Southwest’s Chief Marketing Officer Responds to My Thoughts on Transfarency

After I wrote my thoughts about Southwest’s new Transfarency campaign, I received a note from Beth Harbin, Southwest’s Senior Director of Communications. Since I hadn’t been at media day to hear the presentation, she wanted to connect me with Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Krone so he could better explain where Southwest was coming from. I was more than happy to have that conversation.

Below I’ve included an edited transcript of our conversation along with a couple of notes I added after the fact. This doesn’t really change my view of the situation, but let’s see if it changes yours. I really do appreciate Southwest’s eagerness to discuss this, but I must apologize to you all for the long post (again).

Take it away, Kevin.

Planeline

Kevin Krone, Chief Marketing Officer, Southwest Airlines: I guess I would sum up your thoughts and then maybe add some perspective I’d share on it. There’s an economic principles discussion, which is where I think you’re coming from, and then there’s a customer demand/behavior piece, and then there are just some Southwest facts that are pertinent to the conversation. I’ll start with the facts and work backwards.

One of [the facts], a former employee had posted a reply about the length of haul increase. That obviously is a big driver in the increase in fares. Other things have led to it too, but it’s a much different world for us when we’re flying transcon offering fares in those kinds of markets versus short haul. So that length of haul increase, from 2000 it’s gone up, I don’t know, about 50% so it is substantial and that will just by gravity put upward pressure on fares.

Along with that, we’ve evolved the frequent flier program, which didn’t reward someone for taking a long haul trip on Southwest. We fixed that 4 years ago. Now the impact of that is more long haul, business travelers which tend to book later at higher fares. Those kind of things are going on structurally that are innocently raising the average fare.

[Cranky Note: Southwest’s length of haul (distance each passenger travels) did increase 47.5 percent between 2000 and 2014, but I can’t easily compare to other airlines since we’re only looking at domestic here.]

[UPDATE: A helpful reader pulled the data and sent it to me from the DOT O&D Survey via mi.diio.net. Including AirTran, Southwest was up 43.9 percent from 2000 to 2014. During the same period United/Continental was up 12.9 percent, American/TWA/America West/US Airways was up 6.1 percent, and Delta/Northwest was up 5.4 percent.]

Cranky: But your sales fares have gone up too. I mean back in 2000, it wasn’t long before that where $29 fares were more commonplace on sale.

Kevin: I remember more $39s and $49s, but I’d have to go back to see exactly. But I’ve been here 23 years and I have those same memories as well. That was some of the genesis for the research we did this spring. Have customers given us grief and adapted to the higher price point? When you ask those folks, they all give us credit for having low fares, much more than the industry. What that tells me is heck, who doesn’t want those low fares? But people realize the world is different. That was encouraging news to us that our low fare perception has been alive and well.

Cranky: Sure, and that’s always been a strength. That’s why I look at Transfarency as a way to reinforce that perception and get people to continue to view Southwest as having low fares. Whether it is actually low or not, I don’t think that’s the point. Of course you want to say you have low fares, but you really want people to have that perception.

Kevin: We want people to know that we have low fares and we give you things other guys charge you for. You get a low fare and you don’t have to pay the add-on fees that the other guys are charging you. And people get tricked. I’m not saying that every day, every seat we are the lowest fare. We can’t do that. But I’m very proud of our low fares. And the research we do, we check ourselves, when we go out and do thousands of fare shops, we compare our fare to competitor fares, 60% of the time or more, we are the lowest fare [excluding any ancillary fees]. Which I think is absolutely stunning.

[Cranky Note: Kevin explained that their fare shops look at alternatives in a narrow time frame, so those most price-sensitive people might find lower fares at another time, but that’s outside the bounds of their search.]

[Transfarency] is really a message to all customers out there that just says there’s a better way to do it. We’re winning 60 percent of the time or more, which I think is a pretty good record since we’re one guy versus 7 or 8. We’re also giving you all the stuff for free. We think it’s a 1-2 message. Don’t get tricked, don’t fall victim to it, and by the way, a lot of people are so fed up with this, and that transitions into my next point; we’re worried that they think all airlines do it. So we need to say that’s not what Southwest is about.

Planeline

Cranky: Do you have research showing people [think you charge a lot of fees]? It seems to me that you have strongly come out and made it very clear for years with aggressive marketing, national campaigns. So is there research showing people are slipping into this belief about you guys?

Kevin: One of the charts I showed at media day is when you ask who has low fares and doesn’t add on fees, Southwest comes very strongly. But you do see that [a much lower percentage of] the non-customer group has the perception that Southwest doesn’t have fees compared to our customers. That’s someone we think really needs to hear this message.

[Cranky Note: Here’s the chart he’s talking about]

Southwest No Fees

Cranky: Have you done this research before? Did you do it 5 years ago and you saw 75 percent of non-customers thought you didn’t have a bag fee? Is it decreasing?

Kevin: We have not done this look previously.

Planeline

Kevin: [Moving on to] the economic argument that you [and others] have put forward that those who don’t check bags subsidize those who do. I can grant you that on a theoretical level but customers don’t see it that way. They see it as part of the journey. If you take the economic argument to the extreme, you could argue that restaurants are subsidizing other patrons because there are silverware and plates there versus having you bring your own plate.

Cranky: Well, but everyone is using the plate. It’s not like everyone is given a plate and then some people don’t use it. I guess you could say free water or something would be a closer parallel.

[Cranky Note: Though if a restaurant wanted to charge me for water to keep menu prices down, I’m in.]

Kevin: Yeah, you could take those economic arguments to the extreme. For me where it breaks down is there are just some things that are fundamental to products. For travel, the ability to bring along your clothes are things that are part of the product. So it really becomes to me an academic argument if you can unbundle that. It gets a little bit hard to tease those things apart. And another thing I say on the subsidy thought. I haven’t really debated it with people, but I assume that argument is that if I’m checking a bag then you’re subsidizing my checked bags on Southwest.

Cranky: Yes, that’s one of the fees, sure.

Kevin: So the counter argument to you is that the whole airline is a little bit of an ecosystem. You can’t have 100 percent of the people carrying bags on and you can’t have 100 percent of the people checking bags. For it to be in balance you need a little bit of both. So I’m trying to put on the economic hat. You need both to make the airline operate efficiently. I wouldn’t think of it as subsidizing each other but as in keeping the ecosystem in balance by including it.

Cranky: Though you’ve seen the ecosystem shift, your share of it. I don’t remember what the number was, but I remember being told that the average number of checked bags per passenger has increased since you started pushing and other airlines started adding bags fees.

Kevin: I don’t recall that stat, but let us double check. I don’t think the per capita bag checking has gone up.

[Cranky Note: I followed up to get this stat, but I could not get an answer from Southwest. I had been told off the record previously that there was a substantial increase, but I have no official confirmation.]

Planeline

Cranky: By putting [Transfarency] out you’re trying to get people to realize how much more fees can cost them on other carriers. So why not find a way to make it easier for people to compare the total experience instead of just fees? You still don’t participate in any comparison shopping sites. I think technology has come to a point where you could get people to put together a comparison site that does a total comparison instead of just fees.

Kevin: Is the question, “should Southwest be on other third party sites that aggregate data?”

Cranky: Or building your own. If you want to take this comparison to the extreme.

Kevin: Being on other sites, there are 3 reasons [we don’t do it]. First of all, it’s expensive. They don’t provide that service for free. Secondly, we want to make sure we have the closest contact as directly as possible with customers so we can give them the best service as possible.

Cranky: Well there’s Kayak, metasearch sites where they can send people to you to book.

Kevin: Yeah, but Kayak is still expensive. And the third reason is it’s not hard to come over [to Southwest.com] and compare. We invest in tools to make it easy, use our calendar. And I’ll give you a fourth one as a bonus. I don’t think [third party sites] right now are being helpful and sharing that there are other things beyond the fare being charged. Simply being on the third party site together doesn’t tell the whole story to customers.

Cranky: I agree with that, but you have the heft to push that further. The technology is finally getting to where they can start to share this information better, and yet it’s not being done very well. This is something you guys can even invest in. If you [are cheaper, as you say, 60 percent of the time and you] really want to make the point that you’re cheaper…

Kevin: And that’s an interesting thought that we may give some thought too. It’s nothing imminent but it’s an interesting way to think of a solution in a different light.

Planeline

As we started wrapping up, I asked Kevin if he had anything else for me. He asked what holes I’d poke in his argument, so we continued the discussion for several minutes going back and forth. I certainly respect Kevin’s openness and interest in having the debate, though unsurprisingly, neither of us changed our minds.

Over the years, Southwest has developed an internal belief that traditional all-inclusive pricing is right. (Whether that originated out of principle or out of technical limitation doesn’t matter. The airline has certainly made this a core belief.) I say that people should be able to pick and choose what they want.

Did Kevin change the way you view things?

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44 Responses to Southwest’s Chief Marketing Officer Responds to My Thoughts on Transfarency

  1. ChuckMO says:

    The current WN model suits me fine. I haven’t checked baggage in years as I have the flexibility in my travels to get by with 3 changes of clothes in my carry-on. For longer stays I can wash my clothes if staying with friends/family or spend an hour or so at a laundromat. What I like about the model is that if I should decide to check a bag on WN, I don’t need to cough up extra money to do so.

    Conversely, I have a backup option via the Delta Airlines American Express Gold Card, which allows me to check one bag for free when I fly DL. My travel patterns and home airport – STL- mean that I have essentially narrowed my travels on those two carriers though my last trip was on UA – with carry-on only.

    As the industry pricing has changed with the ascendance of bundling, I’ve adjusted my travels accordingly. Luckily for me I don’t travel on business, all my trips are discretionary. 3-4 mini-vacations a year. I realize others do not always have the ability to fly as I do and are faced with all the fees and options when the travel, but for those that are faced with those decisions it is probably best to research as much as possible and find the best fit.

    So while the optional fee model – pay for what you want – works in many instances, having the different WN model as an option is also a good thing.

  2. JoEllen says:

    In recent years I definitely have NOT seen Southwest’s fares as lower. Even when they have these one day sales, they are almost impossible to grab after the first few minutes out there. Either they have so few seats or the website becomes inaccessible. Like everyone else, they dangle carrots that are unreachable or they spout psychobabel about free bags.

  3. Dale says:

    When I am working I like to fly Southwest because I check two bags in the hold and have one carry on for the overhead and another for under the seat in front of me. That is what ALL airlines allowed at one time. So I say Southwest is best for my needs. If I did just a day trip say to the Bay Area or Las Vegas or Phoenix, leaving in the morning and returning in the evening and I did not need to check bags, I might feel differently. I’m glad that there is still ONE airline in the USA that allows you to check two bags free of charge on all fares and does not charge for putting a carry on in the overhead and does not charge for water or soda.

    If I flew Spirit when working, the company would book the air ticket but I would likely have to fork over much more in fees unless I could convince the company to pay the first and second checked bag fee, the carry-on fee and the overweight fees for the checked bags online and I’m not sure if the latter is even possible. Otherwise at the airport I would have to pay higher for the first and second checked bags as well as the overweight fees as 40lbs is the cutoff at Spirit (and Allegiant) as opposed to the industry standard of 50lbs. Also I would have to pay the higher fee for putting a carry-on in the overhead as well as a fee to print out the boarding pass at the airport. A few years ago the company I worked for wanted me to fly Spirit and I balked.

  4. Eric Morris says:

    Brett, I know you call the no-charge bags a subsidy. Have the other airlines reduced the number of baggage handlers due to lower volume or has WN had to increase its baggage handling man-hours? Isn’t the cost and utilization of the plane important, therefore by having lower priced professional baggage handlers putting the bags where they are designed to go, the underbelly, more efficient than having customers force bags into overhead storage to save a few bucks? Are airlines going to reduce underbelly storage and increase passenger/baggage space topside because of this new paradigm? I’d say you’d have to weigh all these factors before determining if it is an actual subsidy.

    • Goe Friday says:

      The number of mishandled bags has dropped dramatically at the other airlines.

      • Eric Morris says:

        Because fewer bags/handler hour? Meaning costs have actually risen, at least partially coming from additional revenue? Or because mgt has emphasized since they are now charging additional for this service? Or because hiring better, therefore costlier, handlers to ensure bags aren’t lost? Without knowing full cost per bag above and below deck in employees and different times needed to accommodate, it is just a guess. The one productivity improvement may be that people are packing less to avoid bag fees, but there is also a time factor for customers to do that. It’s hard to know who is subsidizing whom.

    • Eric Morris – I don’t think there’s a way to find that out. The number of checked bags isn’t published. (DOT only shows the number of mishandled bags and the number of total passengers, which is pretty useless.) And I don’t know that we could get an exact count on how many rampers are handling luggage from airlines either. But it would certainly stand to reason that with fewer checked bags, you’d need fewer people working a flight. Or you can reduce your turn times if you want to keep staffing the same.

  5. Mike says:

    It’s interesting, they really push the no bag fee angle which definitely resonates with a lot of people. That’s said for me, I find their lack of ticket change fee so much more important. The ability to be flexible with my plans without having to eat $200 is huge. That is where WN earns my $ when I choose to fly them.

    • Better By Design says:

      No change fees IS huge… but also hard to communicate with people – most folks I know really have zero idea what a change fee is, or how much they are nowadays since for occasional travelers, they are a highly infrequent occurrence.

      When you explain that change fees are SO high (and typically if you’re using them it’s a last-minute situation) that you pretty much throw your ticket in the trash the majority of the time, it’s an eye opener – and a moment of truth that WN can capitalize on… if they could explain it to people.

      It’s just so hard! There’s a reason AA tried and then pulled their bundled fares a couple years ago – really tough to communicate the value of them, and basically impossible to push through the OTAs at all.

      • I agree with Better By Design. It’s very hard to communicate especially since there could be a huge fare difference involved in a change. When you start talking about how there’s no change fee, a lot of people just assume that means it won’t cost anything. It’s not a clean message like bag fees.

  6. austinflyguy says:

    Left out of this discussion is the original reason carriers started charging for bags….government taxes. When the bags are included in the fare, as they are in WN fares, the government charges, I believe, 15% tax. When the bag are separate, the passenger (and the carrier) do not pay the taxes. When I compare the airfares, I never find WN to be the low cost competitor, and with the highest salaries in the industry, it is only a matter of time before the public learns they are far from the low cost carrier (though they may still have a great product worth the difference). For his argument on not appear on the aggregators, does anyone know approximately what Kayak charges (and how they collect the fee)?

    • austinflyguy – Anything in the base fare (domestic only) is taxed at 7.5 percent. But that’s not the reason airlines started charging for first checked bags. They started charging because they were desperately clawing at ways to increase revenue when they were losing millions upon millions in 2008. This was the quickest way to make that happen. But it is true that there is a tax incentive to those who pull things out of the base fare. I personally believe that loophole should be closed.

      As for Kayak, I don’t know how much they’re charging these days, but it’s either on a cost per click basis (a small amount every time someone goes off from Kayak to the airline’s site to book) or on a cost per acquisition basis (a larger amount every time someone comes from Kayak and books a ticket).

  7. BigDaddyJ says:

    Cranky, I think the observation that’s unstated here is as to why checked baggage is so crucial to WN—namely, turnaround times. If you want low-cost-carrier turnaround times, you need to minimize carry-ons, as they are boarding/unboarding time killers. There’s only two ways to do this:

    1. Unbundle everything and charge for carry-on luggage;
    2. Offer passengers the alternative of checked luggage and incentivize them to use it (via free and aggressive marketing).

    If Southwest were to go the ULCC route with #1, it’d be a disaster, at least short-term. So, they’re dialed into #2. But, there is no easy way of talking about this. This new campaign is what they dreamed up of pushing back against the #1s, and I can’t easily think of a better way (although I hate the name).

    • BigDaddyJ – The opposite is actually a problem. A couple years ago when Southwest tried to improve utilization and cut turn times, it found itself not able to load all of its checked bags in time. A big chunk of those delay numbers were due to ground handling issues, I’m told.

  8. XJT DX says:

    As a former industry employee, I recommend southwest not only to families and vacationers that are liable to use those free bags, but to infrequent and new travelers, so they can enjoy their first flight experience and have the minimum amount of surprises possible (read: “I didn’t know they charged for that”) . As for the no-bags traveler, they enjoy not worrying about overhead space, faster boarding/deplaning, and a generally happier workforce that other carriers couldn’t charge extra for even if they wanted to.

  9. enplaned says:

    Some of this is a bit of a crock. This statement for instance:

    Kevin: Yeah, you could take those economic arguments to the extreme. For me where it breaks down is there are just some things that are fundamental to products. For travel, the ability to bring along your clothes are things that are part of the product. So it really becomes to me an academic argument if you can unbundle that. It gets a little bit hard to tease those things apart. And another thing I say on the subsidy thought. I haven’t really debated it with people, but I assume that argument is that if I’m checking a bag then you’re subsidizing my checked bags on Southwest.

    ***

    There are plenty of business travelers who do day trips — especially on Southwest, I would guess, since their average length of haul is still lower than the industry average. Anyone on a day trip is very likely not checking baggage and is therefore absolutely subsidizing those who do.

    In a similar vein, it’s incredibly revealing that Southwest won’t discuss the evolution of the average number of checked bags since checked bags started being unbundled by the rest of the industry. It beggars belief that this number has not increased — and the fact that they won’t say indicates that’s almost certainly correct . If you do need to check two bags per person, you are far more likely to be pushed towards Southwest.

    The other thing that’s simply wrong (and it does Kevin no credit that he says this) is “we’re giving you all these things for free”. Free at the point of use, yes, but it absolutely costs them something to provide these things — and that’s baked into the fare one way or the other. In no way is it “free”.

  10. Nathan says:

    I would be curious to know if bag fees on the other airlines are profit centers, or merely covering the cost of transporting the bags. If airlines are making a profit from baggage fees, then I would argue that those customers who pay for checked bags are subsidizing those who do not.

    Allegiant and Spirit come to mind as their base fares are very low and surely cannot cover the cost of the flight. If everyone flew without paid assigned seats and checked bags those airlines would likely disappear.

    • AW says:

      That has always been my problem with random fees. I understand paying to cover expenses, but does it really cost $50 more to carry-on a bag at the gate than half an hour earlier the front desk, Spirit?

      (I also understand the deterrence argument, but still…)

      • I’d argue it would cost more to carry-on a bag at the gate, since at that moment employees are more into getting people checked onto the plane, if they have to stop to charge for a bag, that can cost a lot for the operation as a whole.

  11. rSteinmetz says:

    I’d say reaching back to 200 for fare data is a little fare. More recently since say 2010 when they bought Airtran ( I was a very frequent Airtran Flyer) I began tracking Southwest Fares and they were almost always lower than Southwest, for what I though was a better product. As the integration progressed and teh economy improved Airtran and Southwest fares climbed substantially. Recently my fares continued to rise Until about the middle of this year when the seem to have stabilized. For the last 5 months I have been flying Frontier a lot and I like their produce as well as southwest and their frequent very low sales heve saved me some serious money.

    My impression is they the length of haul since 2000 introduces a good bit of noise into the state. the length of haul has not risen nearly as much in the last few years when I perceive much of the fare increase have occurred.

  12. PF says:

    No airline is always the lowest fare; you have to buy the product that gives you what you want; total journey cost, convenience, reliability, loyalty, – it all contributes. SWA and everyone else will spin their point of view – that’s just business. SWA is still a great airline, can still be good good value if the product is what you want, and most people deliver good service. Other airlines are doing well too, so it’s just a matter of personal choice at this point.

  13. AW says:

    How much would you say WN actually looses on a per customer basis by not charging for bags? Not everyone who boards checks a bag, and of those that do, a bag fee would serve as a deterrent for some to switch to carry-on. Combined with faster turn times from fewer carry-ons (historically a key WN strategy) and generally good publicity, could this be a reasonable strategy?

    • AW – Well if you ask Southwest, they’re making a ton of money by not charging for bags. People are just selecting them because of it and paying more for the privilege. I have a hard time buying that, but it could in theory be true.

      • Noah says:

        Cranky – as you know, most “mass market” travellers are not always rational.The free bags campaign is a lot like “Make America Great Again”–it’s true until you ask for details.

        Ultimately, many budget travellers would prefer a fixed price than an ancillary model even if it costs more as it is easier to budget and emotionally doesn’t feel as bad paying at the margin.

        It is silly to analytical people, but never over-estimate the public’s ability to make dumb choices

        Southwest probably gained a lot of insight from the AirTran merger where they likely saw behavior of the same passengers with and without bag fees. Wonder if there were any interesting nuggets of data there on behavior.

  14. JayB says:

    Each of us has a take on all of this.

    –Who’s lowest fare anymore?
    –Why do we even talk about fares? Why not just get rid of the word “fare” and the words “fare rules” and just talk about “price,” something that comes about by a meeting of buyer and seller, mili-second by milli-second, millions of time each day?
    –Is bundling the best or should everything be unbundled?
    –Does anyone care about service, or is everything about price?
    –Does anyone care about branding anymore?

    In this world where I live, a couple miles from Dulles, and with pretty easy access to National and BWI, with all they offer. And lo,

    –I fly UA all the time,
    –I complain about UA all the time,
    –I love WN.
    –I never fly WN,
    –I love low fares,
    –I wouldn’t fly Spirit, Frontier, or Allegiant unless my life depended on it.

    “Transfarency” is great, nice marketing, but, isn’t all airline marketing little more than manipulation and deception. Facts…forget ’em. Honesty, depends on who’s defining what honesty is.

    Perhaps you’ve read the recent book “Phishing for Phools, The Ecomomics of Manipulation & Deception,” by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, Princeton U. There’s little in it about the airline industry but, oh my, a book on manipulation and deception, particularly if written by Cranky, would be monumental, voluminous.

    • LT_DT says:

      Hah. I feel the same way. I live 35 minutes from Bush Intercontinental, and 25 minutes from Hobby.

      Like you:
      –I fly UA all the time,
      –I complain about UA all the time,
      –I love WN.
      –I never fly WN,
      –I love low fares,
      –I wouldn’t fly Spirit, Frontier, or Allegiant unless my life depended on it (probably not even Allegiant in that case).

      LT_DT

    • DAB says:

      Wow. I don’t think I could have summed up me being a UA Plat any better than JayB… My only difference is that I live in SAT and thus only really have one viable airport (I have never seen AUS work better for me when I tried). WN does a big business here, and I like them, but I fly enough to get to around 75k miles a year on one airline and UA has the best flights to LA for me (and WN doesn’t fly to BIS or ANC which are occasional destinations for me).

      My main complaint against UA now is that they got rid of that old CO routing where they sent almost everything to or from ANC through SEA, and thus the last couple of times I had to take AS from SEA to ANC…

  15. Len says:

    I prefer WN’s model and believe thier “ecosystem” argument is stronger than Cranky’s. It is not a simple straight subsidy. An even if Cranky is right, customer perception is different and perception beats reality every time. WN is winning the marketing war.

    • Len – But I’m assuming you felt that way before. If anyone read this interview and changed their minds, that would be surprising.

      • Better By Design says:

        Given that 95% of respondents “against” WN and free bags are implying that most flyers are “Subsidizing” luggage services, it’s pretty clear everyone already had, and still has, a side they remain on.

        I could easily argue that paying $25-50 for carry-on luggage for a fare I paid $29 for means I’m “subsidizing” every non-luggage carrying passenger.

  16. I just updated the post with this… A helpful reader pulled the data and sent it to me from the DOT O&D Survey via mi.diio.net. Including AirTran, Southwest was up 43.9 percent from 2000 to 2014. During the same period United/Continental was up 12.9 percent, American/TWA/America West/US Airways was up 6.1 percent, and Delta/Northwest was up 5.4 percent.

  17. Mike says:

    I am impressed by Kevin’s ecosystem comment. It’s like with hotels: as a non-TV watcher I am “subsidizing” those who do, yet the ecosystem of travel demands that there be a TV. Cranky instead would love to see a fee for TV watching in hotels!

    He has a better grasp of consumers than the Ivory tower beancounters at other airlines. Bravo.

    • Nick Barnard says:

      Well why doesn’t every hotel have free HBO and on demand movies?

      These are services I’d actually use, and perhaps even pay a bit more for the opportunity of having them included?

      But having non-premium cable-TV and the local over the air stations piped for free into my room? Those things are useless to me, and I’d rather have a discount for them.

      (Oh, and I’d also like for there not to be that big blank grey thing in the room. TVs are kindof horrible that way when they’re in a living space.

      • Better By Design says:

        My last couple stays at Renaissance properties had a TV with Netflix built in – that was an amenity I thought was pretty nice for today’s traveller.

        Same goes for Carlson’s “business class rooms” with free on-demand movies… that’s a perk more hotel chains could be emulating.

        Then again, WN has free “bundled” TV with “unbundled” on-demand movies and Wifi…

  18. Ed K. says:

    We are in the Washington area (DCA, IAD, BWI). Have used Southwest, but UAL is our most frequent carrier, lately to Alaska and Oregon. We get free bags on UA because of lifetime Club privileges and our UA credit card. However, my wife and I differ on the bag procedure. I want to check our bags and not have to drag them to the gate and lift them up to the bins. Also, I resent the people who delay loading and unloading while they are trying to deal with their bags. My wife really resents waiting a half hour or more to pick up our bags when the plane arrives. There is a little box when you board the plane which shows the largest size of a carry-on. Nobody observes this. So, it is more than fees, but perception of experience.

  19. Lundberry says:

    I think ultimately it does come down to what you have tolerance for. I am one of those people that likes WN a lot. But in part that is because I check 2 50lb bags have a roll on and a back pack nearly every single time I fly them. They also do have a surprisingly robust schedule from MSP which is nice. I think the other thing that seems to get left out of this discussion is that often WN is flying a better product in and out of a market that might be serviced by regional jet by other airlines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on a cramped regional jet flying into ORF when I could have been on a 737 with WN. To a certain extent your paying for garrauntee that your going to be on a certain kind of aircraft and not relegated to the regionals.

  20. southbay flier says:

    One thing the Legacy carriers have that WN doesn’t is the ability for same day standby or same day confirmed for a small fee or free depending on what status you have. Plus, their FF program doesn’t allow me to get a ticket to almost anywhere in the world.

    So, I don’t know if WN can do anything to get my business unless I need to fly intrastate and there are no other options.

    • Better By Design says:

      I believe Same Day Standby is free on WN for folks flying on Business Select fares (assuming same city pair).

      As for flying around the world… well, that’s not happening!

      (although their expanding network to the Caribbean and Central America is a HUGE plus for me and my family vacation plans!)

      • CF says:

        Better By Design – There is no distinction with same day changes on Southwest. If you make a change, you will pay the fare difference no matter what. If you have a Business Select fare, that’s the highest fare in the market. So unless there was a fare increase between the time you bought the ticket and the time you made the change, there wouldn’t be a fare difference.

  21. Bob says:

    I don’t get the subsidize “the other guy” thought. Revenue Management at an airline either price match or do not. That varies by day. If Southwest decided to match DL for instance they don’t tack on a fee, they match it or they do not. Then another department within RM decides how inventory is opened/closed based on individual demand. I’m not sure where a fare would be implemented that adds a “bundle of fees” inside a specific fare.

    Please advise if I’m off my horse here.

  22. B.E. Radtke says:

    Cranky,

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the Transfarency campaign. WN is still pushing the meme that they have the lowest fares which is clearly not the case. When WN goes on 3rd party sites then I’ll reconsider their claim until then its just disingenuous.

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