Southwest Airlines Will Begin Offering Seat Power, Fast Internet

I like Southwest Airlines because they generally provide the product that they advertise, and because their employees don’t seem to hate their jobs. But I don’t want to take them on a longer flight. They’re working on better internet, but for now there’s a real risk that my productivity will drop markedly inflight (like United but in contrast to American or Delta).

They offer more legroom in coach than competitors, but there’s no seat back entertainment and no seat power. The lack of power for your devices is a big deal on connecting itineraries and longer flights, such as Southwest’s service to Hawaii.

Fortunately lack of seat power is something that’s about to begin to change. Southwest is adding seat back USB charging ports to its standard seats, but I’d be surprised to see this on the bulk of their fleet for a long time. Still no standard power ports, but it’s not just phones that can accept USB charging. Many laptops now can, too.

Southwest has also selected ViaSat to provide internet for its new delivery aircraft That’s what American Airlines uses, and Delta has moved to. In the meantime they’ve swapped out the hardware from their existing internet provider on 40 of their Boeing 737s to improve internet speeds, and they’ve been testing free wifi on those aircraft. Half of Southwest’s fleet is expected to have the new hardware for faster internet by the end of the year.

Ten years ago I predicted that inflight wifi would be free in 10 years. That’s been true only on a limited basis, perhaps slowed by the pandemic. The other half of my prediction – that always seemed less likely – turned out mostly wrong, that we’d eventually see bag fees eliminated. At least Southwest hasn’t added those!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not so useful for any traveler practicing the security hygiene of avoiding public USB ports. Many businesses write this into their corporate device policy.

    Electrical issues could also mean the port bricks your device. It’s happened before on other airlines.

  2. Too many people think every USB port is the same in terms of power. Bet those “C” ports won’t deliver what’s needed for a full-bore laptop.

  3. They are 60W USB-C ports which will power the vast majority of laptops. Larger laptops won’t charge at their fastest possible speed, but that’s hardly a concern. The only laptops that won’t charge at all are ultra heavy duty gaming rigs that would not fit on the tray table to begin with.

  4. Kudos that it’s both A & C USB format receptacles! 60W will keep even high end laptops running.

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