Stories by JL Johnson

Managing Correspondent - Lee's Summit, MO. JL joined AirlineReporter in 2012 and has since become one of our most tenured and prolific writers. His passions include catalyzing AvGeek passion in others, spending too much time on Twitter, and frequent travel. While he's always looking for the next big adventure, home is with his growing AvGeek family in Lee’s Summit, MO, a suburb of Kansas City. Email: [email protected]

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Pick a seat, any seat. Don't like it? Pick another. - Photo: Southwest Airlines

Last month Southwest Airlines announced three updates to their Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program. Typically when travel and hospitality rewards programs are updated, it results in a net-negative for consumers. These changes, however, are more of a mixed bag. The updates have also resulted in some confusion. Following the announcement, I received a handful of notes from folks asking for further explanation. It seems that when it comes to Southwest, I’m The Points G… Um, I guess we’ll go with Guru? [Editor: We also considered Gangsta, Gentlemen, Gladiator, Gossiper, Goat, Grumbler, Grizzly, and our favorite Geezer] 

Let’s explore the changes together…

An Assortment of Global Eagle Radomes atop Southwest Airlines Planes. - Photos: JL Johnson

We last looked at the Southwest Airlines BYOD in-flight entertainment (IFE) package back in 2014. At the time, the offering deserved every bit of praise given. But over the past nearly six years, the IFE space has changed a great deal. As a continued frequent Southwest Airlines flyer, when I use their IFE (and in-flight connectivity, IFC) I can’t help but cringe knowing my old review is still out there. Alas, my 2014 piece did not age well, on many fronts.

So let’s set the record straight: How have Southwest’s offerings withstood the test of time?

Southwest Airlines BYOD IFE: In-Flight Connectivity

This piece deals primarily with IFE (in-flight entertainment). Mostly because I have found Global Eagle (the airline’s vendor) to be completely inept at delivering a reliable data connection at usable speeds. The only reason I mention the usability of the connection today is that my earlier piece offered it high praise. That documented and very public accolade is something I regret each time I waste $8 on a near-useless all-day flight pass.

Why is the inflight connectivity so bad? Is Global Eagle really as poorly run as I choose to believe they are? Or, perhaps it’s because Southwest’s top-tier elites receive free internet access, and I typically fly on elite-heavy flights. Of course, complimentary services which rely on data (more on those later) contribute to congestion. The only advice I can offer friends, family, and AR readers alike is this: Do not bother.

In Southwest’s defense, they routinely say they are working to better manage their vendor. In late 2018, they suggested that GEE had increased bandwidth allocation by more than seven times. Problem is, the results just aren’t there, in my experience. Even if improvements have been made, the airline’s decision to give away slices of the small bandwidth pie certainly does not help.

A4A Member Airlines. Note Delta's absence. Image: - airlines.org

Airlines are AWESOME! They enable travel at a rate faster and cheaper than at any point in human history, and at an uncompromising level of safety. They enable business and connect us with the world in ways which, just a few generations ago, would have been considered impossible. For some of us, airlines sustain our relationships. AirlineReporter exists because of our collective passion for airlines, travel, and aviation. But being a fan of any particular industry comes with some risk.

Sometimes good companies and organizations do bad things. And when that occurs, it’s important to first understand what’s happened, and then take action. In a civilized society, we do our best to look past minor disagreements and remain focused on the big picture. But what about egregiously misleading marketing? How does someone who loves the airline industry declare mutiny on one of their trade groups? For months we’ve pondered this question and have struggled in an identity crisis as a result. So we will do what we do best… we’ll cover this conundrum from a unique perspective.

#StopAirTaxNow! Have you seen these ads around social media? In today’s crazy political environment, it’s just another call-to-action marketing campaign. You know the routine: Trigger folks at the mention of taxes, urge them to phone their elected officials, pick up their pitchforks, and maybe start a revolution. Overreaction? Possibly. But these things are a slippery slope. What sets this campaign apart is that it is funded by airlines we all know and rely on (and sometimes love).

Let’s dig in…