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Southwest Airlines said it will spend more than $2 billion on improved passenger amenities like bigger overhead bins, faster internet and power outlets “in every seat,” in an effort to woo travelers as bookings rebound.
The airline also plans to double the number of movies it offers travelers and to update its drink options on board to include bloody mary mix, ready-to-drink cocktails, hard seltzer and rose wine.
The changes come as airlines gear up for a recovery in both leisure and business travel after more than two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
United Airlines, for example, announced last year a host of cabin upgrades like new seatback screens and entertainment systems. It, too, is preparing cabins for larger overhead bins. Delta Air Lines is installing new seats for domestic first class and has said it aims to offer free internet in the future. And Hawaiian Airlines plans to offer complimentary Wi-Fi through SpaceX’s Starlink service as early as next year.
Southwest’s $2 billion investment will span five years and is part of an estimated capital expenditure of $3.5 billion per year on average through 2026, as announced in December. The changes are geared toward all customers, but Southwest has recently increased its efforts to sell to business travelers.
The airline in March announced a new, second-cheapest fare option for travelers willing to pay more for more flexibility. Last week, it told staff it will temporarily offer travelers free Wi-Fi on some flights as it tests new hardware that aims to bring higher speeds to more passengers, CNBC reported.
The carrier also said it recently entered into an agreement with satellite internet provider Viasat for in-flight connectivity as early as this fall, starting with new deliveries of 737 Max planes. Southwest offers internet for $8 a day and doesn’t currently have plans to make the access free beyond the hardware test.
Southwest, which has a fleet of more than 700 Boeing 737s, estimates it will have in-seat power, something it currently doesn’t offer, on about 250 planes by the end of 2023. The power outlets will be available starting early next year on Max planes and feature USB A and USB C power ports.