Southwest Invests in Faster Internet, Point of Sale and Hanging Bins

DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines will spend more than $2 billion to improve the flight experience for passengers, promising faster…

DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines will spend more than $2 billion to improve the flight experience for passengers, promising faster internet service, power outlets at every seat on new planes and larger overhead bins for baggage by hand.

The airline also said Wednesday that later this month it plans to roll out a previously announced fourth fare category, designed to fill a gap between Southwest’s cheapest fares and its mid-priced ticket, which features benefits such as loyalty points.

Southwest has always offered fewer amenities than its larger rivals, right down to its lack of assigned seating and first-class cabins. The simpler approach is helping Southwest cut costs, but Wednesday’s announcement signals it wants to stay competitive when it comes to passenger comfort.

The airline said the cost of the improvements was included in the five-year spending targets it disclosed in December. The improvements will increase per-seat costs by a “low single digit” percentage, the Dallas carrier said.

Southwest said it is installing faster internet service on current planes as part of a deal with aviation technology company Anuvu. Southwest has tested the hardware on some flights and plans to install it on 350 planes, or about half of its fleet, by the end of October.

The airline plans to install power outlets at every seat starting with the new Boeing 737 Max jets which will be delivered early next year. The promised larger upper ferries will also await the arrival of new aircraft.

Southwest said that by the end of the summer, improved technology will allow passengers to purchase boarding slots earlier on their mobile devices without visiting a gate agent.

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