11 ways in which Southwest is making an attempt to enhance the journey expertise in 2023

Southwest Airways has some lofty objectives for 2023.

From a rearranged boarding course of to upgraded Wi-Fi connectivity, the Southwest journey expertise might be getting some large updates within the coming months. The Dallas-based airline shared a slew of updates at a latest media occasion at its headquarters, and TPG was invited to study extra about what’s coming for Southwest flyers.

Executives detailed what passengers can anticipate to see within the coming months — and there’s a lot to get enthusiastic about. Here is the newest.

Previous routes earlier than new ones

When the pandemic hit, Southwest, like a lot of the aviation trade, went into disaster mode. The airline lower a lot of its routes and parked a bit of its fleet.

Greater than two years later, demand has lastly come roaring again. The airline has largely recovered to pre-pandemic operational ranges, however there are nonetheless some routes, primarily longer home ones, that have not but returned to the schedule.


Subsequent yr, the airline goes to proceed to concentrate on rebuilding its community, Andrew Watterson, Southwest’s chief working officer, instructed reporters, with a aim of bringing most pre-pandemic routes again by the third quarter of 2023.

Whereas Southwest added about 18 pins to its route map through the pandemic, the airline is not planning one other blockbuster yr of latest cities. That progress was opportunistic, stated CEO Bob Jordan, who shared that many of those new cities have been already into account earlier than the pandemic.

For subsequent yr, Southwest is basically centered on resumptions, which ought to hopefully imply extra nonstop flights in your market.

Community depth over new cities

Along with restoring connectivity, the airline may also be sure that it brings again frequencies in current markets.

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For instance, some routes do not at the moment have sufficient service for a enterprise traveler to do a day journey leaving within the morning and returning at night time. That is one thing that Watterson and the community group are working to deal with because the airline totally recovers.

Southwest plans to convey again all of its pre-pandemic frequencies in current markets, which is able to hopefully assist the airline win the enterprise of a few of its prospects which can be reserving primarily based on time and schedule.

Higher Wi-Fi is right here

Lately, one of many largest complaints from Southwest frequent flyers has been the reliability of inflight Wi-Fi.

The airline is effectively conscious of the issue, stated Tony Roach, Southwest’s vice chairman of buyer expertise and engagement. He reiterated that the airline plans to improve its complete fleet of Boeing 737 with higher Wi-Fi entry.

Current planes will proceed to be outfitted with Anuvu (previously World Eagle) connectivity, however items of the {hardware}, together with the wi-fi entry factors, might be upgraded to ship extra bandwidth and decrease latency.

Up to now, 260 plane has been upgraded, and the airline plans to have 350 executed by the tip of January. Fleet-wide completion is anticipated earlier than the third quarter of 2023. Roach famous that the upgraded programs are already delivering noticeably higher efficiency and reliability.

Along with upgrading the present supplier, Southwest will debut Viasat connectivity on its newly delivered Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane starting within the first quarter. Viasat has traditionally supplied one in every of, if not the, most dependable inflight web connections, so vacationers ought to get enthusiastic about this new supplier.

Wi-Fi will stay priced at $8 a day, Roach stated, however the airline is engaged on find out how to combine each suppliers into its flat, all-day pricing.

Requested about whether or not Wi-Fi will finally be free, Roach talked about that the upgraded programs may theoretically assist free web entry, however Southwest would want to buy extra bandwidth to make that occur. (The airline trialed a free Wi-Fi take a look at this summer time to study extra in regards to the system’s capabilities.)

Energy ports are coming

Southwest’s historical past of working shorter home routes implies that the provider hasn’t essentially innovated within the passenger expertise.

Lately, nevertheless, the airline has been flying longer and longer missions, together with new and expanded service to Hawaii from varied cities within the West, equivalent to Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles.


These flights routinely take over 5 hours, and Southwest is addressing a giant ache level of those longer-haul missions with the addition of energy ports.


There will be USB-C and -A ports behind every seat, which might be able to offering as much as 60 Watts of energy. There will not be any 110V common energy shops, since these would add an excessive amount of weight to the airplane, Roach stated.


Energy ports might be obtainable on new 737 MAX 8 fashions as of June 2023, adopted by a bigger retrofit after the brand new deliveries are full.

New overhead bins and seats

Gate-checking your bag will (hopefully) occur much less often on future Southwest flights.

That is because of new, bigger overhead bins which can be debuting on new MAX 8 plane subsequent yr. These bins can accommodate as much as six standard-size rollaboards, in the event that they’re organized on their sides, versus on their backs.


Together with the brand new bins, Southwest will set up its next-generation seats on these planes. They’re decked out in a blue leather-like materials, they usually characteristic adjustable headrests that wing for additional neck assist.

There is a literature and storage pocket behind every seat, together with a standard-size tray desk. Pitch will measure 32 inches.


Southwest publicly demoed the brand new cabin mockup for the primary time through the media day occasion, and TPG’s Summer time Hull was fairly impressed with the format. It will not be probably the most snug seat for a six-hour flight, but it surely ought to do the trick for many flyers.

A redesigned household boarding

Southwest does boarding in a different way. There are not any assigned seats, and passengers are as an alternative boarded by place quantity. As soon as onboard, you possibly can select any open seat.

This may be fairly irritating for households who is perhaps anxious about discovering seats collectively. Traditionally, Southwest has supplied household boarding after all of the flyers within the A bunch have gone onto the airplane.


There are 60 boarding positions inside the A bunch, so sitting collectively as a household might be a problem on busy flights.

Within the coming weeks, the airline will trial a revamped household boarding program that enables two adults and kids baby six years outdated or youthful to board earlier than the A bunch. In trade for skipping the boarding queue, households might want to sit behind the airplane.

Relying on the end result of the trial, Southwest could contemplate rolling out this alteration extra broadly.

Flip occasions are extra vital than ever

When Southwest was based again in 1971, the airline was well-known for its 10-minute turns. The airline would deplane one flight and board the subsequent one in 10 minutes, permitting the provider to fly a ton of frequencies on any given day.

New regulatory necessities, weight and steadiness paperwork and bigger airplanes have all precipitated the flip time to extend, in keeping with Watterson, however the airline remains to be laser-focused on minimizing the variety of minutes it takes to deplane and board.


If it may shave off only a few extra minutes from every flip, the airline may be capable to add another frequency for every given plane. That may translate into far more income with out including too many prices, since most of them are mounted anyway, Watterson stated.

Initiatives like digitalizing the pre-departure paperwork and enhancing the signage within the gate space are two ways in which Southwest plans to reduce flip time in 2023 and past.

Count on extra ‘golden hours’ flights

As Southwest provides extra frequencies to its community, anticipate to see extra flights throughout “golden hours,” in keeping with Watterson.


These flights, which usually function between 7 a.m. and seven p.m., are (maybe unsurprisingly) the most well-liked. Minimizing flip time so as to add another flight through the daylight is of the utmost significance, he confused.

Flexibility is right here to remain

Lately, Southwest has traditionally had probably the most versatile ticket insurance policies.

The entire airline’s fares could be modified or canceled as much as 10 minutes earlier than departure with out incurring any extra charges, aside from a attainable fare distinction. Distinction that to the legacy U.S. airways which used to tack on a $200 (or extra) change payment, and also you’d save large cash when modifying journeys with Southwest.

Throughout the pandemic, most main U.S. airways matched Southwest and completely dropped change charges, however Southwest did not relaxation on its laurels. The airline introduced in June that flight credit would by no means expire, and it even not too long ago launched a brand new fare product, dubbed Wanna Get Away Plus, that lets you switch flight credit score to a different individual.

Southwest executives reiterated that this flexibility is right here to remain in 2023 and past. The aim of those insurance policies, Jordan stated, is to drive repeat enterprise.

Fixing frustrations

Southwest’s expertise hasn’t at all times been probably the most strong, but it surely’s getting higher.

Just lately, the provider debuted the power so as to add a lap toddler on its web site, one thing that beforehand required a go to to a full-service check-in counter. Digitalizing this performance saves households tons of time and permits them to verify in on-line and bypass the airport desk.


Moreover, the airline is now promoting upgraded A1-A15 boarding positions immediately in its cell app. This ancillary payment, which ranges from $30 to $60 relying on flight distance, was beforehand solely collected inside an hour of departure on the airport.

These are simply the 2 newest examples of ways in which the airline is digitalizing the journey expertise. Executives talked about that extra initiatives are underway, however they did not reveal any particulars simply but.

New airport infrastructure

This yr, the airline unveiled renovated and expanded operations in two key markets, Denver and Phoenix.

Executives touted these initiatives as being key to progress, particularly in Denver the place Southwest will now have entry to 40 gates because it competes fiercely with United there.


Trying forward, Southwest is worked up in regards to the new terminal opening in Kansas Metropolis, the place it is working with native officers to customise the design for its operational wants. Count on that facility to open in February or March of 2023.

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