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.
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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