an amateur, and anything he says should be taken as such. You get what you pay for when you follow him at SeekingAlpha or in the comments sections of blogs.

    2. SWA will NOT be debt free in the 4th quarter of any year coming up. ALL airlines carry debt, and SWA has ALWAYS carried debt.

  9. They left off the most important one: add a first class cabin. The days of festival seating and catering to backpackers and hostel dwellers is over. They have Spirit and Frontier. SW’s non-hub/spoke model is enough to keep it unique vs the big legacies and attractive the business flyers because of the additional types of cities it serves.

    1. WN may not call them hubs but many large WN stations are banked connecting complexes, just done a little differently. My home airport, STL, certainly falls in that category.

  10. I haven’t flown WN in probably nearly a decade. Don’t live near an airport they serve. So all this is of theoretical use for me. But for me personally the bigger overhead bins assuring me the ability to carry on my bag are more important than in seat power. I can and do solve my own power problem with a bit of planning (bring charged power bank, charge devices sufficiently prior to flight), but WN needs to solve the space problem for me.

    I doubt I would ever WN for anything but a short hop within CA given that I like Economy Plus type seating and assigned seating. I also don’t work on airplanes (and certainly wouldn’t use a laptop in a cramped WN economy seat. So power and WiFi really rank low for me personally.

    1. It’s worth pointing out that, in my experience, the overhead bins on WN don’t fill up nearly as quickly as on other airlines because of the two free checked bags rule. A lot, obviously not all, of passengers just check their bigger roll-aboards instead of bringing them on, making the bins not as full as you may think. I would assume that’s why the bigger bins haven’t been a priority for WN.

      1. I’m guessing SW sees value in this internally for improving their turn times. Many D+10 delays can be attributed to having to check those last few bags on full (or nearly full) flights. Of course, the whole operation needs to recover to near normal for this to be a factor, but I’m hopeful they’ll get there.

      2. That’s true. Okay, conspiracy theory: they are installing bigger bins in anticipation of introducing a bag fee for checked luggage :)

        1. I actually thought the same thing. This seems to be a solution in search of a problem. Charging for bags would create the problem, and the bins are the solution!

          I find overhead bin space to never be a problem on a full flight on WN. Even on a early Monday flight that is packed with road warriors.

          1. Maybe that’s why they’re only adding the larger bins on new deliveries (not terribly expensive) rather than retrofitting existing aircraft (more expensive – if even possible – and probably involves extra out of service time for a plane).

            1. I didn’t understand why the Max deliveries didn’t have the larger bins, just speeds things up and provides buffer. Fortunately, the standard Max bins aren’t terrible, unlike bins I just encountered on an old -700 where the door hinges stopped my bag from going in lengthwise and I saw the flight attendant constantly sliding bags around to get the doors closed.

  11. With Southwest deciding to call an audible and take on a bunch of -8 whitetails while it waits for the -7s to finally be certified, that -700 NG fleet is going to start shrinking really fast in the next 18 months. They’ve got 35 jets on order or due right now. They’ve taken 5 jets in the past month after a long hiatus. Its really going to be picking up.

    What’s going to be interesting is what they do with the -800s in their fleet. They young, they virtually all have the Heart interior, and so will they retrofit those 200 jets with USB power and Space Bins? That’s pushing 30% of their fleet and those -800s are going to be around for a long time.

  12. Honestly, 60W USB-C is plenty for the vast majority of laptops made in the last 3-4 years. You might be surprised … I have a Dell laptop that still comes with a proprietary main charger, but it also has a single USB port that can be used to charge the computer, though a lot of people don’t realize that.

    1. Bgriff – This is what I’ve learned as well. I have a Microsoft Surface 4 and after this announcement, I went an ordered a USB cord last night that will connect my weird magnetic Surface thing with USB-C. Can’t wait to actually try it, since I had no idea it worked.

  13. Now maybe they can start working on running a competent operation, too, and stop blaming every meltdown on someone else…

  14. I can’t really blame them for not including AC outlets. I would venture to guess that many, if not most, people who are still using AC outlets on planes these days are conecting a wall wart rectifier that is powering something capable of USB-A or USB-C charging. Historically USB-A rectifiers have been very inefficient, with up to half the AC power being turned into heat. New ones are better, but having a centralized DC power source is likely more efficient. Also, most AC outlets I have used on planes have been so worn out (looking at you Alaska and American) they would not hold the weight of my laptop wall wart (they only had low power USB-A) requiring me to prop something against it to hold it in.

    1. USB outlets (USB-A at least) have been worn out on some airplanes that I tried to charge a device. Perhaps the USB-C design is more robust.

  15. The 60 W USB-C charging port is perfectly adequate for most people’s charging needs. An added benefit for international travelers (not that WN has all that many) is there’s no need for a universal power port as the USB port is ubiquitous.

    Now, on to important matters: the flight map. Yes, WN does have one (of sorts) in their streamed IFE system. It’s an airplane shape placed pretty imprecisely on a map. So, a modern flight map would be most welcome and can be pretty darn entertaining for those of us who love aviation (or just want to know where we are). So, these are all good developments – as long as they don’t mess with their wonderful seat pitch.

    1. I think that lots of people don’t realize that cell phones can get good gps fixes if they’re held near airplane windows. I seldom use the moving map unless I’m in an inner seat. My phone’s map app gives me a lot more detail (especially if I remember to download the area in detail for offline use.)

      1. The people in the middle and window seats just love it when I reach my arm in front of their faces to hold my phone to the window from my aisle seat ;)

        Good point, though. I haven’t done it with my phone, but I did it a long time ago with a Bluetooth GPS receiver and a Palm OS device. So yeah, looooong time ago. And got some weird looks from the travelers nearby.

  16. Cautiously optimistic that this is indicative of a change in direction/priorities under Bob Jordan. Employees have been waiting to see some sign of a new direction. This definitely qualifies, but there’s a lot more similar stuff that needs to be done that’s not customer facing.

  17. The power ports and the largest overhead bins are something they should have launched from the Get go with the MAX8.

    So by now with them going after more business select traffic and Anytime fares they could have made the first 2 on aircraft left and first 3 rows on aircraft right 15 extra leg room seats that could be self assigned by business select passengers.
    Anytime A list preferred self assigned Exit row seating. This would arm their flights crews with a printed manifest to police the unofficial Thru flight seat swap upgrade people do.
    I think WN gotten to the size where they need to at least eliminate ALL thru flights at their Mega and Large cities.
    Treat these cities like they treat Mainland to Hawaii flights where they have Zero thru flights.
    Nothing worse knowing the inbound flights your jumping on has 10-50 thrus that have all swapped seats then add the bazillion pre boards before group A1-A15 take away all the prime seating you just paid for. It dilutes the hired fare product and has been a 50yr problem when flying WN.
    How do you fix it in the new world?
    Making the first rows assigned business seating would eliminate the biggest scam people pull when flying WN. I call them the “Jetway Jesus fliers “Buy a Wanna Get away fare , skip early bird and boarding group upgrades when you can just ask for pre boarding and skip the entire line. Sure you can’t sit in that exit row but hey you have first dibs at 98% of the other prime seats.

    Bigger over head bins are fine But stop letting your lowest ticketed person be a BIN HOG!
    Wanna get away you get 1 small personal item everything else must be checked with the 2 free baggage allowance. This would drastically speed up boarding because the last group of Passengers wouldn’t have any carry on luggage and spend 15 mins swimming up stream looking for that last open bin. Or the last person in sitting up from in row one walking all the way back to the last row to stow his back causing the same bottle neck at deplaning because they almost 99% never wait until it’s clear to swim against the stream to get that bag.

    1. Pre-boarding is a major problem at WN. 10 of them are wheel-chaired on board, but when you get off board, 9 of them magically can walk all the way from the jet to the parking lot.

      1. I just encountered this yesterday flying WN, gate agent said we had 15 passengers who needed wheel chairs and kept calling for them as only 5 actually showed up, the rest of preboard just walked right on the plane.

      1. Obviously with virtually all the seats the same, as far front as possible in a window or aisle seat. Quick deplane & usually the friendliest FA goes up there for Business Select/AList, though not always. I guess if you need to put something under your seat or get lucky, the front row is prime, but it’s rare that they are open due to pre-boards. Exit row as you mentioned.

  18. I really don’t understand the cult following that many people seem to have behind Southwest. I can understand why people like the flexibility in bags but beyond that, the idea that this airline stands out from the competition is laughable. While a step in the right direction, this product investment does little to fix the issue that Southwest offers the consumer neither the low fares of a budget airline nor the product to justify the legacy-level fares it charges.

    The press release trumpets the introduction of “the Next Generation Customer Experience” while adding mostly what has been standard in the current generation on every non-ULCC for the past decade. I don’t see a reason to fly Southwest on any trip over 1000 miles when I could book a comparable fare with a US3/AS/B6 and get USB or AC power (today-not 5-7 years from now), assigned seating so flight attendants aren’t refereeing a game of musical chairs (and so I don’t have to fight to check in exactly at the 24 hour mark), the ability to pay for extra legroom and be guaranteed I’ll actually get what I paid for (instead of indirectly doing so by paying for early bird check in and still getting boarding positions in the Bs or paying for business select and then boarding a continuation of direct flight with all bulkhead/exit row seats taken), and flexibility with interline agreements in the event of IRROPS.

    1. For the average flier who will never have status with one of the big 3 and who’s employer will never (ever) pop for first class, Southwest is awesome. Not only does it tend to have pleasant crews and it doesn’t charge for checked baggage, but it also offers one of the roomiest standard seat pitches out there. And, you’re not going to get stuck on an RJ if you’re flying to a not-so-huge market (though AA and UA could well stick you on one going to bigger non-hub cities too). So there’s a lot to like about them

      At my last job, we booked via our company’s SWABIZ account, so I flew them a lot. Nowadays, I’m in a different position and flying with United all the time so it’s been a couple of years since I took a WN flight…..though that last one (SJO-HOU) was quite nice.

  19. Recently I flew SW from Honolulu to Oregon. The long-distance flight was on a -8 and was very comfortable – since I never pay for First Class and am at the tin-can level of status for everyone else, the distinction of SW not having one is nothing to me. Their idea of having power at the gates and not on the planes failed badly, especially at Oakland and Eugene (my stops) with the paltry amount of places with power filling up fast with people waiting for their flight. So this development of power onboard, whichever way they want to do it, is a good thing.

    As for the other elements, I can’t say that it’s all that impressive. It will be nicer to see more selection of movies, but on its longest flights – about 6 hours – you’re going to get to watch one full, and maybe 2 if you watch it right to the time you are at the arrival gate. Maybe having a more robust selection of recent releases would help, especially for those like me who catch these movies on flights and not at the movie theater.

    One improvement that SW could make is in the category of offloading bags. they take a long time to get a bag from the hold to the baggage claim. While I can see the “labor shortage” is an issue, their moniker of being an airline that moves its tail (talk about 30+mph taxi speed on the tarmac) this is a service that could be better handled.

  20. This appears to me to be Southwest understanding reality.

    Myth: Southwest is a low fare airline.

    Reality: Their fares are NOT low. In many areas they are even higher than the legacies.

    Southwest acts like since we are the low fare king, people won’t mind that our product is not as good. But when you charge fares and have costs easily on par with the legacies, but your service levels are similar to ULCCs, eventually the reality will overcome the myth.

    With a change at the top, Southwest is finally getting it that their fares can’t match the taxicabs of the ULCCs, so they better have service to sell for the difference.

  21. I don’t see anything on here from anyone on when WN will add true redeye flights. Over the years I’ve heard it’s related to computer issues and/or labor contract issues. And yes, I know there are flights that arrive at their destination past midnight. But what I’m referring to are flights that leave at night (say between 9 PM and midnight) and arrive the next morning. While there are certainly many flyers that dislike redeye flights, there are also many that like them or require them for one reason or another. I wonder if WN will ever add them or not.

  22. In spite of the lack of power outlets, high-speed wi-fi, and seatback TVs, Southwest is one of the most profitable airlines in the U.S. How can that be?

  23. Just a friendly reminder for all the Southwest haters that emerged, like drunken termites, from the woodwork in response to today’s blog: Yesterday, J.D. Powers once again named Southwest number 1 among all carriers for Coach-class service.

    1. I don’t see anybody hating on Southwest but I do see people realistically noting the differences between airlines. WN doesn’t offer premium cabins or lounge s and doesn’t fly long haul international or serve scores of cities that global carriers serve even domestically. Its on time is middle of the pack and the difference in seat pitch compared to the global carriers is typically one inch out of 30. The total average pitch including extra legroom economy and first makes average pitch less on Southwest. They run a good business but they are first and foremost a marketing company

  24. Technically, it seems to me that going with USB makes sense, since AC outlets require an inverter to take DC power to AC only to, in virtually all cases, be converted right back to DC by the heavy laptop or phone power bricks. Might as well just stick with DC. USB-C is now widely used on laptops, tablets, and phones; I use a USB-C to lightning cable as my main iPhone charger even though iPhones don’t have USB-C ports.

    My main concern is that way too many USB-A ports on airplanes are so loose from wear that the USB cable won’t stay in. (Though I also have that problem with power bricks in the AC outlet; a non-North America plug is often more secure since the North America plugs get the most wear on North American planes even though the outlets on most airlines are multi-national ones that can take any plug shape. But I think trouble with loose plugs is worse for USB than AC power plugs.)

  25. The one big customer improvement that I don’t see is the ability to choose multiple airports in the booking engine for their multi-city markets like all other airlines do.

  26. Here’s one thing about Southwest that I’ll never forget. When I was a CSA for Comair (OH), I was still a Rapid Rewards member & I had flown them a lot for my previous job. So, when my birthday rolled around, they sent me a birthday card. My leads & supervisors at CVG just rolled their eyes when I showed it to them!

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