Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

The Business Side of Southwest

Not applicable
Is there a more appropriate place to blog than at 35,000 feet? Something about having my head in the clouds has inspired me. I'm on my third connection and third different plane from Dallas Love Field to Pittsburgh (damn Wright Amendment!). As I changed from plane to plane I couldn't help but think about a recent USA Today article that defined Southwest Airlines as " the giant discounter popular with leisure travelers." For 21 years I've heard us categorized as a leisure airline and that dumbfounds me (although most things dumbfound me). We fly 29 times a day between Dallas and Houston...22 times between Oakland and Los Angeles...and we have five or more daily flights between more than a hundred city pairs. Grandma certainly doesn't need that kind of frequency to visit the grandchildren and surfer dudes usually don't want to travel and return the same day. But for some reason we continue to be classified as a leisure carrier. I think it's a conspiracy... propaganda put out by our competitors or simply assumptions made by reporters because our fares are so inexpensive that families can actually afford to fly. I've even heard it said that you don't see business travelers on Southwest. Huh? What exactly does a business traveler look like? Business suits and a briefcase? Hardly. If you stand in a gate area and start observing closely, you begin to figure out who is traveling on business by what they carry rather than how they dress. A Blackberry tends to be a dead giveaway, a laptop might indicate a business traveler if they are working on a spreadsheet as opposed to playing computer games (although business people do play computer games). Today I'm traveling on business in a Polo shirt and blue jeans…with my Blackberry strapped to my belt. My point is that Southwest Airlines has never been given the credit it deserves for carrying millions of business travelers each year. With the industry's best business web site (in my humble opinion anyway), SWABIZ, it's time to get a little recognition.
37 Comments
Not applicable
Funny. I've always seen Southwest as a business travelers bread and butter. Maybe because I read Nuts! in college.
Not applicable
Southwest Airlines is the PIONEER of true low-fares. Its only the others who attempt to be a "Me-Too" product! Southwest is an ORIGINAL and can't be duplicated!
Not applicable
Richard - Tell us a little about the "missing link" in Southwest's route map. There is absolutely no question Southwest can compete priofitably in the New York market. Southwest has done very well in Philadelphia. When is New York coming on board? (Please don't mention Islip / Long Island, its NOT New York City) I didn't know Southwest Airlines was ever regarded as a leisure airline, I think of Southwest Airlines as the no-nonsense business-person's shuttle. Not traveling between BOS and MIA? Southwest's got you covered if you're travelling between cities that are important to you (the business traveler) but not high enough volume for the "others." Southwest Airlines' business model most closely aligns with the needs of the domestic business travelers.
Not applicable
In response to the comments about your policy of having passengers buy two seats, I think it's fine to enforce if the passenger actually can't fit in one seat. But your current policy, as it stands, is that the flight crew can "eyeball" a person before they even get on the plane and decide whether or not they fit ... and people who fit just fine are being told that they can't. THAT is discrimination. That is, it's okay to have a policy. But you have to have an ACTUAL policy that is enforced consistently and reasonably, not just choose people based on how they look.
Not applicable
In referance to the 2 people who commented about larger passengers, I agree with the policy. I am 5'10" and 350, so I am not a stick either. I have walked in the plane... and got off the plane when there were only middle seats left. If the plane was full and I had someone squished between me and someone else or the wall... I got off. Did it inconvience me.... a little. But I respect other peoples space... and unless I have to be somewhere... i.e. meeting, family emergency... I will take the next one. I try to leave a day early anyway for my business trips, so I am not rushed. Most of the time the agents appreciate it and will "take care of me" on the next flight. Its your choice, fly who you want, when you want... no one is forcing you to fly on Southwest. I avoid another Dallas based carrier like the plague, for a couple reasons, thats my choice. Have a great day, and everyone be safe. Chris
Not applicable
Wow, IÃ
Not applicable
I completely disagree with the last comment...........I too was a business traveller for years and at least 3 times a month flew on SW, but as a full size woman who travels with a full size man, it got too scary to wonder when someone would jump out a pull you off a plane and humiliate you. We even had free tickets that have expired, out of fear of being pulledoff the flight. I once flew with someone who had been travelling for days, on at least 5 sw flights and the 6th flight they pulled her off and made her pay for an extra seat. She wasn't too big on the other 5 but this one she must have had too many peanuts. If you can get the seatbelt on than you should be allowed to fly without question.
Not applicable
Wow Richard, judging by the comments, it looks like we aren't REALLY thought of as just a leisure carrier. I like Laura's spin on it - that we're fun, so people associate that with leisure. Before that lucky day that I was hired here, I was a Southwest business Customer. My company was located in Cityplace so Love Field and the low fares were better for us. We even traveled on Southwest when the corporation directed us to use another carrier exclusively. WE thought of Southwest as a great airline for business travel.
Not applicable
As has been alluded to, I think some of the "leisure airline" perception has to do with the airports that Southwest doesn't serve. Those "expensive, congested" airports tend to be in business centers -- MIA, SFO, JFk/LGA, ATL, DCA, etc., and are not served by Southwest. (DEN and PHL were in the same boat until recently). Southwest also lacks some of the "perks" that some business travelers want -- first class, reserved seats, express security lines for very frequent travelers, lounges, etc. On the other hand, Southwest does offer a lot that business travelers do want, and I see plenty of business travelers when I fly on Southwest.
Not applicable
this is the biggest waste of time swa could be doing in a time of high fuel costs, and when you are supposed to be cutting negative spending
Not applicable
To the person who thinks this a waste of time.... Part of being a proactive, current, adventurous and innovative airline, is to work within the parameters of current day. It is a fact that people like to blog and through blogging SWA can find areas to make more money, cut negative spending and give the Customer and Employees what they want. If you don't like this site........get offf... or I am going to go out on a limb,....If you don't like your job,......quit!
Not applicable
wow...what a wonderful way to hear from our passengers...I'm wondering from our customers of size, if thet are familiar with our policy of refunding their money for the 2nd seat if there are empty seats on the plane? Also I'm wondering if passengers are aware that extra tall people also may be required and most often prefer to buy that extra seat for their comfort.
Not applicable
You may not see the high number of "suits" type business travelers on SWA, but I assure you that there are a ton of business flyers using SWA, myself included. One of the things I luv about using SWA for business travel is not having to be snubbed by those "suits" that are "executive platinum" whatever who think it is their God given right to board that plane before anyone else, regardless of when they arrive at the gate. At SWA, 99% of the folks that line up in the three lines to board are usually smiling and friendly to one another. This is because they are happy to be flying SWA and are just good people without the attitudes you see on that other carrier at DFW.
Not applicable
You know, it's been awhile since I've seen a business blog that didn't moderate out the critical comments. That requires guts. Good for you for letting your customers actually be heard.
Not applicable
WOW...I love this forum and am a big supporter of SWA. I am a corporate travel agent located in Columbia, SC (where we wish WN flew). Not a day goes by that I don't book passengers on Southwest. I have large corporate clients in many of Southwest cities Detroit, L.A., Ft Laud, Orlando, Dallas, etc. and they offer corporate travelers a choice of departures unrivaled in most markets, reasonable fares, modern fleet, and the best change policy in the industry!!! Keep up the great work that you do and please someone realize that you have a void to fill between Raleigh and Florida. That void is known as Columbia, SC. Columbia is centrally located in the state and is located in the center of and within 100 miles of each of the following: Charlotte, Greenville, Charleston and Augusta. Passengers from those cities can and will drive to Columbia. This is NOT true of other combinations of city pairs. i.e. Charleston pax would not drive to Charlotte or Greenville or Raleigh but they will drive to CAE. Since Independence Air folded, our average fares have skyrocketed. I am a firm believer in in doing away with the Wright Amendment.
Not applicable
I am sympathetic to plus-sized passengers, but I am entitled to the entire seat I purchased including the leg room, armrest and "airspace" over my seat. When the passenger next to me spills over into my seat, I feel like they should pay for half of my fare. In 25 y It's only fair.
Not applicable
Lou, yes, I am aware of your policy regarding the refunds. I was not aware that tall people have the same issues; I've never heard of someone tall being asked to leave a plane. Again, the problem is not with the issue of encroaching into other people's space. If you want to have a policy that says "Passengers must be able to have the armrest completely down next to them", then that is perfectly fine and reasonable. The problem is with inconsistent application of this rule, so that large passengers have no idea if this is the particular flight where the flight crew will decide that they are arbitrarily "too fat". Again, to have a rule based on FUNCTION (the ability to put down an armseat) is FINE. To base a rule on LOOKS (you look kinda fat, I don't think you'll fit) is NOT. Are you sayiing that there are situations where someone can put down the armrest but still should not be allowed to fly? Because that's what is happening now on your planes.
Not applicable
Most people that have trouble fitting into a seat know they do, but they choose to make an attempt to get on a airplane with the risk of being ask to purchase a second seat. I know its embarrassing to those passengers but its their choice. I think the passengers that get upset and angry need to think about the people they are embarrassing such as the person that needs to remove them and the passenger that has to sit next to them and can't move an inch during the long flights. I think that its great that at least SWA is enforcing people to purchase an extra seat if they can't fit into one. I wish all airlines would. I feel SWA tries to accomodate all passengers rights but it does have a business to run and can't give away free seats just because someone wishes to live an unhealthy lifestyle. If I couldn't fit into one seat than I would purchase two or a first class seat. I wouldn't want to infringe on someone elses comfort.
Not applicable
Regarding SWA policy of requiring a "large individual" to purchase a second ticket; I believe this is a great idea that is well overdue. I have been in several situations where the person next to me was too big to occupy one seat and overflowed his/her excess girth over to my seat. Sometimes "stealing" up to 1/3 of my seat. I do not appreciate to have a stranger body press up against mine for a long period of time fat or other wise. As one poster mentioned most people know ahead of time if they will be able to fit into one airline seat. But instead of purchasing the second ticket they rather make the flying experience for there neighbor unbearable. So I applaud SWA policy of purchasing a second seat when one is needed.
Not applicable
Lisa, you are unfortunately incorrect. There are people who know quite well that they fit into the seats available, with the armrest down, but also know that they can be singled out anyhow and asked to leave the plane -- despite the fact that they need neither a raised armrest nor a seatbelt extender. Personally, I don't mind the 2-seat policy. I do, however, mind that SouthWest does not enforce this policy in any kind of a reasonably consistent manner. One need only look so far as Nancy's friend's story above. SouthWest's employees thought she was perfectly small enough to fit in one seat for five flights. On flight number six, she was suddenly too big. For those of us who fly regularly, this is an issue. I don't want to have to be forced to reschedule travel based on the perceptions or biases of a single employee -- if SouthWest is going to continue this policy, it needs to be codified in such a way that allows passengers to know ahead of time whether or not they will need the second seat. As the policy stands, that is truly not the case for many customers who can fit in one seat, but are large enough to be noticeably fat. And Lou, yes -- I am aware of your refund policy. Money is hardly the issue for a passenger who is being pulled off of a plane, however. We would EXPECT to have money back if the "second seat" wasn't actually necessary for purchase, just as we'd expect to be offered another flight if pulled off of the plane, etc. That's just common sense policy. What I'm asking (and what others seem to be asking) is that you apply the same common sense to the second seat policy itself -- it's not necessary to remove the policy. What is necessary is standardizing it so there are measurable or testable ways to know these things ahead of time. If the issue is having the arm rest down, how about having a sample chair that a person can sit in or be respectfully/discretely asked to sit in to see if they "fit" in the seat in the way SW wants them to "fit"? It would be no different than the little metal structures that one can put their carry-on luggage in to ensure that the carry-ons aren't too big for flight regulations.
Not applicable
Southwest could make the refund policy a lot more user friendly if it happened automatically (the airline knows who had to buy an extra seat and if there were empty seats) or you could do it online. Instead, you have to request the refund in writing, once again re-living the humiliation you suffered at the airport. I would like someone from Southwest to explain to me how this policy is a matter of "safety." How does my size endanger someone else? You allow elderly people as well as people with disabilities to fly, correct? And children? How is it that I pose more of a danger in an emergency than any of these passengers? And if the policy is based on comfort, I beg of you, apply it to people with screaming infants (who only have to buy one seat and cause discomfort to many people, not just seatmates), intense body odor, and clothes covered in cat hair, because I'm allergic.
Not applicable
Dear Nancy, Regarding your comment that, and I quote: "There are people who know quite well that they fit into the seats available, with the armrest down." This may be the case where that the said person may feel she/he fits in there airline seat, however more times than not they are intruding on there neighbors paid seat. With all due respect most people are fat {and I only use this term because this is the word that people in the fat acceptance community use] is because this is a life style they choose to lead. So why should people who choose to live healthy lives suffer when they choose to enjoy there leisure time be in convinced by someone who does not care about there health. Please fat people do us a favor , please pay for a second seat if needed
Not applicable
Laura, I was about to suggest something similar. Since you're (reasonably) asking for an objective way to enforce the policy, something similar to the "Does your carry-on fit in this?" mechanism needs to be offered. Your idea of an airline seat in the boarding area sounds perfect... and much better than the idea that had popped into my head! (My idea was some sort of a gate the width of the airline seat that passengers had to walk through before the boarding ramp. If they couldn't fit through easily, they could be pulled aside, sold an extra ticket, and then sent around the gate onto the plane.) Bravo to SWA for entering the world of blogging!
Not applicable
Great Idea on the blog site! IÃ
Not applicable
I was disappointed in your business post. I'm a lawyer and Judge (and operate my own law firm). When I travel, I dress casually, so you don't see me as a business traveler. Why do I refuse to fly Southwest (I am a big fan of doscounters and LOVE Airtran)? Your weight policy. I am overweight and am working on it (have lost 53 lbs on weight watchers) but I do not appreciate that you are the only airline that thinks I need to buy two seats. The policy really hurts your image and it has kept you from being even bigger than you are.
Not applicable
Another Southwest business traveller here ... No Blackberry, but a Palm-based smartphone. May I offer a recommendation? Would you add consider adding downloadable Palm and Windows CE schedules to your website. While we "business travellers" would definitely luv them, I'll bet the "leisure travellers" would be pleased as well. Great blog site!
Not applicable
Hi Liz, I am a Customer Service Agent for SWA and I'd like to address a few of your comments. You brought up an excellent suggestion about knowing how many open seats we had on any given flight once it has departed and streamlining this process online. Please know that we're always looking for ways to make traveling with SWA easier and more enjoyable. I am sure the right SWA folks are reading these blogs with open ears and minds to customer suggestions. As far as the customers with a body-odor, please know we take them aside and quietly address the issue with them as well. We offer to assist them in finding a place to freshen up a bit or help them find other clothing options. While we do let small children, elderly customers and customers with disabilities fly, you may not be aware that behind the scenes we do make absolute sure that there is someone to personally assist them if they cannot physically disembark the aircraft by themselves. For these customers, it means prior to boarding the aircraft we must verify that they are traveling with someone to assist them or we find a kind-hearted customer who will offer to sit next to them and assist them in case of an emergency. If we can find neither of these things, we'll attempt to find an SWA employee who will volunteer to fly with them. In a round-about sort of way, you could say that it takes two seats to accommodate these customers as well - but given the fact that the second seat is already paid for in two of the scenarios (traveling with someone and finding a volunteer customer) and in the third (SWA employee), the person is volunteering and catching the next flight home - we don't charge them for the seat they aren't physically "in." Listening to screaming infants can be unpleasant. As a mom to four "little darlins," I can attest to this through a few hundred hours of "screaming infant" personal experience gained over the past 13 years! However, neither a screaming infant or their parents are physically taking up area in the seats next to them - well, unless the parents have have their elbows out when they stick their fingers in their ears!
Not applicable
Regarding the Love Field/DFW controversy: On a September flight from DFW (at a non-rush hour and good weather) the time lapse from the closing of cabin door until we actually took off was more than 45 minutes. It seemed most of the time was perhaps waiting for permission to take off due fact we were on a small carrier and it seemed planes from the largesr carrier at DFW were allowed to break in line ahead of us. From Love Field, it seems that often in 45 minutes from closing the cabin door, flights to Houston, Austin, etc are at least starting their descent to these airports---I would suggest Southwest should authorize a survey to back up this observation as a further argument for doing away with the Wright amendment.
Not applicable
I have a huge problem with a big person being charged double even if they already own the seat next to them. I have been told by several SW employees that if one bought three seats for two young children and one big adult, they would have to pay for 4 seats. It wouldn't matter if the person 'spilled over' into a seat that a her 3 year old was leaving 1/2 empty with her other 3 year old on the other side also leaving the seat 1/2 empty. That person bought 3 seats and isn't using that much. Why should they be charged for 4? Doesn't make sense except to get more money from someone who might be far too embarassed to fight.
Not applicable
I understand the plight of those who are overweight and do not wish to be humiliated when taking a flight. But I also think that many overweight people don't seem to have any regard for how their need to pay for and occupy only one seat incoveniences others. On my most recent Southwest flight, I sat in the aisle seat next to an overweight man in the window seat. He spilled over to take up one half of the seat next to him. When another man boarding the plane asked if he could sit in the middle seat, the overweight gentleman actually pointed to the magazines in the middle seat and said "no, as you can see, I have my stuff here." I thought I was in an alternate reality as the oncoming passenger politely said "oh, no problem.." and moved on. His attitude was what floored me, an almost militant "Don't mess with me" persona had been donned for the occasion. I think Southwest is handling this situation as gracefully as possible considering the volatility on both sides.
Not applicable
So.. SWA, maybe you should institute a policy that states anyone with a waist over 40" should have to buy two seats. The people of larger proportions wouldn't be humiliated if a SWA employee asks them to stand to the side for a moment while they get measured, now would they? Better yet, have a tester seat, like the box you used to have for carry-on luggage outside each group of gates that the gate ageny can walk the large customer down to, to make sure that he / she fits. Being asked to do that wouldn't humiliate nor embarass people either. No matter how you put it, the majority of large people will complain about your policy for one reason or another.
Not applicable
If you suggest passengers with waists over 40 inches need a second seat what about women with bust measurements over 40 inches, they tend to take up others space also. My worst flight experence was with a toddler that had been to Mardi Gras after screaming for hours and jumping all over the other people in the row he finally threw up all over everyone in the row. Should they pay for your space too.
Not applicable
The reality of the two seat rule is that it's uncomfortable for those of us who are fat to be squeezed into a seat that's too small for us as well. Having two seats is a benefit that those of us who are larger than one seat appreciate. This is not about whether or not we have to pay for two seats. Yes, this is a hardship for some people, but there is no one who can legitimately argue that if you use more than one seat, you should pay for more than one seat. The problem is the way that SWA staff deals with fat passengers. People have been humiliated, forced off of flights in front of other passengers, forced to buy a second seat on a return trip when they fit perfectly well into one seat on their first leg, and it's all based on the subjective "eyeballing" of SWA staff. The policy is not enforced equitably, the policy is not enforced politely. Customers being treated differently based upon which employee they happen to interact with, and customers being treated rudely and cruelly are serious customer service problems, regardless of the root issue that causes the treatment. Treat people with respect, kindness, discretion and fairness. Have an objective standard that can be determined without embarrassing anyone. None of this is too much to ask, and in fact is the only thing that is appropriate in a service based industry that relies upon consumer goodwill for its continued success. Whether we're talking about passengers who are fat or thin, rich or poor, business or leisure travelers, black or white, male or female is immaterial. Everyone should be treated as if they're the only passenger that SWA will ever have.
Not applicable
I'm wondering when SWA is finally going to fly into Canada? I routinely fly Chicago-Toronto, but only two airlines (AA and Air Canada/United) fly this route directly. As you can imagine, prices are insane. In fact, a few years ago it was cheaper for me to fly Chiago-Dublin (yes, Ireland!) than it was Chicago-Toronto. This is a great opportunity for SWA.
Not applicable
As Manager of the Executive Office Customer Communications Team, IÃ
Not applicable
Nice blog. I used to fly Southwest all the time. I have not even considered flying Southwest for the last few years because of the size policy. It seems less haphazard than I had heard it was. I have 2 suggestions. Preboarding with fellow travelers for people buying an extra seat who are traveling with someone. I often travel with my long legged husband there is no garuntee that we will be sitting next to each other on the flight. Why no t allow us to share that extra seat. Allow overweight passengers to preboard together and split the cost of the middle seat between two of them. Use the computer system to team them up.
New Arrival
Regarding the customer of size issue, as a SWA customer service agent we have been trained to discreetly ask questions if we feel that a customer will not fit comfortably with the armrests down. But realizing that it is a sensitive issue, it is NOT an easy task to begin asking those initial questions. That's where the lack of consistency comes from! I have even had a customer tell me "yes, I can put the armrests down" and the boarding agent tell me later that "no, he could not". To have an actual "seat for sizing" would be awful; pullleeeze, we do have compassion not to embarrass someone! Annnd.......we LUV our business travelers! But we can spot them a mile away, no matter how they dress! I think it's that "preoccupation of the last/next meeting" look.....LOL. Being in Florida, we also have a lot of vacationers, so our flights have a mixed bag of nuts! (no offense intended) You know, I really think that chocolate-covered peanuts should be served on every flight to make everyone happy.... : )))))) Make time to laugh & eat chocolate; it's as simple as that~!