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Southwest Airlines said it will spend more than $2 billion to improve passenger amenities, such as larger luggage racks, faster internet and “every seat” outlets, to attract travelers as bookings grow.
The airline also plans to double the number of films offered to travelers and upgrade its on-board beverage offering to include Bloody Marys, ready-to-drink cocktails, strong seltzer and rosé wine.
The changes come as airlines prepare for the resumption of both leisure and business travel after more than two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
United Airlines, for example, announced a slew of cabin upgrades last year, such as new seatback screens and entertainment systems. He also prepares cabins for large luggage racks. Delta Air Lines is establishing new domestic first class seats and has said it intends to offer free internet access in the future. And Hawaiian Airlines plans to offer free Wi-Fi through SpaceX’s Starlink service as early as next year.
Southwest’s $2 billion investment spans five years and is part of an estimated $3.5 billion a year capital expenditure averaging through 2026, it was announced in December. The changes apply to all customers, but Southwest has recently stepped up its efforts to sell services to business travelers.
In March, the airline announced a new, second-lowest fare for travelers willing to pay more for more flexibility. The company told staff last week that it will temporarily offer travelers free Wi-Fi on select flights as it tests new equipment designed to provide faster speeds for 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 aircraft. Southwest offers internet access for $8 a day and does not currently have plans to make access free after testing the hardware.
Southwest, which has a fleet of more than 700 Boeing 737s, believes it will have power in the seat by the end of 2023, something it doesn’t currently offer, on about 250 aircraft. Power sockets will be available from the beginning of next year. on Max aircraft and have USB A and USB C power ports.