As part of an $800 million modernization effort, Southwest Airlines is getting rid of its paper tickets and pneumatic tubes to send messages at airports.
The airline has invested nearly $300 million to update its airport ramps and other operations, and is now putting up another $500 million to modernize its reservation system, marking the biggest tech update in its 45 year history. The update comes after numerous other improvements in the past five years—according to Bloomberg, Southwest (luv) has acquired another airline, begun flying later planes, started overseas flights, built international terminals, and expanded service in Dallas, its home airfield—making these updates even more critical.
"We’re looking for minutes,” Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told Bloomberg. “How do I save a minute here, a minute there? In 2017, we are more deliberate in our continuous improvement efforts.”
According to Bloomberg, the new reservation system will allow the airline to accept foreign money for the first time, recover more quickly from storms, and give it more control over price changes and schedules. Tarmac workers and mechanics will also receive new tablets to get information in "real time"—something they hope will speed up how fast they can de-board and re-board passengers.
Pneumatic tubes, which are used to carry notes in canisters about luggage to workers who calculate jet weight and balance, will no longer be used as well. That information is slated to be sent electronically, Bloomberg reports.
Customers will also be impacted by the updates. The new reservation system means Southwest is getting rid of paper tickets for good, making electronic tickets the only option from here on out.
The updates begin in 2017, but run through 2020, according to Bloomberg. They are expected to increase earning by $100 million in a year.