Kudos to Southwest Airlines for finally announcing that it would install in-seat power onboard its massive fleet of Boeing 737 MAX jets. But you really should temper expectations, as the installation process will be gradual and there will only be USB power available. That strikes me as a great missed opportunity for a carrier that has “matured” beyond its low-cost roots in the U.S. market.
Half-Hearted: Southwest Airlines Will Add In-Seat USB Power Ports To Some 737 Aircraft
This is big news. So much so that I first heard of Southwest’s announcement from Jack Spear during NPR’s hourly news update last night (I can’t ever recall hearing an industry announcement like that on NPR News before…).
By the end of 2023, Southwest plans to offer USB power on 250 Boeing 737 MAXs. Ports will include both USB-A and USB-C and be located on the seatback. The first 737 MAX delivery with this in-seat power will not occur until early 2023. Southwest’s non MAX aircraft are not slated to be retrofitted.
A few thoughts:
- Without disparaging this very good news, why would Southwest Airlines not go all the way and add AC power ports? Surely it cannot be that much more expensive during an initial seat installation or retrofit?
- A traveler flying from Baltimore to Maui with a quick connection in San Diego is not going to have time to charge and without a very modern and efficient laptop, will find it dead well before reaching Maui (and perhaps before even reaching San Diego)
- Southwest is not just a leisure budget carrier, but an often pricey airline that appeals to business travelers across the country for its general reliability, cheerful service onboard, and expanded route map
- While many computers now offer USB-C charging, it remains to be seen whether those ports will be able to actually charge the computer, help it avoid losing battery power but not charge, or be of little help at all (most laptops take a lot more juice to power than a mobile phone)
- It will be more than a year before we really start to see this rollout, so the announcement strikes me as premature
- Southwest’s decision not to add power to its older subfleet of non-MAX jets is not without reason, but will create an inconsistent experience, which may end up undermining customer satisfaction
Just like with any airline, I would never rely upon their power to charge your device. While it is nice when it works, I always bring a back-up charging brick along that can charge both my laptop and phone.
Southwest also announced it would improve internet speeds onboard by upgrading existing equipment. Expect expanded bandwidth with new hardware from Anuvu and greater speeds with Viasat. This is particularly important considering Southwest Airlines does not have seatback monitors on any of its planes.
Southwest Airlines will be slowly adding seatback power to its 737 MAX feet, but only USB A and C ports. While I applaud the move from Southwest to add power (and increase wi-fi speeds), I do view this as a half-hearted approach for the “LUV” airline and a great missed opportunity.