Not since the demise of Aloha Airlines has Hawaii enjoyed robust competition in our air travel market. Yet, despite their smart route growth, I hesitate to fly Southwest across the pacific. That could change in the future, though, as Southwest is finally adding in-seat power!
Southwest has done much to muscle its way into the Hawaii market. Much to the delight of many island residents, they even compete directly with Hawaiian on many of its flagship routes, such as to Las Vegas. However, it doesn’t look like many locals are flying Southwest yet. Heck, I only use them for flights within Hawaii. While it’s difficult to say why this is across the board, one of my primary reasons is the lack of in-seat power. That, however, is going to change soon. Sort of.
Southwest is Finally Adding In-Seat Power!
First, let’s go over the good news – Southwest is adding in-seat power to every single seat. This power comes in the form of both a USB-A and USB-C port built into the seatback. Unfortunately, no standard power outlets will be available. Further, while I’ve heard rumors that the USB-C ports will output 60w of power, I couldn’t find any concrete specifications.
Now, the bad news. Southwest’s announcement makes it sound as if the power will only be added to Boeing 737 MAX aircraft being delivered from 2023 onward. That means none of the Boeing 737 NG fleets will be retrofitted, while we don’t yet know if older MAXs will get the ports either. It makes sense to omit the NGs, as they’re eventually going to leave the fleet. However, this means that the vast majority of Southwest’s jets won’t have in-seat power for a long time. Worse, if Southwest chooses not to retrofit existing MAX aircraft, it’ll make it more difficult to tell whether you’ll have in-seat power or not. Plus, there’s the fact that a bunch of MAXs was already incorporated into their ETOPS subfleet for Hawaii ops. Does this mean we won’t see in-seat power? Only time will tell.
In case you’re wondering, Southwest currently has 453 Boeing 737-700s, 207 737-800s, and 74 737 MAX 8s. As newer MAXs enter the fleet, Southwest plans to retire its older NGs. Currently, the Airline has outstanding orders for 238 MAX 7s and 206 MAX 8s. That’s not enough MAXs to replace all NGs one-for-one. So it’s safe to assume we’ll see a good deal of NGs flying around for some time still.
The addition of in-seat power is a major development for Southwest. It’s something they should’ve done before launching Hawaii ops, as these are their longest flights and they don’t offer seatback entertainment. Hell, even Hawaiian offers in-seat USB power on all of its trans-Pacific aircraft. But, late is better than never. That said, it’s still too early to tell if we’ll even see these jets flying to Hawaii.