Southwest’s Ironic and Appropriate New Ad Campaign

Advertising, Southwest

Has everyone seen Southwest’s latest ad campaign? I’ll guess not since the new 60 second spot debuted in the unwatched first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. So, take a minute (literally) and watch it here before we discuss:

Does anyone else see the delightful irony in this ad? This is a brand ad. It’s supposed to warm the cockles of your heart so that you relate to this airline. It is supposed to help you connect with a strong brand identity. As the press release says, “The campaign reinvigorates the Southwest Airlines brand and reveals its story as one that people may not perceive it to be.”

What’s so ironic about that? The “brand reveal” is accomplished with a soundtrack, the song Some Nights by fun. I’ll just give you a little snippet of the chorus:

Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
Woah oh oh (What do I stand for?)
Woah oh oh (What do I stand for?)
Most nights I don’t know anymore…

Do people just pick songs because they sound catchy instead of reading the words? This ad is just pure… bleh. It says nothing to me. This could be for Southwest or any other legacy airline. (In fact, the lofty goofiness reminds me of plenty of legacy airline ads of history.) Or it could be for a healthcare company, even better, it’s like watching an ad that sells trucks. Seriously, just put the Bob Seger song “Like a Rock” over this ad and you’ll think they’re selling Chevys. Just listen to some of these lofty words in the ad that really don’t say much:

  • “people who find their own path, chart their own course, who never stop moving forward”
  • “the American dream doesn’t just happen, it’s something you have to work for”
  • “never finished, never satisfied, and we never stop looking for a better way”

Is this really Southwest? This is an airline that knows how to market itself. Or at least, it used to know. My favorite commercial of all time came from this airline many years ago. Way back in the 1980s, the CEO of America West, Ed Beauvais said he thought travelers would be embarrassed to fly Southwest. How did the airline respond? CEO Herb Kelleher filmed a spot with him having a paper bag on his head. He told travelers Southwest would give them a paper bag if they were embarrassed. They could use that bag to hold all the money they’d save.

That’s not what we’ll ever see from Southwest today. Then again, I suppose it’s a much tougher task these days because the chorus of that song is true. Southwest doesn’t seem to really know what it stands for.

It’s no longer the low fare leader, though the brand halo still survives. A recent study shows that just comparing airfare (not baggage), Southwest was more expensive than competitors 60 percent of the time. It still sticks to the no change fee, no bag fee policy but it has made a lot of noise about how it needs to add new fees. Just this month, Southwest CFO Tammy Romo said “I’m not saying it’s necessarily going to be a change fee. But we’ll certainly start moving in the directions to tighten some of the restrictions on our lowest priced fares sometime in 2013.”

Meanwhile, the airline has finally begun codesharing with wholly-owned subsidiary AirTran, further muddying the waters. If you buy a ticket from Southwest, you have no bag fee or change fee. If you buy a ticket on AirTran for the exact same flights, you pay the bag fee and change fee. The exact same flights. Confused yet? You aren’t alone.

So what does Southwest stand for? I’m not even sure the airline knows. And that may very well be why it’s putting out ad campaigns that say… nothing. To be fair, future spots are supposed to focus on the inflight product and on Rapid Rewards, so those might be better. But this first commercial from the airline’s new partnership with TBWA\Chiat\Day is not off to a great start.

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91 comments on “Southwest’s Ironic and Appropriate New Ad Campaign

  1. So, after watching it the first time, I actually thought they were doing a slight parody of the “The New American is Arriving” ad: the opening of the hangar doors, the long sterile hallway, standing in the airport looking out at the airplane. Then the phrase “The American dream doesn’t just happen; it’s something you have to work for,” perhaps taking a dig at US/AA just “becoming” the world’s largest airline by merging…especially because the last line of the ad put so much emphasis on Southwest being the “largest domestic airline.”

    Maybe I’m reading way too much into it, but that’s what immediately jumped out at me here…

    1. Ditto. It’s an odd ad, but struck me as more in the vein of a (failed) attempt at satire than anything else.

  2. As a communications professional, I really hate this type of ad/project. They get chosen because they make the people doing the choosing feel good about themselves. This ad, like many others, is really about how cool the people who work at Brand X are and how cool it is to work there – and everybody likes feeling good about what they do. Does it actually achieve any marketing goals? Does it differentiate Southwest from the competition?

    Ad ad like this sets of alarm bells for me – in terms of the corporate culture that produced it, not necessarily because they don’t know who they are. If you need a pat on the back, there are lot less expensive ways to do it.

    1. Yes, exactly. I’ve worked in advertising for more than 20 years.

      I’d bet every penny I have on two things. First, this was never intended to be an ad. And the client couldn’t come up with a list of meaningful unique differentiators.

      Let me explain.

      When ad agencies pitch accounts, they often – read always – create brand videos. (You’ve seen it on Mad Men.) These videos are meant to be used as meeting theater. Warm the clients heart, show off a few nuggets that the agency learned in focus groups or in talking to executives at the client – and then it’s all edited into a bright, shiny video with an inspirational music track. The number of videos that use this exact track, or Hey Ho, or other mind-numbing pop songs is, I’d bet, close to 100%. Agencies like to edit these videos to elicit a tear from the clients during the meeting. It often works.

      BUT…they’re never intended to be customer-facing ads. yet more often that you’d think, the client awards the business to the agency, and says “You guys really nailed it with that 2 minute video. Can you edit that down to a :60 or a :30 and just run that?” The agency, excited to announce the win and count the money, says sure. And something runs on American Idol or Grey’s Anatomy that was never meant to be seen outside of a conference room in Texas.

      Next, the famed USP – unique selling proposition. Apple has its industrial design. Method has packaging that doesn’t look like cleaning supplies, designed so that you won’t want to hide the bottle under the sink. Target has limited edition designer partnerships to draw you into the store.

      What do airlines have? Not much. B6 used to be the only one with TVs. Now it isn’t. Virgin has purple lighting – is that really a USP? And on and on.

      There was just an article in the NY Times about airlines talking up their premium food options and chef partnerships because there’s nothing else unique to sell.

      Net, you end up with ads like this. That yes, could end with any logo.

      It’s hard to make great ads. It’s why this one, like 90% of what you see on TV, is just sort of meh.

      1. interesting analysis. i think the problem at the root of all of this is that most airlines have few or no differentiating characteristics… even southwest!

  3. I really wonder if Soutwest isn’t doing more harm than good with this ad. I’ve always seen Southwest as the scrappy airline maverick challenging the “big boys” – the underdog. That persona was part of its success. Southwest’s marketing persona in this ad better matches what it has become; a major airline. But in the end, its new image may hurt more than help.

  4. It is funny, they are falling right in to line with their competitors. The ad looks exactly as what I would expect from any of the legacy’s they’re taking shots at. Except Delta & AA’s new ads have a strong voice behind them, Donald Sutherland & John Hamm, respectively. The cinematography in this ad is very nice and chic, but it is not Southwest. It is not funny it is not spirited.

    For me I still remember the Southwest Ads with the Beach Boys, or a band that sounded like them, sing a variation of their songs to fit Southwest. Those commercials were fun, catchy and I still remember them nearly 15 years later (Because it had Shamu One in it)!

  5. zzzz It does feel like the same advertising firm is doing every single commercial these days. Not that it really matters, with DVR and watching games at bars/pubs you never actually have to watch or listen to them.

    If I had a say in SWA?s advertising budget I would completely get rid of TV ads and replace them with Southwest plugs during popular TV shows. Show contestants on America?s biggest losers comfortably sitting in SW seats on the way to some destination competition in a newly served Mexican city. Show the judges and contestants on American Idol arriving/departing from Southwest gates or have them sing to a captive audience on a plane. Have the contestants on Top Chef try to sell their own airline food creations on-board to Southwest passengers to inform customers of new premium on-board food offerings. Thousands of options.

    1. actually, WN was featured prominently in the season premiere of fox’s hells kitchen, when the contestants were flown from LAX to LAS. tons of shots of southwest’s signage and employees made it very obvious it was a paid placement. i agree with you that’s a good and clever use of the ad budget.

    2. I think it was watching the movie What Happens in Vegas (2008) I’m just remembering I found it very amusing that there were tons of references to plane tickets on Southwest Airlines from New York City to Las Vegas. The issue was that that was before Southwest had any presence in New York City, so it just didn’t make any sense.

  6. It is kind of a funny ad for the airline that was kind of scrappy. But let’s be serious … they are one of the big boys now.

    And to Brett’s point though about the branding … when was the last time you saw ANY airline try adding anything even remotely resembling humor?

    ALL of these airlines — OK, the few that are left — take themselves so seriously. Safety is important sure, but couldn’t they lighten up once in awhile?

    None of the corp. types are funny though are they? Tom Horton or Doug Parker doing standup … even for 30 seconds? Right.

    I still luv the Southwest guys even though they’ve turned corporate. But maybe there’s a new player just waiting to become scrappy eh? Wonder who will end up with Frontier?

    And let me go Brett one better on early ads … do you remember the Herb ad at Southwest where he talked so much outside the open aircraft door that they left him behind because “Southwest departs on time … every time.”

    1. Rob – There are so many classic ads from Southwest over the years that I bet we could all recite several. Anyone remember this one?
      (I never saw when it ran, but it’s definitely memorable). Unfortunately, I doubt an ad like the one that was just rolled out will be remembered by anyone.

  7. Cranky: “It?s no longer the low fare leader, though the brand halo still survives. A recent study shows that just comparing airfare (not baggage), Southwest was more expensive than competitors 60 percent of the time.”

    So, please finish this analysis. Factor in bag fees and how does WN compare with the others?

    Many WN customers are leisure flyers and so an all-in comparison would be a valid analysis.


    1. I agree a “total cost” would be nice, but it is hard to compare apples to apples as not all pax check bags (but you could also argue earlybird boarding is like selecting a seat for a fee).

      I will say, in my limited experience, Southwest on mid-long segments tends to be more expensive in advance, but cheaper close in. The fare benefits of no change fees and stuff are better, but that doesnt equate to a cheaper ticket.

      Lastly, its not a bad thing to have a revenue premium over your competition. WN lovers always rush to defend southwest for low fares, but they need to lead the market in order to be profitable long term, especially now that their costs are so high. Its a sign of success if they can have a revenue premium!

    2. Thank you, Jim. The link is in the post, as you say.

      Bill – If you include 2 bags, then Southwest is less expensive 88 percent of the time. But I think you’re falling into a trap here when you assume a lot of Southwest travelers are leisure fliers. It’s true that people with a lot of bags will tend to shift toward Southwest simply because the price ends up being less when you have a bunch. But the business traveler has always been important to Southwest. And they generally aren’t checking bags.

      1. I actually don’t have any numbers on percentages of business vs. leisure pax on WN, although an unscientific sample of a MDW-PHX-SJC trip last September gave the distinct impression that there weren’t lots of business fliers, but that could be atypical. At any rate, business travelers probably don’t care if the base WN fare is higher by two bag fees because they are either expensing or writing off the fare.

  8. First off, I am not a fan of Southwest – I avoid them if possible. With that said, I like the ad. Any weakness that SWA bashers find are often tied to the “they are not always the cheapest option” theme. Perhaps they don’t want people to always associate Southwest as the being the cheapest option as a reason to fly them.
    This ad plays to the theme that it’s about people, and the quality and character of the people who make up the airline (and I guess those who they would like to attract to fly them). I have to admit that when I have flown SWA, thier employees are consistantly engaging, funny and professional. This ad makes me more inclined to consider flying them (never thought I would say that!).

  9. Well executed but generic. Definate swipe at US/AA, but not as explicit as the “no fee” campaign. Feels they lost the “warrior spirit” and “uniqueness” in this campaign. But raises expectations for quality and professionalism. Might have to get FA’s to stop wearing shorts! hahaha

    1. Totally agree they lost the warrior spirit. This ad was bland and could have been for Delta because (as others have noted) attempts at being hip using today’s music. Unfortunately the song selection as Cranky notes is ironically a good choice, but for the wrong reasons.

      Southwest’s edge used to be low fares and no bag fees. It’s like their marketing team doesn’t know how long bags will fly free so they came up with a safe campaign until management sorts it out. Find an identity, make people understand and stick to it.

      Looking forward to the acquisition being complete so there can be one voice and hopefully management can refocus a single brand.

  10. Have we all honestly forgotten how important the first line customer service folks are to any business? Would you go back to an Asian restaurant over and over because they were the cheapest even if the service sucked?

    Maybe I’m getting off topic a bit, but to SAN Greg’s point about the people … that’s why I liked the ad myself. It’s the people that make Southwest go, even if they aren’t always the cheapest. The people are why I go back.

    I sure don’t feel that when I’m flying American/USAirways/America West … haven’t for years.

    So how did we get into this rut with airlines?

    1. That’s the point. Southwest’s ads feature their people. The people are missing from this ad. They usually show real rampers, gate agents, and flight crew and actually let them speak instead of an actress making silent “come this way” head bobs.

          1. Yes I believe everyone featured in the campaign is a Southwest employee.

            It is quite different from the Southwest ads of before. In the sea of TV ads out there, to 99% of people airline ads are just something they ignore. Does it affect purchasing decisions, not that much.

      1. Everyone wearing a SWA uniform in the ad is a SWA Employee. Or you don’t think that SWA have good looking employees? haha.

  11. The ad is cheeky and odd – sort of like WN in general. I did see it as a dig against US/AA but who knows.

    I am based in PHX and fly WN all the time. I think Noah’s assessment is accurate – WN is usually very cheap to LAX/SNA/SAN/other destinations on the West coast (living in PHX these are frequent trips especially in summer), but flying East it adds up quickly and by no means is a fare leader. The image here in PHX of WN is usually pretty upbeat, it always seems that publicly they posit more of a positive image than US and the Doug Parker crew (though I will admit admiration for Doug, I think he has done wonders for US).

    On a side note – I think the biggest pro that WN has is the no change fee. I cannot tell you how many people I work with/travel with on a routine basis that fly WN almost solely because of this – especially when it comes to the SoCal, shorter haul routes. Personally it’s worth it to me to possibly pay a little more on WN but not worry about having a change fee – it’s that invaluable to me (obviously everyone has their own priorities so it may not be that big of a deal to certain segments). Having a child, we usually check bags when flying as a family so the no baggage fee is nice, but not the biggest deal in my opinion. Of course being based in PHX where WN has a huge presence is also very helpful.

    1. I have to agree that lack of a change fee is WN’s bigest pro–this is what motivates me to book WN. If WN institutes a change fee, I’ll be back 100% to a legacy carrier where, with elite status, one can have a guaranteed, reasonably comfortable seat.

  12. Is this the right place to say how disappointed I am in Southwest’s ridiculously slow integration of FL into the WN operations? The fact they are still offering two such disparate products at so many stations is inexcusable to me.

    1. They never promised it would be quick. It is being done in an orderly process. All mergers take time, even more when its not a combination but a transition. Now that the IT integration is done, the rest will come much faster. WN had such an antiquated system that it needed a lot of work to upgrade to “see” the AT flights and be able to sell tickets on them. Now that that is done, the only barriers to integration are training (easily adjusted) painting/ac mods (adjustable to a point).

      Fortunately for many customers, they kept AT completely separate from WN, maintained its products, staff, credit cards, etc. in a lot of stations rather than pulling a bait and switch of promising one airline experience and delivering another.

      1. from the customer standpoint, there is nothing orderly about this transition. i’m guessing you fly regularly from a station where WN and FL are separate so not much appears different. name one thing they did upfront for the customer in this merger? even the legacy airlines manage to coordinate their FF programs up front, throwing some little bone to the frequent fliers. WNFL did not. i was told on a FL flight to sign up for their program and then details would come eventually. thanks, i’ll pass. seriously, would that have been too much to ask?

        and then there are the massive service disparities… sometimes i pay a bag fee, sometimes i don’t. sometimes i have a seat assignment, sometimes i don’t. sometimes there’s a first class option, sometimes there isn’t. sometimes i have to buy a ticket on one website, sometimes another one. of course, the one constant is that i always have to look at two websites to determine all of the available flight options.

        helluva way to run an airline… or two. i guess that’s my point, it’s still two completely airlines with little progress (from a customer perspective) toward changing that other than some WN service popping up at FL locations (to further muddy the waters). even putting a simple timeline or something like that into the public domain would help this perception, certainly a lot more than the insipid pablum in the ads at the heart of this discussion.

        1. It’s actually pretty simple…

          sometimes i pay a bag fee = AirTran flight
          sometimes i don?t = Southwest flight
          sometimes i have a seat assignment = AirTran flight
          sometimes i don?t = Southwest Flight
          sometimes there?s a first class option = AirTran flight
          sometimes there isn?t = Southwest flight
          book on you get what you mentioned from AirTran flights
          book on you get what you mentioned from Southwest flights
          The code-share just now started about a month ago and even with the code-share flights, what you get is spelled out pretty clearly.

  13. We here are a tough crowd. Pretty hard to get us to agree on anything, particularly when it comes to something like WN.

    If the idea is to get me to think WN, and make it clear WN is not People Express, I say well done.

    Would that the legacies could actually figure out how to advertise their brands, assuming they had any idea what their brands are.

    Now, about code-shares. A pox on one and all! Maybe WN will eventually get over that.

  14. Brett – I have to disagree with you on this one. (Disclosure: I’m a United 1K and have flown SWA twice and AirTran once). SWA has essentially saturated the US domestic market for leisure and low fare, hence merging vs. buying more a/c. Their “growth” has been in yield not in ASM’s. While their branding in places like Texas, Maryland, Chicago and California is clear, places like NYC and Boston. Urban/hip markets like these have legacy carriers remaking themselves to be “cool” (DL in the lead), and the likes of VA and jetBlue. SWA needs to reposition itself for the upmarket consumer that they may not be attracting in these markets. If you fly jetBlue or VA you’re hip, if you fly a legacy you’re respected, but to some if you fly SWA you’re a tightwad. Don’t underestimate the impact of a brand association for a certain segment of the market.

    What this ad does a good job of is communicating “SWA is for everyone” (and ads personas of various people who would fly the airline, beyond a family of 6 from CLE). I think they have to shatter the aversion to their brand with the upmarket segment before they will even listen to product/features (and SWA delivers a consistently amazing product). So I think they are spot on, if you think of their target market and business goals. SWA loyalists will continue to fly SWA regardless of the ad, so the marketing $ are spent on generating new and more profitable revenue.

    1. Your analysis is mostly accurate, but not entirely. Jet Blue and VA definitely have a ‘hip’ factor and a better flying experience. SWA always seems to be up against the ‘WalMart of the sky’ image. The reason I say that it is not entirely accurate is that it is market specific. I fly SWA often out of BWI because it is essentially operates as a hub here. I can go almost anywhere in the U.S. nonstop. Many flights out of BWI on SWA have plenty of business travelers.

      Since this is a connection point, I found myself sitting next to folks flying in from other cities and I get to talk to them. Many love SWA for the following reasons:

      1) They really like their awards program (no expiring points and easy to navigate)
      2) They see the lack of assigned seating as a positive
      3) Inexpensive short haul flights
      4) A perception that is a ‘fun’ airline

      I think SWA is losing its competitive advantage. Fares are creeping higher and higher, the fun is going away (PC police have arrived), no food options, etc…add it all up and the value proposition is going away

      1. DING! WN’s competitive advantage is gone, except for no bag fees. that’s all that’s left. i fly them for the same reason i fly any other airline, price and schedule. WN = just another big annoying airline.

        the only airlines with any real differentiation in their service are B6 and VX and those are a drop in the bucket relatively speaking and, often, irrelevant for much of the country. even from my corner of the east coast, those airlines are rarely, if ever, realistic options for my travel needs and they are a complete non-entity in the entire middle part of the country, basically everything between atlanta and las vegas.

      2. MarylandDavid – agreed, and was trying to make that point saying brand is defined (to include biz travelers) in many of their established and long-term markets. I would think their marketing money is going to be focused at growth vs. retention (loyalty program does this, as does good service and operations).

    2. Ben Brooks – So you think this makes Southwest more attractive to an upmarket traveler? I see an ad like this, and it makes me scratch my head. So all these cool people fly Southwest… but why? This kind of thing is all fluff. I just find it hard to believe that this will change anyone’s mind. I think it just gets lost in the noise.

      1. Cranky Flier- I think that is the attempt/goal of this piece. Sounds like you assume that humans make rational buying decisions, based on their self-interest (how do I get the most value for my $?). Classic economists would agree with you. But behavioral economics tells us that humans are inherently irrational. Consumers make all sorts of crazy buying decisions that are not in their economic self-interest, yet they are still pleased with them. So for SWA I think they have tried the rational pitch (free checked bags, etc.) and now are trying to change the brand halo and essence of SWA to be more “hip” than “cheap.”

        1. Ben Brooks – I fully understand that people make irrational decisions, but I still don’t see how this particular ad is going to sway someone to make that decision, rational or not. Are people really going to identify with this? In my opinion, they’ll just glaze over it because it’s so non-descript that it’ll blend right in with a million other commercials. I’d be surprised if people could even remember this was for Southwest if given a recall test shortly after.

          1. Cranky Flier – I’ll give you that — SWA was not prominent enough in the ad. More of the logo, visual identity, etc. would have been powerful. In general the 30 (in this case 60) second spot is a relic of the past as we move to more demographic centric marketing online.
            BTW have you been on one of their a/c with the new interior?

          2. Ben Brooks – Yeah, I had my first experience just before the holiday last year going LA – Phoenix – Indy. My impressions at the time were that the legroom was just fine. But I found that my legs hurt after the flight to Indy. Not sure if it was the angle of the cushion or something like that, but I couldn’t get comfortable.

          3. I think it’s a seat padding issue, which makes sense because thinner padding helps deliver their alleged benefit of similar passenger space despite a numerically smaller seat pitch.

            On a 3+ hour flight from DCA to AUS (also on a new interior plane), I thought pitch was OK but definitely noticed a lack of seat padding and I have been on other longer haul WN flights before.

            Wonder if we’ll see more discussion of this as more passengers become familiar with the new interiors but, not surprisingly, I really haven’t seen this elsewhere. I will need to try it again to be sure but my first impression of seat comfort in the new WN interior is decidedly negative.

  15. When I saw this ad online a couple of days ago, my first impression is they are going after the business traveler. Although, as others have said, there is not a lot that is unique about this ad. They could put Delta, UA, or the AA logo on it and it would work. In the world of advertising this is an unmemorable ad. I would fast forward through it.

  16. Does anyone else find it ironic that a Dallas-based airline has used Chicago as a backdrop for its takeoff segment? Seems a little off. That said, out of Chicago, they are regular more expensive that AA or UA to the markets where I travel. The ad doesn’t feel like it has a WN persona – it feels very generic.

  17. Great Ad! LUV it! It shows a maturity that some people don’t give SWA credit for just because they like to have fun, but it still keeps the lightheartedness that makes the company great and a pleasure to fly with. Much better than the football ref or “wipeout” ones.

  18. I think you can even make another comparison. Make that video black and white and make the camera motion upward instead of becoming a close up and it turns into the Delta “UP” commercials.

  19. The great irony here is that the Southwest brand stands for fun. So they hire the band “Fun” for their latest commercial and manage to produce an ad that is no fun at all!

    As Brett and others have mentioned, the ad could be for any of the legacy airlines. In a way, it shows what Southwest has become: another big USA airline, just like the others.

    While this is good for its competitors (do any of the majors worry about Southwest any more?), it’s bad for Southwest and its bad for Southwest’s customers. I’m not sure how many folks reading this blog are familiar with the European carriers, but what American aviation really, really needs right now is an Easyjet. We need a reliable, decent, no frills airline that can take you 500 miles at a price that would motivate you to get out of your car and fly. That’s what Southwest used to be. Indeed, Southwest was the model for the launch of Easyjet! So now the Southwest model lives and thrives in Europe, and we’re stuck with a Southwest Airlines that doesn’t know what it stands for anymore.

    1. If short-haul was still profitable in this country, someone, ANYONE, would be doing it! WN invented it, but 9/11 took away the time savings with TSA involvement and the huge increases in the price of oil since 9/11 have been a financial disincentive as well. WN has had to reinvent itself and it elected to do so without using Chapter 11 to get its employees to pay for it or using bag fees to get its customers to pay for it. That is WAY more than ANY of the Big 3 can say.

      1. You can’t drive 500 miles in the amount of time you can fly it. And gas, while not as expensive as in Europe, is still a significant cost at that distance.

        It’s not like Europe is a cheap place to operate. Why can Easyjet still offer $50 fares — and make money — and Southwest can’t? Perhaps it’s because Southwest let their costs get too high, and have stuck with a model that doesn’t collect any ancillary revenue.

        1. I used to fly anything that would be more than a 4 hour drive so I used to be on your side but things changed for me for many reasons, including (1) crowded airports even though I don’t blame that on 9/11 like many others do, (2) the absurdity of TSA screening, (3) the comfort / luxury of nice cars (LOVE satellite radio!) plus the fact I can even get some work done in the car if I’m on the phone, (4) no rental car hassle at my destination (I can drive straight to my destination plus airports are usually 20-30 minutes or more outside the city center, which is more wasted time) and (5) no taxi or airport parking hassle at my home.

          – DCA to Raleigh, 277 miles, I can drive that in 4 hours easy. Alternatively, I would leave my home at 7:20 am, 90 minutes prior to US 8:50 am flight that arrives RDU at 10:09 am. Assuming it runs on time (haha!), the earliest I can get out of the RDU airport with my rental car is 10:40 am plus transit time to get wherever I’m going in the area. Say another 30 minutes which puts me at 11:10 am. Hey, I’m already at 4 hours! No brainer to drive.

          – DCA to Charlotte – 400 miles – 5.5 to 6 hour drive. Yep, I’m driving this one too. At about 4 – 4.5 hours total time when flying time as a best case scenario with no weather or other delays, I’m only saving around 1.5 hours. Fair trade IMO considering all of the other inconveniences I get to avoid.

          All other things being equal, I need to be going at least 400 miles before I’m dealing with flying… and I’m one of the biggest airline geeks you’ll ever meet. At least I was!

          1. Bill,

            I agree with regard to Raleigh, but Charlotte is a stretch. We have good friends there and from the Baltimore area, it always take 8 hours minimum. Of course, clearing DC is a HUGE part of the hassle, so if your are in NoVa perhaps that is not as big a deal. There is usually quite a bit of traffic on 95 near Richmond too.

            Your earlier comment on TSA hassles is spot on. I just did BWI-IND round trip and was in the security line for an hour! I almost missed my flight and I thought I allowed plenty of time..

          2. @BW – I can control traffic usually very effectively by leaving at certain times. How do you control lengthy security lines, selectively enforced TSA policies that are absurd to begin with, weather or equipment or crew service delays? Of course, you cannot. That’s a big part of the problem.

            @MDDavid – You’re right, the whole problem for you is clearing DC (actually clearing Fredericksburg, then you’re OK). I’m in the District very near 395 so I have an easy shot out of town. You definitely have to leave at weird times. For example, when I go to NYC, I never leave DC before 8 pm but then I know I can sail out of DC, have no trouble through Baltimore and be in NYC in 4 hours. Nevertheless, even I still might not drive CLT from Baltimore!

  20. People read the “SWA wasn’t the cheapest 60% of the time” wrong.
    That means 40% of the time, they were the cheapest.

    That leaves only 60% of the time ALL other airlines have to fight to be the most desirable (by price) in a market. Split that between your other 6 legacy carriers (doesn’t even include Spirit or Allegiant) and SWA starts to look pretty competitive on the price front.

  21. I like the ad. I was disappointed this was the topic of discussion this week. Almost makes me want to unsubscribe.

  22. Yes, a much better topic is the $19 million Parker is throwing at Horton to make him go away. Even the rubber-stamp judge balked at that one!

  23. This ad is targeting the non-leisure travelers and make business folks take Southwest seriously, as part of their transformation into a business-oriented airline. Noticed the new FA uniform in the ad? Part of the strategy.

  24. WOW…you are a “cranky flyer” today aren’t you!? I actually cannot disagree with you more on this one! I’ll go ahead and put myself out on the limb, mostly because I have been watching the PR Machines at work with the Southwest/AirTrans merger, the US/AA merger and the United/Continental merger…and what Southwest is accomplishing is PURE GENIUS (and many of you should sit up and pay close attention)! IF they execute as I expect they will in the forthcoming ads, then this particular ad piece is every bit as good as I think it is, if not better. Southwest is better in touch with their customers than ANY OTHER airline, and what they are doing in the execution of their merger is methodically bridging a gap for an entire new group of “soon to be customers.” They are deliberately reprogramming customer expectations and getting the world of AirTrans in alignment with their existing corporate culture and their customer culture. The transformation process is not always smooth, easy, or comfortable, but they are progressing through it masterfully (unlike AA and United who are both failing to deliver the appropriate propoganda and are certainly failing to deliver services, as expected). If you don’t believe me…look at what Southwest is doing to integrate the AirTrans flight attendants into the “Southwest Way” (GENIUS)!

    Also, regarding the “lofty words” that you say mean nothing…I respectfully disagree. I think that those words, as well as the visual images presented, represent exactly who Southwest is, what they know they are, what they know they are going to be, and pretty much covers every single demographic group in the country, except maybe a street thug and those living in skilled nursing facilities (or course, those people probably don’t fly much anyway).

    Finally…NONE of the lyrics that you quote from Some Night are even in the ad. So yes, the selection was made for its catching beat, wide appeal and recent popularity, that is all (much of the music listening world don’t even know there are lyrics to most songs). Of course, the words that do appear (at the very end) are: “Well, that is it guys, that is all – five minutes in and I’m bored again”. I’ll let you speculate on your own about the point they are trying to make with those lyrics…again, 90% of the people who see the ad can’t make the lyrics out anyway, so they might as well be from an Eminem or Macklemore piece. ;-)

  25. In addition to “no change fees” on revenue tickets, WN’s Rapid Rewards point bookings are fully refundable with no fees for everyone (not just top tier elites as on the legacies). Another reason to book WN if your plans are subject to change. (Yes, I’m a million mile flyer on UA, but I usually book on WN domestically these days, even if the fares are a little higher, because of these flexible policies.)

  26. Watching some March Madness with the wife, this commercial came on. She started singing along. At the end I asked…

    Me: Who the commercial was for?
    W: Fun.
    Me: No, like what company
    W: Fun. the band
    Me: It was an airline
    W: I didn’t catch it.
    Me: If you had to book a ticket on an airline right now, what would you do.
    W: Go to Orbitz, oh it was an Orbitz commercial wasn’t it…
    Me: If I say “Wanna get away”, or Ding…
    W: You are now free to move about the country, Southwest. Duh…

  27. It’s a vapid ad that does nothing to establish what SWA is. As repetitive as the bags fly free ads were, it drove the point home. This new ad doesn’t. They might as well go with “Proud to fly the friendly skies and it shows.”

  28. This is Southwest’s finally ‘coming out’.

    For decades, this airline has convinced us they are the scrappy alternative to BigAir, while obscuring just how old they were — that they started in 1967. In the weird and greedy world of airlines, forty years is a long, long time. I guess there comes a time when makeup no longer hides the wrinkles.

    I was a great fan of Southwest when I did a weekly airline commute from 1998 to 2007, but was starting to see policy changes that foretold this ad. Not a fan anymore, though even less a fan of the other members of club BigAir.

  29. If anyone thinks Southwest doesn’t have a brand distinction, think again. Many companies never find a brand identity but in SWA’s case, it was handed to them on a silver platter by their competitors who have never made profit 10 years in row, let alone 40 years consecutive, like SWA. This carrier’s best days are in front of them. Today, they are the largest US domestic airline by far. They have found their niche. Toss stones all you want. And they are competing very well without fuel hedges or rescue from bankruptcy courts.

  30. Anyone who sees Southwest as a scrappy upstart is lost in nostalgia. They have become a legacy carrier. Their prices are nothing to write up save their walk up fares in some cases. Recently I heard a SWA commercial speaking of their “legendary” low fares–I laughed out loud as they seem to more like a mirage when I’m shopping for tickets for my 100,000 miles of travel per year. Their frequent flier program is very weak. Flying them is as unpleasant as any other airlines in the coach cabin…. If you discount the folksy humor on SWA that is not everyone’s cup of tea.

  31. Did anyone else find it ironic that this ad featured a shot of the Willis tower in Chicago, which is where the combined United’s new headquarters is located? Honestly, I felt like it could be a United commercial almost – just swap some different airline footage in and boom! You’re done.

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