I have been traveling for over 25 years and flown on just about every domestic airline. Southwest is the only airline that has consistently provided me with low fares, plenty of non-stop routes, comfortable seating, and on-time arrival.
While I don't consider myself to be a "fat cat" as Cheryl so eloquently put it, the fact is that the business travelers are paying a premium for their "preferential treatment". That is the way that everything in this world works, not just businesses.
Southwest is being proactive in its approach and is modifying its policies to maintain profitability rather than waiting until they do have losses. An examination of trends in their results clearly demonstrates that their profit margins are getting very thin and since fuel costs are not controllable by them and seem to be heading ever higher, they need to deploy alternative strategies to reduce costs while at the same time try to bring in more revenue. Appealing to business travelers is the best way to do it.
I pose the question to all of the leisure travelers. What is more important to you - the cost of travel or the privileges associated with frequent travel? You can't have it both ways.
Leisure travel was subsidized for decades by business travel. My first flight to Chicago in 1981 cost me $1,500 roundtrip for standard coach tickets. I can fly to Midway via Southwest for less than $300 roundtrip today. Once the businesses started demanding lower fares as well and competition created more routes and even lower fares, everyone started to fly for most leisure travel.
By the way, good luck taking your leisure travel plans to another airline. You will find worse treatment at all of them. AirTran charges you an additional amount which fluctuates based on the length of your flight, for selecting your seat ahead of time. However, if you don't pay it you will end up in a center seat.
All of the airlines no longer provide food on flights, not even cross country trips. They will sell you snacks and meal boxes for an additional $5-$10. Many now charge you to check in bags at curbside. All of them have reduced the weight of luggage you can check in by 25-35% and have reduced the size of carry-on luggage.
About the only benefit that a frequent traveler gets these days is boarding the plane a bit earlier. Unless you are routinely paying full price or buying business class or first class tickets you don't get other perks that used to come with the territory such as free upgrades, etc.
The reality of it all is that at the end of the day, while a lot of people will write and complain and it will be newsworthy for awhile, Southwest will gain more from these changes than it will lose. Sure, they may lose a few customers, but they will definitely gain more business customers who will be paying more than everyone else for the privilege. Most of those who choose to fly other airlines will quickly find out that the grass is definitely not always greener.
I'm sure I will see you all on a future Southwest flight. Until then, safe travels and happy holidays.
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