Southwest is changing its in-flight experiences: 5 things coming this year and next

·3 min read

Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of the story misidentified the model of Boeing aircraft first in line for charging ports in seats.

Your next Southwest Airlines flight may feel a little different.

The Texas-based airline announced several new changes Wednesday, the same day it was named best airline for economy and basic economy service in the J.D. Power 2022 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.

"You can never stop working to get better, and as our beloved Founder Herb (Kelleher) famously said, ‘If you rest on your laurels, you'll get a thorn in your butt!'" Southwest CEO Bob Jordan in a press release on plans to "modernize and enhance the Southwest experience."

Here are five changes coming to Southwest starting this summer and into next year.

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Southwest will begin introducing USB power portals to every seat starting early next year.
Southwest will begin introducing USB power portals to every seat starting early next year.

1. In-seat USB chargers

Southwest will begin adding USB-A and USB-C power ports to every seatback, starting with 737 MAX aircraft early next year.

"The ability to keep your devices charged while you are connected inflight is a request that we've heard consistently in ongoing conversations with our Customers," Southwest's Vice President of Customer Experience and Customer Relations Tony Roach, said in a statement.

The airline says the power systems are designed to avoid compromising legroom.

2. Expanded in-flight entertainment

Southwest is doubling the number of movies available in its free in-flight entertainment portal this year.

Movies, live and on-demand TV, music and texting via iMessage and WhatsApp are all free on Southwest flights.

Later this month, the airline will also introduce an improved flight tracker with "3D and cockpit views."

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3. Stronger Wi-Fi

Hardware upgrades are expected to "immediately double our current bandwidth" on some aircraft and "provide the capability of up to 10X our current bandwidth" on 350 planes by the end of October.

Existing aircraft will continue to be served by Anuvu, but Viasat will provide internet and live TV service to new aircraft starting this fall.

Wi-Fi service costs $8 per day per device on Southwest.

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Larger overhead storage bins will be available on new Southwest aircraft starting in 2023.
Larger overhead storage bins will be available on new Southwest aircraft starting in 2023.

4. More overhead bin space

Beginning early next year, new aircraft will feature larger overhead storage bins for carry-on luggage.

Southwest will continue to allow passengers to check-in up to two bags for free.

5. New alcohol options

Rosé, hard seltzer and more alcoholic options will join Southwest's in-flight beverage selection starting in September.

That's just in time for passengers who may have hung onto free drink coupons that expired earlier in the pandemic, when alcohol was not being served. Those vouchers are being honored through the end of this year.

Other changes pre-flight

Southwest also announced a major change for parents and caretakers of young children. Currently, lap children can't be designated until customers check into their flights at self-service kiosks or full-service desks at the airport. Starting later this year, customers will be able to do that when booking their reservations.

Also later this year, customers will be able to purchase upgraded A1 to A15 boarding priority for themselves and others in their party through Southwest's mobile app up to 24 hours before departure, when available. Southwest does not assign seats, so the sooner passengers board, the wider their seating options.

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Southwest is introducing several new features for travelers in starting later this year.
Southwest is introducing several new features for travelers in starting later this year.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Southwest Airlines flight experiences are about to change. Here's how.