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Getting Down to Business

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As you can tell from our announcement today, we have a lot of exciting news for our business travelers and our frequent Rapid Rewards Members, and these enhancements go into effect tomorrow, hand-in-hand with the systemwide rollout of our new streamlined boarding procedures.  Much of my time and focus (and that of the entire Marketing Team) over the past year or so has been devoted to these changes, and I see them as reconfirming the vision of our Founders, Herb Kelleher and Rollin King, who envisioned an airline that would allow business travelers to park the car and travel by air.  Herb and Rollin intuitively knew that business travelers want safe, affordable, frequent, and friendly flights that provide outstanding value for their money, and today's announcement is dedicated to that goal. Road Warriors have special travel needs; their plans usually change at the last minute; and because their time is so important, they often arrive at the airport just before boarding begins.  If ever there was an airline that recognized the benefits of productivity, it is Southwest, and while great fares are extremely important for business travelers--and their companies--making the most of their time is critical.  The exciting changes that we have announced today will help these Customers meet both their productivity and budget goals.  We have a great interactive page at southwest.com, and it will provide you specific details. However, I do want to touch on the more significant aspects of these changes.  Our new Business Select Fare category ensures that, for a few bucks over our Business Fare, our Business Select Customers will be among the first to board and will also receive extra Rapid Rewards credit for their travels and a free cocktail (or beer or wine).   Along with this new fare category, our current unrestricted walkup fare is being renamed our Business Fare, and it gives business travelers total flexibility in their travel plans.  And, we haven't forgotten our leisure travelers with our Wanna Get Away Fares that offer our world famous discounted leisure fares.  (DING! fares remain generally our lowest fares and can only be accessed through the DING! "widget," which is downloaded directly to your desktop.  To sign up for DING!, click here.) Along with the changes in our fare platform, you will see enhancements at southwest.com as we have simplified our initial fare displays to help you find the fare that best suits your travel needs.  The Wanna Get Away fare section will always show the lowest available fare (again, except for DING! fares) for your selected travel date.  Searching for lower fares on other travel dates is also easier now with the newly improved "Southwest Shortcut." Aside from new fare product and web display, we have another exciting enhancement for our most frequent travelers, the Customers we call our A-Listers.  To be a part of this A-List, you don't have to walk a red carpet, hire a publicist, or hide from the paparazzi; you just need to complete 32 one-way flights (16 roundtrips) in a 12-month period.  Once you reach this milestone, you move to the A-List, and we will check you in automatically for your flights and hold your boarding pass(es) for you.  All you (or your publicist) have to do is print out your preassigned boarding pass and be at the gate at least 20 minutes before departure.  We'll do the work for you. Another exciting change is the availability to redeem two Standard Awards in our Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program for an unrestricted Freedom Award. We listened to our frequent travelers who wanted "last seat availability" on our flights, and we're introducing this new program today. With the exception of a few select blackout dates, Southwest is making it possible again to redeem frequent flyer Awards for unrestricted travel. Today is exciting because these new enhancements give us the ability to differentiate our product to meet the differing needs of our Customers without having to change our decades-long dedication to low fares and great Customer Service. I am hoping that you will be just as excited as we are about these enhancements to our product because we really want to be your airline of choice for both your business and personal travel needs.
293 Comments
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I have to agree with the nay-sayers here. I fly to Asia up to 6 times a year so the majority of my flights are international or only domenstic connectors. When I do fly as a "normal" traveler to visit relatives/friends in the US, I have prefered SWA because its simple, efficient and cheap. I think trying to break into a market that's already serviced with the same bureaucratic method will probably cost you the loyal non-busness traveler--that is if there are any left who still fly for fun and can afford to. Given the remarkable response to this already, I am hoping you will qualify and consider all suggestions here. Seems like those that agree would agree if you suggested that you were going to only offer business class, so are you prepared to lose us lower class folks?
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I've waited and read and waited some more before I comment. All the comments I've read are about change. One of the deadliest statements any business can make is, "We've never done it that way before!" Change is scary. But, in order to survive, we all must change. First a little background. Stay with me, I'll get to the new offerings shortly. Our leaders at Southwest are faced with the reality that every Airline is now a low cost Airline. They have to be to survive. Some have become that way through bankruptcy and others through wage concessions. Southwest has remained the Low Cost Leader by working smarter and harder. Crude oil prices at the time of this typing are $96.44/barrel and the 1 year prediction is $125.37/barrel (from www.oil-price.net). And, our fuel hedges are not as big as they used to be. Every employee has been tasked with keeping our costs down. But to survive, we must find ways to increase our income. We simply cannot keep doing things the way we have always done them. We did not change our fare structure, we added a new level. Customers have asked for change, some are willing to pay more for that change, and we are trying to give them what they want. That's a win/win. Enter: Business Select. Some business travelers are willing to pay more for an A boarding pass. So, a few A boarding passes have been set aside for those customers. The number will vary by flight, but there will not be more than 15. So, we still have 45 A's available regardless of what fare you paid. Just like we did before. Our most frequent fliers have asked to be rewarded with something in addition to the Rapid Rewards ticket. So we introduce the A-List. Now they can check in without having to set an alarm for 24 hours before departure. Does this mean that all the A boarding passes will now be gone? On some of the commuter flights like DAL-HOU, maybe. On most other flights, no. There will still be A boarding passes available on most flights. Next, our Rapid Reward members have spoken and we listened. Assume for a moment, that we make no changes to the Rapid Rewards program. You still have no black out dates, but you do have seat restrictions. Now we add Freedom Rewards. With the exception of a few select blackout dates, Southwest is making it possible again to redeem frequent flyer Awards for unrestricted travel. Change is inevitable. It is also scary. But it can be good. And I believe that these changes will be for the best! I'm not in Marketing, so I'm not trying to hype you. I'm not in the Executive offices, so I have not been on the inside of discussions that I am sure have been ongoing for a long time. I'm a frontline employee who is scared out of my mind about these changes, but I believe they are for the best and will allow Southwest to not only survive, but remain the industry leader we have alway been!
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I can't believe what I'm reading. Can't get an "A" - boo hoo! Since there aren't enough "A' passes issued to fill the plane, that leaves plenty of seats to pick from. When I travel, I'm just happy to get on the plane. I'll bet when the flight is overbooked and your seat isn't there, you'd be happy to take any seat just to get where you want to go. I think most of you are missing the 'freedom' part of Southwest. Don't like the seat - move! Kid sits down behind you - move. Continuing flight - move. With an assigned seat on US Air or American, I couldn't move. Don't want to pay the 'select' fare - don't! Don't want to trade the 2-for-1 RR tix - then don't! Southwest is giving me more choices. The ball is in my court and I like that. And, no, I'm not on the "A" list and probably willnever reach that point.. If all you want in life is an "A' boarding pass, you must have a pretty sorry life. Leave your egos at home and get a grip. I'm happy with a 'C'. I still get to where I want to be and seeing the people on the other end when I get there, is far more important than if I boarded first or last. Again, it's my choice. And it is, after all, only a plane ride. As for families having to split up... now hear this - I don't want to sit next to your kid. I'll gladly change.
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I'm just sitting here thinking....I know usually when I get off the plane, I'm the last one. I'm an employee....usually at the back of the plane. I prefer that locale. When the plane arrives at it's destination, I ALWAYS hear people commenting that the people with little kids are holding up the line for people to get off because they are at the front of the plane, trying to gather everything. Do you ever hear that? So, if families are not up front, then they have more time to get their things together, unhook carseats, etc why the people in front of them are deplaning...right? What's the difference if we save time on the front end or the back end of the trip? The point is to get that plane out safely and ontime! I am a parent...of a toddler. I am usually last to board because I'm an employee. I have NEVER EVER not been able to get 2 seats together for myself and my child. They usually close the door behind me...meaning a full flight, every seat filled. I travel with an umbrella stroller that i check at the gate, my child's diaper bag with everything i need in it. I don't lug the kitchen sink with me. I make it as simple for me as I can and for everyone else. I prefer to check baggage so I don't have to mess with it. We usually travel as a family of 5. But sometimes just me and the kids and hubby stays at home. And if you need assistance, all you have to do is ask. We luv our Customers! We truly do! Happy travels everyone!
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I wasn't going to post on this topic, but after reading the comments above, SHEESH! You would think SWA announced that it was trashing its whole operation, merging with American Airlines and going to be operating as American Connection or something. CHILL OUT PEOPLE! And SWA - do a better job of getting all the facts of your changes out there. People are posting based on emotion and misinformation, rather than facts. People are all in a frenzy about losing their "A" Boarding Pass to Business fares - but there are only about 15 of those seats available as I understand it. And I can't imagine that there will be 45 A-listers on a single flight as to hoard up the rest of the A passes. But even if there are, I'm usually the lazy one who checks in whenever and usually end up with a "B" pass. GASP! Yet, I have never sat in the middle seat on SWA. Even on full flights. I do feel that bulking all the leisure fares takes transparency and freedom away from the consumer. It would have been more desirable to create less categories, to be sure, but not only 1 "Wanna Get Away" category. And the "Business" label is soooooo boring and lame. SWA could have been more creative about that. And on the issues of families: I think the frustration by most bloggers has less to do with how the new policy is working and more to do with perceived injustice. Your testing may have shown efficiencies, but it obviously did not account for emotions involved. Frankly, I also find it unconscionable to stick families through out the line and in the back of the line. Create a policy that specifies how many people may board with a specific age child, create a special section in the back of the plane, and move on from this PR trouble. All the effort it takes to defend this policy will be useless because you are not up against reason and logic - you are up against emotion and perceptions. Overall, I find myself believing that people are less upset by the actual changes themselves and more upset about the philosophical shift they perceive this to mean for the airline. I read many comments expressing dissatisfaction that SWA is becoming more like legacy carriers. HOGWASH! That claim is indefensible until I start feeling the same wariness and fear going up to a SWA agent as I do going up to an AA agent. All in all, everyone needs to just chillax and at least wait to see how this goes before pouncing!
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I flew Wednesday (before the change) and Thurdsay (after the change). "A" boarding pass Wednesday (24-hour advance check-in). "A" boarding pass Thursday (A-list -- don't hate me, frequent flying ain't that fun). Thursday wasn't a big hassle. It didn't seem much faster (they have to assemble the "B" lines after the "A" lines board), but it's a new system. Extra staff were there to explain what's going on. Everyone seemed to stand it the right location. People seemed willing to go along with the change (but I didn't hear or see those folks that boarded last). We had pre-boarders, but no families with children. An acquaintance (not on the A-list), snagged A 37 (by checking in about 23 1/2 hours in advance). The first 15 "A" numbers were empty (nobody had purchased Business Select tickets). My question, what determine's the order of the A-listers? I got A-23, but why? Order of booking? Number of flight segments flown? Random assignment?
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Southwest, I am definitely not feeling the LUV. I was flying your airline BEFORE you even HAD a frequent flyer program. The best thing about flying Southwest was that the playing field was level; EVERYONE was treated the same. Well, no more. I defended you and sang your praises to the traveling snobs who dismissed you as nothing more than a "bus that flies". I don't fly 32 segments a year but I fly between 24-28 segments per year and that's all leisure travel. You've managed to alienate this loyal leisure traveler with your "exciting changes". You've made it abundantly clear that you do not value my business. At the end of the hundreds and hundreds of Southwest flights I have taken over the last 25 years I last thing I usually hear is, "We know you have a choice when you fly, and we thank you for choosing Southwest Airlines." Yes, thank you, I DO have a choice and in the future I believe my choice will be someone other than Southwest. Southwest, for 25 years I bought my tickets from you usually without checking to see if anyone else could get me there cheaper or quicker. I think that speaks a lot for loyalty. You've had my loyalty; I wish I had yours. I won't be so foolish as to say I won't ever fly Southwest again, but I will definitely be checking all of my options before I give you my money and my business again. Funny, but I feel like I've just asked Southwest for a divorce.
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Gala You are a bit confused. The requirements to earn a free ticket remain the same. The 32 credits are only for A-List checkin. Brian
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I just have to chime in on the family preboarding policy changes. I know the families with small children don't like the change, but the old policy just was too rife for abuse. I have flown out of San Diego many times, having been perhaps the third person to check in online and holding an A boarding pass, yet boarded after at least 30 or 40 preboard passengers. Often there were three or four adults per child, and despite what others have said, those preboarders waving C boarding passes most definitely plopped down in the first few rows of the plane. I think the new policy has the best shot at optimizing the experience for most people most of the time. It simply was unfair for parents to check in an hour before the flight yet board first and get the most coveted seats. Yes, car seats, diaper bags, Ziploc bags full of Cheerios, etc do slow them down when boarding, but now they slow things down after the A group instead of before the A group. And if families actually check in early and get A boarding passes, then voila, they can do what anyone else can do--board first!
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I'm 7 feet tall, Everyone comments , "Wow! You're tall! You must have to fly first class every where!" I'd reply, "No, I only fly Southwest. I just get my boarding pass early and get to the airport extra early. I can fly just like every one else." No more! Today I just booked 2 trips in December (first class) on another airline. I liked being like everyone else. It's heart breaking and wallet breaking.
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Go back to the 5th of burbon and plastic seating cards...Get back to basics and hire management like former Pilots and FAs and Customer Service agents and dump people like Kevin who will soon run this puppy into bankruptcy...Herb you sure are not going to live forever but I hope and pray that you and Collen can quickly find some former employees to take over and dump the over educated MBAs who know nothing about what you built. Kevin from now on I suggest that you have your speachs and such screened, just saw a quote of yours on AeroNews Online and you are actually think people want to pay more, come on look at the economy today, people like things like DING and my company has us with over 2000 computers loaded with DING and changing our business to use that tool, As for last second travel the beauty of SWA was that we could walk up to a counter if needed and buy a ticket anywhere for at a minimum of 50% less than any other carrier. Yes, that is smart business, you need to cater to the business travler but institute a program that allows a DING customer or really any cutomer to be offered to pay an extra $25 each way to get your new A1-15? But like most of you MBAs you have some great brains and it is an achevement to get that education, but common sense and knowing what is really going on out there on the front lines you don't have. I too will not say we won't fly SWA but I can tell you that we will look to other airlines again and I already dropped in the suggestion box today that maybe for a month or two we freeze using DING and if everyone else did too and SWA were to have a quarter in which you see some RED you may then and only then look to what you are really doing... Please HERB, visit Gary and Kevin and talk to them. Show Kevin his quote on Aero News and ask him if he was the average "Joe" would he actually think his statements would bring more business.... Good Luck
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I am reading about these changes to SW's boarding policies and I have mixed reactions. I have been saying for years that you should board based on the actual number that you get when you check in, so I was VERY HAPPY to see that change being implemented. Thank You! However, I don't think I am so happy about the new "A-list". Sounds to me like the last egalitarian airline has sold out to the elitists. What concerns me is that in busy markets (like Philly where I fly out of most often), all the "A" passes will be taken up by your A-listers, leaving the rest of us as "B"s or "C"s. I fly frequently on multiple airlines, so I may never reach your coveted A-list status, but I AM A LOYAL CUSTOMER!!!! Now I am feeling sold out. I may divert my business back to some of the other airlines I used to fly more frequently just to ensure that I get the seat assignment I want. Please re-think who benefits (small number) versus who will be harmed (lots of us) by these new policies.
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Yipee!! I LUV this new policy, and I'm not a business traveler or a frequent traveler, nor am I married to one. Business travelers and frequent flyers know how to board and deboard quickly. They have places to go and people to see. They are not lugging screaming kids, carseats, strollers, etc. Let's face it, business travelers get on and off planes much faster than familes with children and their 5 pieces of child-related items. I have no problem with families being allowed to preboard -- just make them sit at the rear of the plane. That way they can still sit together, won't be bumping people with all their paraphernalia walking down the isles, and they can take all the time they need to settle into their seats without holding up the other passengers. When it's time to deboard, they'll have plenty of time to gather up their kids and stuff without all the other passengers stuck behind them waiting, and waiting and waiting. Kuddos to you Southwest!
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I believe the saying goes "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." My spouse's Rapid Rewards Awards have been devalued. I should have booked in August with a "Legacy" carrier. The fare Southwest wants me to pay into an alternate airport is double what I could've paid to fly directly into my chosen destination. I chose to wait and use those hard-earned RR Awards. Granted-I was never guaranteed usage of these awards (shame on me for becomming accustomed to traditional SWA practices). Now I will most likely pay the double fare, only on another carrier so I don't have to fly into an alternate airport. I haved always LUVed Southwest (once lived in Dallas). The crews, both on the ground and in the air are typically awesome! The next few days/weeks, I would guess these crews (not "Decision Makers") will be taking the brunt of passenger questions/comments concerning the recent changes. Good luck to these poor souls! HAHA!
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Why does SWA insist on making their boarding process even more complicated? I hate the new family boarding. Before I had children not having a seat assignment was no big deal. The new family boarding is not family friendly at all - and an incovenience to other passengers as well. On a recent flight I could not get a row together with my 19 month old & husband without having to ask people to move. The plane already had over 25 passengers when it picked us up in Chicago so by boarding with the new family boarding all rows already had at least a window or aisle seat taken. SWA recently stated on the Dr. Phil show that "it prides itself in being a family friendly airline". This simply is not true anymore. I am no longer loyal to SWA.
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Having gotten my A-List e-mail yesterday I found the whole thing confusing and am wondering if any one told Herb K what you all have done? Knowing full well that changes were forthcoming I am flying Frontier this week, I didn't want to be part of the gaggle of folks at the gates that can't read or count. Knowing the age of some of your Gate Agents also made me schedule other airlines during WN "changes". Some of them will undoubtly have reading and counting impairments also which have been documented on other blogs. Question, being a A-list member and having a wife that travels with me on a Companion pass; how do I get her a A pass. Same as always or is she to be treated as you have to the poor families that travel on WN??? Also it states I need to print my boarding pass being an A-List member. Not posible on return due to be laptop hotel bound? Can I still print a bosarding pass at kiosk??? Signed, Confused and traveling on other airlines
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After reading the emails I received from Southwest the past two days, I just booked us on Delta to fly cross country. I'll pay a little more for assigned seats from an airline that doesn't cater exclusively to frequent business travelers. I just returned from a trip with my family. We had "A" numbers and boarded with the A group amidst lots of complaining about our boarding with stroller, car seat, etc. holding up everyone behind us. And there werer 5 of us needing seats together! That is not an improvement. Now, even if we are online exactly 24 hours ahead, we may not get early "As." I am so disappointed in Southwest. Since BWI became a hub, I have flown Southwest often on business and leisure (but not 16 r/t a year). If frequent business travelers are all you want, than that's all you will get! Southwest isn't "Love Airlines" any more, it's "Love Frequent Business Travelers." Bye Southwest!
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b. p heiss: Do you think anyone is drinking the sw kool-aid? besides those who are trying to sell it?
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Why do Americans always think they're owed something, give me, give me, give me. That's all you ever care about.
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I will be anxious to hear comments from SWA travelers after the Thanksgiving Holiday. Kevin or Brian, open the blog up the Monday or Tuesday afterwards to hear comments. Lets see how it works. Management has said "give it a chance". Hopefully Bert in BNA and other CSA's will comment also. By the way, I thought Bert's comments were very good. Its interesting to hear from the people on the front lines during this time of change. The one thing that we all must think about when we fly our next trip on SWA is to not take it out on these front line employees.
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Mark Nugent said "And if families actually check in early and get A boarding passes, then voila, they can do what anyone else can doÃ
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You can check in online if you are traveling with a lap child... age verification is required if you purchase a seat for the baby....
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Christine - Great news! If you are traveling with a lap child, you can now get your boarding pass online. You spoke, we listened. In the midst of all the other changes, this one may not have gotten the attention is deserves.
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Like "nsx," I post at www.flyertalk.com a lot. A suggestion I made there never got too much comment, except for some folks who tried to shoot it down. I did not understand their objections. It seems to me that preboarding should be allowed for young children and their families, but only under the condition that they agree to sit in the rear, say, 8-10 rows. This would solve the problems of 1. Slow loading of diaper bags, car seats, etc., since those folks won't be blocking the aisles at the front or middle, both boarding and disboarding. 2. Folks who want to sit apart from young children will have a much better chance by staying up front or in the middle. 3. Families will be more able to sit together without asking people to move. 4. Everyone knows what to expect. 5. Families that don't want to sit in the rear can take their chances getting an "A" like the rest of us. Probably there are other benefits as well. Obviously, some will consider "back of the bus" to be second-class, but other than that connotation, I don't see what flaws this plan would have. Would appreciate level-headed discussion of this.
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I've been a loyal SW customer for 15 years, but I fear those days are approaching their end. Changing to an elitist system is vexing to me, as I will directly suffer from getting pushed further back in line (I'm a 'Wanna Get Away' customer - only a few flights per year, but planned out months in advance and good fares pounced on). I have always relied on SW for cheap fares, plus if you know the system and give it the time, you can get a good seat. Now I'm not sure that I can get such a seat with dedicated A seats to business and A-listers (the numbers of which can expand if this system works) taking up the first portion of the flight. There have been a number of unfriendly changes at SW in recent years: * Restrictions on Rapid Reward flights. * Families no longer preboard (as a guy who has flown solo with a two year old including a carry-on - plenty of toys!, a stroller, a car seat, a bag of food since peanuts aren't going to cut it, etc., I can tell you that this policy can be VERY frustrating). * Now, business class and frequent flier preemption of A seats. In the past I've rarely even looked outside of SW for flights - they always had the cheap flights and I preferred their policies. With the latter no longer being true and the former in question, I'll definitely be looking around more. I am no longer one of the ultra-loyal legion of SW customers. Tim As a couple aside that I hope does not diminish the thrust of this comment, this policy is doomed to failure. You're not going to attract business customers with early boarding and a beer. But you will alienate the other 95% of the flight. My advice is to keep the customer first and foremost and the economics will work themselves out - just continue to build the best airline possible. Granted that is overly simplistic, but this decision appears to be one made by the short-term bean counters rather than a long-term on-brand strategy. Either that or the brand that I knew has ceased to be the brand of SWA.
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I keep reading on here...strollers being carried on! I have never seen a stroller carried onto a plane. Those are checked are they not? maybe except for the stroller that converts to a car seat. And quite honestly, I don't see too many parents carrying a car seat onboard either. At the most i have seen 2 carseats on one flight. I most of the time i do not carry mine onboard because I don't want the hassle of lugging it around with me and my child, and diaper bag etc. I'm pro active. Make it as simple as I can. My child sits fine in his seat with his lapbelt. I have plenty of things to keep him busy so he's not squirming everywhere. i like what one blogger had to say previously, that alot of this is EMOTIONAL! How can you complain if you have not done it (back to broccoli story here lol). I'm glad the family pre board is gone. It was frustrating to me to watch how it was taken advantage of...but then i still think alot of the pre boarders now (disabled who really are not!) is out of control. I'm an employee and i travel for fee and it was frustrating. So i can see how it would be for people paying for their flights. The bottom line is this...change happens. it must in order for us to continue. We have done a lot of fabulous things to make our Customers more comfy. In life, you will never please all of the people all of the time. So you have to please as many people as you can most of the time. Happy travels, and when you frequent fliers take your next flight, i'd love to hear back from you...an honest outlook on how it went. I'm sure there will be a few quirks as with anything new.... happy travels.
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Brian, if it is hard to find a seat to use your normal Rapid Rewards award and you have to "upgrade" to "Freedom" awards, then, in reality, it has taken you 32 one-way flights (instead of 16) to earn that award. Also, Freedom awards are only round trip, not one way, correct?
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Thank you Southwest. You were wonderful all these years, I have been flying with you since the early 70s. Unless forced to do so, you were my selection for business and leisure travel. You were the tough, little spunky guy who created your own ethic and business model. You were cool and professional to a Tee. You have had my trust all these years, always getting me home, keeping things real and sometimes getting a good laugh from me at the same time. At times, I took a more expensive flight with you because that trust existed. But now, now you are just like the other airlines. You have just put me in a C L A S S. I cannot tolerate that. It is shameful. Everyone was equal, now we are not. I can't say I will never fly Southwest again. Sometimes you will be the only game in town . But I can say you have opened up the door for me to look at the others guys.
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By and large, the negative comments in this blog are directed at the new family boarding policy and at the priority boarding for A-list and Business Select customers. I largely agree with the folks complaining about families not being able to board first anymore. On a recent and full vacation flight from BNA to PHX, we were delayed at least 15 minutes as the FAs tried very hard (and ultimately succeeded) to get already-seated passengers to give up their seats so that at least three parent-child groups could travel together. As an A-lister and a Business Select customer, I have no problems whatsoever with families with young children boarding first, as it really did speed up the boarding process for everyone. As a 6'5" passenger who flies 45 to 48 weeks out of the year, though, I am most grateful for the new boarding privileges that reward those of us who really are Southwest's most frequent customers. It is unfortunate that the harsh economic circumstances and brutally competitive nature of the US airline industry have forced Southwest to give up their once egalitarian approach to flying. Having reluctantly flown a legacy carrier once this year and being treated very badly by another low-cost carrier, I can tell you that I will remain a loyal Southwest flyer for years to come. If those of you in this blog who are so opposed to the new frequent-flyer and business-first policies do in fact go back to legacy carriers, I wish you happy travels. If an assigned seat is worth flying most everywhere on a 50-seat and cramped regional jet on a bankrupt carrier with disillusioned flight attendants and 20-year-old flight crews, then I say go for it. What all of this negativity about the new policies is overlooking is that Southwest was and is the only US carrier that will get you where you're going reliably with better on-time performance, with the most professional and cheerful flight and cabin crews, and always on a full-size airliner, the Boeing 737. As some of the other blog posters said, please give these new policies a chance to work before flaming Southwest management.
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Many people here have stated how I feel: Betrayed. I have been defending Southwest for years when people said they hated Southwest because it was a "cattle car". Why did I defend Southwest, because EVERYONE was treated equally and it had... HAD ...the best frequent flier program of all. First you stopped singing, then you added restricted use of your awards, now you marginalize and betray your loyal customers by changing your fare and boarding pass system to reward big business customers rather than the small business owners and average masses of people that select your airline bringing you to the success you have today. You don't even GO everywhere, yet that didn't matter, if you went where I needed to go, I'd choose Southwest over any other airline. Well, I have averaged a few awards a year on Soutwhest, am elite on Delta and USAirways. I fly a lot and SOUTWEST WAS my favorite airline. The only reason I flew the other airlines is because you didn't fly to where I needed to go. If I have to choose now, between Southwest and another airline, I"m going to work on my status at Delta and USAirways rather than waste my dollars on Southwest. You are not often that much cheaper anymore. You've sold us out. You've lost your integrity. You are in line to become a dinosaur. I'm disgusted with your new "enhancements" and more disgusted at the "sales lies" that you use to sell it.
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I would say I was skeptical about our new family second business first boarding process but by in large the past two days have been a rousing success. The first customer I came in contact with to explain the new boarding procedures smiled with a wide grin that she didn't have to wait in line anymore. She promptly headed to have a wine and relax at the wine bar in BWI before her B row was called. Throughout the past couple of days I have had dozens and dozens of praises and a only a handful of complaints mostly from family members. However, those family members were still sitting together. There appears to be the misconception that families will no longer be sitting together and that just isn't the case. They just aren't sitting in the front of the aircraft. This speeds up our boarding process a little and gets EVERYONE to their destination faster. I haven't seen any "business" customers boarding first because I don't know that we have sold any of those tickets on my flights yet. And as far as the through-flight question of taking all the good seats away from them. I can say it is rare that there are 50-60 through flight customers to make it a problem Overall, I congratulate Gary and company. Great job!! My father was an executive a major corporation and one thing I have learned over the years from him is if a company stays static it dies. SWA's boarding policy was long overdue for a makeover and I'm excited to see what will be coming in the months and years ahead to keep our product fresh for all to enjoy. Well done!!
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Award tickets whether they are Standard Award tickets or Freedom Award tickets can be used either as a roundtrip or two one-ways....
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Ok, I've been watching this blog for a few days ... time to add my two cents. I have 'commuted' between PVD and MCO since 2004 .. prior to that I've used SWA for many years (remember when you couldn't get a boarding pass until one hour before flight ... at the podium?) Online checkin ... that was a welcome feature (didn't care about the midnight feature first started) ... 24 hour checkin ... fantastic! In 2004 I averaged 2-3 round trips per month ... I was never bumped, delayed, cancelled or late (of course I planned my flights for early AM to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms). Only once did I a "B" instead of an "A". All my flights start with an empty plane, so I can't relate to the issues when boarding a flight in progress. I have sat in the same seat on 99% of the flights taken. I don't stand in line ... I wait for my boarding group to finish then join the end of the line as it approaches the gate. (I could never understand the mentality of standing in a line for an hour ... I'd rather sit comfortably and be amused by the different 'traveling phobias' displayed. Flying in/out of Orlando, there are obviously lots of families on board with me. I feel for the parents who have tots with them, they've got their hands full. Since I'm always starting with an empty plane, I never minded the families boarding first. I spend less time in the airway, they are all settled in (and I know where they are all sitting). Even with I got the "B" there were plenty of seats left and I sat in my favorite seat. I have switched seats only twice in all my travels. It wasn't due to kids ... but adults. It's easy to identify those that are going to be the challenges to any chance of a relaxing flight. 🙂 A sidenote to the FA's ... how does one discreetly signal to you the fact the the person ordering a drink really shouldn't have another? 2005-present I average a trip a month ... I won't make the a-list. As for wheelchairs ... I have traveled with my folks twice a year to bring them down to FL. They have used wheel chairs. Mom is 81 but looks 50 ... if anyone ever questioned her 'right' to use preboarding, I'm not sure I'd have a civil response. (there was a comment somewhere in the blog on this topic ... whoever said it needs to rethink and take closer look at our senior generation). As for all the changes taking place, no problem here. I know that I will continue to have ample flight choices, I'll be on time and I'll be accomodated by a friendly and caring staff. In addition to all of that, I still have the flexibility to manage my travel and make last minute changes when needed. If it was decided to once again preboard families no problem here. I wish I had a magic wand to chill those that need it ... but then what would amuse me? I've been flying since the early 70's, I've done the other airlines when SWA wasn't an option ... I live where I do because SWA is here with me, linking me to the cities that I need to be linked to. So, SWA, the LUV is still in this heart ... thanks! I have total confidence that you'll be there when I need you.
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So yesterday I was flying from Long Island (ISLIP) back to Chicago Midway. I was luckey enough to be flying on business, and upgraded to the new business select fare the same day that the program started. As I was getting ready to go with my A-1 boarding pass, I look back and see NO ONE ELSE in the A-1 to A-15 pods. So basicly folks, SWA has killed your and my chance at getting a A boarding pass by 15 if there are business select customers / A listers on your flight or not. One other thing, I as a business traveler dont like having to purchace a higher fare ticket to travel on business. One reason I used SWA so much, is I could get a lower fare than the big 3, get to the airport a few hours early, stand in line and GET THE SEAT I WANT. Now to do that I have to pay just as much as I would to travel on United or American, where I CAN PICK MY SEAT. Another thing, If I pay more money and buy a business select fair and board first; now I have to worrie about where all these kids and familys are going to sit! Nothing better than paying the most for my tickets and having to have little Johnie kick and scream behinds me. LET THE BOARD FIRST SO I DONT HAVE TO SIT NEXT TO THEM!!!! SWA, just one more business traveler you have lost due to all this garbage! Go back to the way it used to be, and I will be on a SWA flight in a heartbeat. David Rogers, Chicago IL
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David, You do realize that there's a "gotcha" in your statement, "Now to do that I have to pay just as much as I would to travel on United or American, where I CAN PICK MY SEAT." You left out " ... FROM THE SEATS THAT AREN'T ALREADY TAKEN." If you buy a seat at the last minute from Southwest, you still get a reasonable fare, and you also have a reasonable chance of getting a good seat. If you buy from one of the legacies, you pay considerably more, and you get to PICK YOUR SEAT from the assortment of middle seats that aren't already assigned to people who paid less that you. AND, you don't get any choice of who to sit next to. Southwest's new policy is still the best going.
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Here's MY game plan, Kevin... Wednesday I'll be flying what is likely to be my next-to-last paid flight on Southwest from Dallas to Los Angeles. (I have a round-trip ticket so I'll use it to come back.) In the meantime I'm going to make T-shirts that read "Bring Back the REAL Southwest Airlines" on one side and "I'm now a SECOND CLASS PASSENGER on Southwest -- I can't afford the new BUSINESS CLASS" on the back. I will wear these shirts as often as possible. I'm going to encourage your customers to write to SW executives and tell them what they think of the new policies. I might even print up business cards to hand out with Southwest's mailing address to make it easier for customers to reach you guys. I've already posted my thoughts on the "Business Week" website about what I think of the new policies. I'll be writing letters to the editors of newspapers in many of your major markets. (I'm a former editor of a daily newspaper.) Why? Because Southwest's decision-makers have totally lost touch with the average customer. I can't recall seeing anyone in a business suit on my last four or five flights. What you're doing targets the pocketbooks of your executives' peers, not the people who made your airline a success. Southwest WAS a lot like Apple. A better product. Intensely loyal customers. Loyalty that was built over years and years largely destroyed on a single day.
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My husband and I have been loyal SWA fliers for many years; we have the Rapid Reward Visa card, and accumulating some free rides. But now SWA wants to charge us 2 rewards for a trip that should of cost us one! I can understand if itÃ
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I flew on November 7 on Southwest, and had to stand in line at Dulles, while first class passengers moved to the front. I was going to complain to Southwest about the legacy carriers discriminating. Apparently, such a complaint would be a waste since SW is now planning on doing the same thing. SW had a simple model, cheap and convenient flights. Too many people in marketing trying to make that complicated will destroy the business.
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All of these blog postings are pointless. This was a business decision, not a decision made based off customer opinion. That is why 90% of folks absolutely hate it - which includes the business travelers that receive the additional "benefits" supplied by this new structure. I believe that Southwest is going to also make the business decision of keeping the new policies, regardless of how much everyone violently opposes it. I believe that it's been made clear that Southwest has started a new era where the company's pocketbook has higher priority than it's customers. There's a clear difference between a company that maintains fiscal responsibility and a company that is simply becoming greedy. Southwest has taken a sharp turn from the reputation they've gained by treating everyone the same -- whether it be a business traveler, vacation traveler or family traveler. This model has proven to work wonders, and the reputation that Southwest has developed from it definitely contributed towards making it the only airline in the US that is debt-free and extremely popular. Now all it takes to get priority over everyone else is slipping them a a few extra $20 dollar bills and they'll hook you up. They have also effectively de-valued their Rapid Rewards program. Customer opinion said that folks wanted more capabilities with the Rapid Rewards programs -- such as more flexibility in scheduling their free flight and less blackout dates. Their new system certainly allows a person to do that, but at what cost? With the new system, Southwest has the capability to add more blackout dates to a standard Rapid Reward, while still being to able to say that it's "possible" to choose a better schedule -- you just need to fly more to get it and give them twice as much money. Southwest, I am ashamed.
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**** QUESTION about the A-list and Companion Pass !!! *** I have been a loyal SWA flyer. For the past 2 years, I have flown a lot and have had 219 RR credits. I was awardrd the companion pass almost a year ago and I'm on the A-list. Now my GF and I are flying together (with she being the companion pass cardholder) during the year end to Disneyworld. With the new boarding system I don't think I can check in online early and get her the A boading pass. So will I have to board the same group as her (which most likely will not be "A"), or can she come up and board the A group with me? If I have to board with her boarding group (which, again, most likely will not be the A), there are chances that we may not be able to sit together. And the trip wouldn't be as enjoyable as when I was able to check both of us in online 23 hours 59 minutes and 50 seconds before scheduled departure, and we were on the same A boarding group. It would be good if SW could also implement into the system so that a Companion Pass Cardholder is also on the A-list. Or if this policy is understood and is consistently carried out by the gate agent, this would be ok as well. To SW: please remember that for anyone to be awardrd the companion pass, the person must have flown a lot! Due to changes in my job, I'm currently not flying at all, so I won't experience the new boarding system until year end. I hope it will be a good one for me and my GF. Thank you!
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Solution!!!!!!!!! 1. Go back to Plastic Boarding Cards 2. Only Issue them 1 hour prior to departure (1st come - 1st serve) 3. Everyone is HAPPY :) Results!!!!!!!!!!! 1. No money wasted on kiosk machines 2. No time wasted checkin in online 3. Everyone is HAPPY 🙂
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I really must agree with all the other negative feedback received. I am flying back and forth constantly from Washington to California for school breaks, and up until now I have never considered another airline. I have chosen Southwest in the past because of it's well-made website, its rewards that treat everyone equal and are easily explained, and the boarding system. Flight choices are now limited, prices seem to be higher, and the reward's system changes are ridiculous. I hate to say it, but I will no longer be praising flying Southwest. The fact that there is a Business Priority seating, disregards the idea of checking in early online. Also, blackout dates? Since when? Let's not be like all of the other sellout airlines. Marketing managers should really think about what they are doing here if they really believe this will boost profits or convince me to keep my brand loyalty. In essence I believe that these changes contradict all Southwest claims it believes in.
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like nxs stated.... this might now open the flood gates for the other BS on Southwest .......will the Blue Sleeve ...BS.....( notice the same "letters" as Business Select ) work around now be exploited more than ever before on our last flight from Buffalo to Orlando got a family of 6 and almost their friends family of 4 "on" by using the BS ) of course the family of 6 blocked out seats for their "friends" once they got on, as the gate agent denied the family of 4 from boading and sent them to the proper "between A and B" location in addition, one of the "wheel chair boardings" also included the whole entourage of 5 or 6 people who seemed to be "travelling" with the wheelchair occupant ....they just walked on to the jetway once the gate agent took the wheelchair passenger without having presented their boarding passes but the gate agent did have them in her hand when she returned to begin the boarding of A ....... the rules are rules only if they are really rules administered consistently .....which we all know will never happen, otherwise they are just "suggested protocols" administered at the whims of the gate agent of the day there have already been reports posted on flyertalk about "linejumpers" and "general confusion" as to where people are to even line up even with the new "boardng procedure in place"
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Ryan, you obviously need to run an airline since you know how to please 100% of the customers all the time. You seem to have an amazing ability in determining 90% of customers hate upgrades that have just been made (of which I wonder how many you personally have tried before complaining about them). I would like to know how you would run an airline where fuel costs have gone up 10's of millions of dollars in a single year and not change a thing. I am proud that SWA hasn't laid off a single person, or cut benefits, or cut paychecks in some of the most trying times for airlines. If you know how to do it, then I am sure everyone listening would love to hear your ideas. We all look forward to your ideas on how to improve an airline while staying within budget and while pleasing "every" customer.
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Just checked my A-list boarding pass 36 hours prior to my flight........all I got was a Security document! No boarding pass, it says check in at airport! Way to go LUV! I held the printed document up to my head and nothing, I don't know what my boarding group or number is. Oh I think I get it now, being a former loyal business traveler (almost weekly) and a fan of "Ding" (my fare for this weeks flight) I will more than likely get a B pass. Most of my company fly United, I am the only hold out for WN, for years I have flown LUV from ABQ to my Western destinations. Companion pass for years, Rewards tickets for family and no problem using them. However change is good, I for one have never been consumed by fear of change. But, this is more than I can even take. I won't uses BS fares (Biz Select) I plan my trips in advance buy "Dings" and used to Love the freedom to change flights. As the years have gone by fares on LUV have not been the cheapest, was on frontier again last week. It has been a good run WN, but it is over now. I will attempt to sell my current Rapid rewards due to your devaluation and begin the United and Frontier Mileage game in "08. You see the problem is I bought "Dings" upto the end of the year and have booked Reward flights before you screwed up the Rapid Rewards seats. I play the game for awhile!
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I switched from Delta for the same reasons many have listed above: the egalitarian seat assignment. My business trips have become longer in duration and shorter in distance. When I lost Delta Medallion status, it was like getting dropped by your girlfriend: no more special privileges, just friends (and you can sit in the back with the rest of the "just friends"). My company forces me to use American Express for an online booking travel agent, unless I can save >$100 elsewhere. The online booking doesn't get the Southwest fares I can get from "Ding!" and such... Delta is usually cheaper... so I wait for the "Ding!" fares and buy then. Is this going to change? This morning I went to check in, and have an "A", but it also says "Position 34". I don't know "Position 34"... can somebody explain it to me? Also, I was saving points for some Hawaii tickets for next May/June. Are these effected?
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The management said "WeÃ
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My husband and son are flying to visit colleges this weekend. I booked the trip long before any of these announcements had been made. Went on line to check them in (hopefully getting A group) and when I got in exactly 24 hours prior to flight they were assigned A19 & A 20. The interesting thing is that when they were at the gate at LAX, the announcement was initially "anybody with an A, get in line" (like the old-fashioned Southwest), etc. A short while later another announcement was made to shift everybody to the appropriate 5-number groups. Although my husband and son were 19 & 20, there was only one person in front of them, at A18. Where were all the rest of the A's, 1-17, that boarding passes were reserved for?? Were these A-listers that space had been allocated for but no one was reserved on that flight? Is this how it's going to be from here on out for the 'leisure' traveler? Will the system revert back to allowing position A1 to be printed if there has not been an A-lister on the flight? I would appreciate comments from SW regarding this policy. And I have a feeling I know what the answer is going to be. I guess my husband and son were then the second and third passengers on the plane, so why the fuss? The system was not broken before, it definitely didn't need this ill-conceived and discriminatory fix.
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Do you all think SWA just came out of the blue with this system? They have been informing the media for over a year they are researching the process and will select the best for the company and passengers. I will be sending cudos to SWA for their new boarding process and business class....Each year I earn a companion pass (I began with SWA in 1999) and travel weekly and already flown twice since November 8th and love the system. I am already assigned an "a" boarding card automatically without having to do nothing except being a loyal customer. For all these blogs who are complaining, you only have to worry about the process only a few times a year...For those of us who ride a SWA plane weekly, I personally feel we deserve this! Complain if you want, but it is only a little inconvenience for you. It's called customer service! Maybe if you recieved one of those "Welcome to A Class emails" you too would think it was a good idea. Then pay the few bucks extra and get what you want...
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Well, so far I am not impressed with the new boading pass system.. I have checked in twice and both times got numbers that were at least 3 numbers different from each other (ex. A38 & A41) when the confirmation number was the same, i.e. two travelers flying on the same reservation. How is that possible?? Also, I checked in at exactly 24 hours ahead, and got A38 & A41. I used to get lower numbers before this new system. What gives??