Southwest Airlines is upgrading the in-flight connectivity service and adding new USB power ports to the seats of its aircraft. (Photo, courtesy of Southwest Airlines)
Southwest Airlines has announced a new $2 billion investment into its current and future all-Boeing 737 fleet that includes upgrades to Anuvu's next generation in-flight connectivity (IFC) network on some of its in-service aircraft, while all new orders will be equipped with Viasat's Ka-band IFC service.
According a May 11 announcement from Southwest, starting in the fall, Viasat's satellite antennas, modems, wireless access points, and other IFC enabling hardware and software will be factory installed on all new aircraft deliveries. Southwest's 2021 annual report, published in February, shows that the Dallas, Texas-based low cost carrier has firm 394 outstanding orders for the 737 MAX 7 and MAX 8 aircraft.
The Viasat installations will enable both IFC and live television services.
“We're investing in our onboard connectivity and bandwidth available to each Customer with upgraded technology that's now installing across our existing fleet, a strategy to diversify our WiFi vendors on upcoming aircraft deliveries, and plugging Southwest customers into in-seat power to keep them charged while in the air,” Ryan Green, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Southwest Airlines, said in a statement.
Southwest has become Viasat’s latest in a series of airline in-flight Wi-Fi wins, after the company signed Delta Air Lines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines last year, and new low-cost airline Breeze Airways in March.
"We admire Southwest Airlines’ deeply customer-centric vision. The overall passenger experience is enhanced by delivering connectivity inflight that is the same as the on the ground experience, from streaming your favorite video content to live television and accessing other internet-based applications during all phases of flight," Don Buchman, Viasat's vice president and general manager of commercial aviation, said in a statement. "We look forward to being a part of Southwest’s commitment to continually upping the bar."
A Southwest Airlines 737 sits inside their new hangar in Houston, Texas. (Photo, courtesy of Southwest Airlines)
While Viasat's Ka-band IFC will be added to the 737s Southwest has on order starting later this year, the airline will also be upgrading equipment on some of its existing fleet with "longstanding connectivity provider Anuvu's latest-generation hardware capable of providing a significant improvement in speed and bandwidth up to 10 times the current hardware onboard." Under a partnership with high throughput satellite manufacturer Astranis announced last year, Anuvu is launching a new constellation of “microGEO” satellites, with the first two of the total eight planned for the constellation scheduled to be launched early next year.
Plans are for the Anuvu latest-generation hardware to be onboard 50 in-service aircraft by the end of May, with a projected 350 aircraft upgraded by the end of October, according to Southwest.
Viasat will become the third IFC service provider to partner with Southwest, as the airline currently features both Anuvu and Panasonic Avionics connectivity onboard.
In addition to the IFC upgrades, Southwest plans to install the "latest-generation onboard USB A and USB C power ports" to every 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet beginning in early 2023.
"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," Tony Roach, Vice President of Customer Experience and Customer Relations said in a statement. "With so much that our Customers love about doing business with Southwest, we're constantly listening to our Employees and our Customers for improvement opportunities, and we're excited to share some additional news and updates on this ongoing work."