Customer Stories / Travel / United States


Southwest Airlines Scales App Development Using AWS Device Farm & Amazon EC2 Mac Instances

Learn how Southwest Airlines accelerated development of new mobile app features using AWS Device Farm and Amazon EC2 Mac Instances.


increase in build speed by using Amazon EC2 Mac Instances


its entire iOS build fleet to Amazon EC2 Mac Instances


the need to manage numerous physical devices


acceleration of test-run speed for new features


cost by finding and fixing errors earlier in the development lifecycle 


Prioritizing efficiency and customer satisfaction, Southwest Airlines (Southwest) has become one of the world’s largest low-cost airlines. Key to meeting those goals is allowing fliers to self-serve on and the mobile app for Apple and Android devices. 

Providing high performance on those solutions is business critical. Southwest tests every update, new feature, and change before deploying it to customers. It also checks that changes to the app do not degrade functionality or performance. 

To scale application development, Southwest migrated its continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline, including Mac computers and mobile devices, from on-premises infrastructure to Amazon Web Services (AWS) using GitLab. Now, developers can test applications and improve user experience on virtually any device or operating system that customers might use.

Southwest-Devicefarm architecture diagram

Opportunity | Using AWS Device Farm to Automate the App Testing Process for Southwest

Southwest flies 130 million passengers a year to 120 airports in 11 countries. Facilitating a great travel experience for such a high number of customers is challenging. That is why Southwest focuses on efficient operations and self-service options. Today, its fliers can use both the desktop and mobile applications to book, change, and cancel flight, car, and hotel reservations and upgrade boarding. Soon, they will be able to track their bags and receive more real-time travel updates. Customers are increasingly using self-service.

Expanding the functionality of Southwest’s applications means likewise scaling their release process. Previously, testing had to be manually performed on a physical device; the company used numerous smartphones, tablets, and Mac computers to test every application change. Faulty devices often resulted in testing delays caused by waiting for new ones. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic made swapping and procuring devices more difficult.

Southwest needed a solution that would facilitate automated, test-driven development and avoid the handoff of devices between testing teams. It chose AWS Device Farm, an application testing service that organizations use to improve their web and mobile apps by testing them across a range of desktop browsers and real mobile devices without having to provision and manage a testing infrastructure. AWS Device Farm maintains physical devices on behalf of Southwest, automatically confirming that each device is functional and ready for tests on demand. “AWS Device Farm is very user-friendly and easily accessible,” says Sundeep Bobba, cloud and DevOps tech lead on digital platforms.

Southwest began using AWS Device Farm in 2019 and uses it today for test automation across various platforms. From AWS Device Farm, Southwest can use public and private devices with ease. These devices are exclusively for Southwest’s use and provide connectivity to the company’s on-premises environment. AWS Device Farm also generates reports, including screenshot videos that testers can save as documentation.

Although the Southwest team is now using AWS Device Farm devices for manual testing, it is also writing application-performance-monitoring pipelines on GitLab to automate testing on the devices. Using GitLab and AWS Device Farm, teams can share test functions, centralize results, and derive analytics on how to improve their overall testing function as much as possible.

Southwest also paired AWS Device Farm with Appium, an open-source automation tool for running functional tests on devices. That accelerated test-run speed by an average of 7.1 times for new features: 2.3 times for iOS, 2.5 times for Android, 6 times for iPadOS, and 15 times for browsers. The company uses AWS Device Farm to simply scale its automation test workloads of Appium tests to dozens of device types and operating systems and versions of those systems.


The goal is to use AWS Device Farm and Amazon EC2 Mac Instances in our CI/CD pipeline to transition into on-demand releases.” 

Mona Pinjani
Senior Manager of Technology, Southwest Airlines

Solution | Increasing Build Speed by 4x Using Amazon EC2 Mac Instances for Southwest

Southwest did away with its entire fleet of Mac computers by 2021 and now relies on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) Mac Instances, which organizations use to run on-demand macOS workloads in the cloud. “There was huge applause when we achieved that, because we can now run and manage builds on demand,” says Bobba. Now, the Southwest team can automatically provision Amazon EC2 Mac Instances in minutes.

After migrating the Apple iOS CI/CD pipeline to Amazon EC2 Mac Instances, build speed increased by four times. Using the more scalable, flexible infrastructure on AWS, Southwest supported the same development lifecycle for its mobile and desktop apps. That gives customers the same experience on a browser as on the mobile app.

On AWS, Southwest can accelerate the delivery of new features to customers. “Using Amazon EC2 Mac Instances and AWS Device Farm, we find and fix issues earlier in the pipeline,” says Mona Pinjani, senior manager of technology at Southwest. “That saves cost because fixing errors later in production is expensive.”

Southwest also improved security by using Amazon EC2 Mac Instances and AWS Secrets Manager, which organizations can use to manage, retrieve, and rotate database credentials, API keys, and other secrets throughout their lifecycles. “We consume secrets on the fly when we are running the builds, then we delete them,” says Bobba.

Outcome | Meeting the Goal of Efficiency on AWS

Now that Southwest has a modernized, streamlined CI/CD pipeline on AWS, it plans to unbundle app releases and instead perform targeted deployments. “The goal is to use AWS Device Farm and Amazon EC2 Mac Instances in our CI/CD pipeline to transition into on-demand releases,” says Pinjani. Southwest also plans to use those AWS services in browser-based testing.

“On AWS, we provide the infrastructure, DevOps tools, and resources that a developer needs, meeting our goal of being better, faster, and more efficient,” says Pinjani.

About Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines was founded in 1967 and has become one of the world’s largest low-cost airlines, with 75,000 employees managing flights to 120 airports in 11 countries for 130 million passengers per year.

AWS Services Used

AWS Device Farm

AWS Device Farm is an application testing service that lets you improve the quality of your web and mobile apps by testing them across an extensive range of desktop browsers and real mobile devices; without having to provision and manage any testing infrastructure.

Learn more »

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) offers the broadest and deepest compute platform, with over 750 instances and choice of the latest processor, storage, networking, operating system, and purchase model to help you best match the needs of your workload.

Learn more »

Amazon EC2 Mac Instances

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) Mac instances allow you to run on-demand macOS workloads in the cloud for the first time, extending the flexibility, scalability, and cost benefits of AWS to all Apple developers.

Learn more »

AWS Secrets Manager

AWS Secrets Manager helps you manage, retrieve, and rotate database credentials, API keys, and other secrets throughout their lifecycles. 

Learn more »

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