Southwest Introduces Fly By Security Lanes

Airport Experience, Safety/Security, Southwest

There was an interesting little surprise last Friday when Southwest revealed on FlyerTalk that it was rolling out what is effectively elite security lines for its best customers. I think I like this move since it’s squarely targeting the business traveler, even if it does go against Southwest’s egalitarian history.

I spoke with spokesperson Paula Berg and got the full scoop. Members of Southwest’s A-List (those who fly at least 32 one way flights per year) and those who purchase Business Select fares will be allowed to use the special lines. In some cities, these will be separate lines while in others they’ll be shared with the employee lines. By October 17, the lines will exist in Dallas, Phoenix, Orange County, Denver, San Francisco, and LA. They expect to have these in the “majority of our airports in the near future.”

So on one hand, I think this is a great move. Those Business Select fares always seemed to be a little light on benefits, but this is a big one, especially if you’re in an airport with long lines. And it’s an added benefit to A-Listers as well to make them feel wanted.

I think it’s interesting that only the A-List member of Business Select people will be able to use this. Let’s say you’re an A-Lister and you’re taking your family somewhere. Sorry, but they’ll have to go in the other line. So this is very clearly only for the business traveler who is traveling on business. And anything Southwest can do to convince business travelers to fly them is a good idea.

The only negative? Southwest has always prided itself on being the airline of the people, but maybe that’s being amended to apply only once you’re on the airplane. Something tells me that Herb may need a shot of Wild Turkey to help this one go down, but it still seems like the right thing to do.

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17 comments on “Southwest Introduces Fly By Security Lanes

  1. How is this different than being a Registered Traveler? At my home airport (RNO) there are two lines: Registered Traveler and everyone else.

    Flight crews enter through the Registered Travelers’ line….so I doubt our happy security folks are going to be willing to put in a special line just for SWA.

  2. Jennifer – The difference is that it’s free. Most US airlines have been doing this for a long time for their premium passengers, so Southwest is just getting into the game now.

  3. I am glad they are finally going after the business traveler, I remember having to fight with my company because I wanted to use southwest but they insisted on using a travel agent, I finally won when our VP of sales noticed that I was the only one flying to our kickoff whose total roundtrip ticket was under $100.

  4. “Herb may need a shot of Wild Turkey to help this one go down, but it still seems like the right thing to do.”

    That is a great sentence. :)

    It is interesting that SWA is catering more and more to business travelers these days, but as you note it does make sense.

  5. So let’s see here…business fare is $286 each way for many destinations…super saver or web specials are around $91 each way. A soda at the post security vendor is $3 and a registered traveler pass is approx $125 for a one time cost. Of course, this case only works if you are using one of those many airports with a RT line.

    If I were inclined to fly SWA and were flying the RT airports, I’d opt for the 12 (sometimes 13) month line jumper pass and a post security soda. The elite lines are no doubt a nice perk (screw egalitarianism…time is still money even for the budget conscious), but when you’re over $500 on an airfare versus $182 + $6 + a one time cost of $125…seems to me the folks that want priority will get it another way or are already paying less flying another airline.

  6. I think it’s a great idea for SWA, especially since most of the other airlines offer something similar. Ever since I lost status (and upgrades), I’ve preferred the somewhat egalitarian SWA system! I’m all for them offering some business travel perks if it means that they can preserve the low cost model that leisure travelers have come to expect – no change fee, quick aircraft loading and loading, pretty fast check-in, etc. I hope that SWA doesn’t ostracize the leisure travelers. When the economy picks up and the legacy airlines do better (optimism) biz travelers will probably run back to their First Class upgrades on the legacies. In fact, I bet that SWA will roll out some form of Economy plus or more legroom for a few rows of seats up front. You saw it here first…unless someone already beat me to it!

  7. Bill – I don’t think the decision is to buy up from a leisure fare to business select. It’s more about creating value so that people who would buy the business fares would be willing to pay $10, $20, $30, etc more for that business select fare. And that’s where they’re building value with this.

    RedStripe – Maybe we’ll see that one of these days, but I think that’s probably a last resort. Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen!

  8. great new perk for business select! there weren’t THAT many perks for buying a business select fare. now this one is really worth it.

  9. As a super frequent southwest flier, I am likin this, although at the airports I usually fly in and out of (HOU,MDW,DTW) the security lines generally aren’t that bad… except for LAX.

    Next stop, I hope: SWA Airline Clubs

  10. The TSA employees are paid by the taxpayers. The airports are built by public funds. Elite lines for security checks should be banned as un-American.

  11. I’m an Ameriva by choice and, was a big fam of SWA, until I read about their Fly By privileges for business tickets, which they give using my taxpayer money. That is un-American indeed.

    I just wrote this to SWA:

    I’m a regular customer of SWA.

    A question on this privilege via Business Select to get in front of the line at the TSA (so government run, taxpayer paid) security check-in:

    Who pays the TSA for this extra privilege? Does SWA pay the TSA insteda of the taxpayer, or does this come from the taxpayers money only?

    I’m not happy of this either way, since it is inappropriate for government to give privileges to one citizen over another. Our Constitution and laws are based on ‘equal treatment under equal circumstances’. Otherwise this would be a form of bribing government to get privileged treatment with it.

    Please clarify the government-SWA relationship in this. It seems in your interest to do so, considering the above and how this would come over with other travelers.

    In Europe this would often not be an issue, since either the government offers a priority service direct to all, without an airline in between, or the security is run by private companies and again one can pay them for the extra privelege or decide not to. Or the government in a country there simply violates the rights of individuals by giving priority to those paying bribes, since their laws are not respectful of individual rights like ours. So there it differs either way from here in the USA.

  12. Peter L wrote:

    I’m an Ameriva by choice and, was a big fam of SWA, until I read about their Fly By privileges for business tickets, which they give using my taxpayer money. That is un-American indeed.

    I can clarify the relationship for you, and it’s not as you think. In the TSA’s mind, they control the checkpoint and all the security screening, but how people get to that checkpoint is up to the airlines and airports to decide. That’s why you see elite lines in some places and not others – it’s an airport/airline decision. So the government really isn’t involved in this. They just deal with people when they reach the front of the line.

  13. The ‘clarification’ that the real estate in front of a checkpoint is run by airlines and arports is misleading.

    If an airline would offer an expedited access to one of its services it woudl be a fair transaction to ask money for that, but this case is different.

    The Airlines, including Southwest, are selling expedited access to government services, which we taxpayers all paid a security fee for (and possibly even more than that via income tax etc).

    No fellow citizen should have a right to expedited access to a government service which I have paid for, defacto pushing me to the back of the line.

    Not even with filing taxes a citizen would be encountering that. He would simply file his taxes and be processed in order of arrival of his return, regardless if that return is for 1 million or 1K dollars.

    And as far as I know, by paying a 3rd party, one cannot cut in front of someone in court either, nor at the police.

  14. I do see the point that we are paying for the security and it is being bypassed for economic reasons that only benefit Southwest, but my concern is that a terrorist could easily be a frequent flyer. Last time I checked the terrorists did not lack the wherewithal to fake a frequent flyer identity.

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