Southwest Airlines axes the policy it was known and loved for

Image showing a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 landing at the Los Angeles International Airport, LAX. Southwest Airlines operates mostly domestic low-cost flights.

In a turn that has been described as ‘passenger-unfriendly,’ Southwest Airlines has dropped its transparency model that travellers loved.

Passengers and agents know that when you book a flight with Southwest, the fare covers all you need for the actual flight. Where most other airlines advertise a low airfare, but then charge for checked luggage, seat assignment and even carry-ons, Southwest prided itself on never doing that.

But the US airline has quietly fallen on its sword with a few extra charges that the customers will have to pay for. Here’s what’s been changed:

  • Alcohol: The airline includes non-alcoholic beverages, but travellers will now have to pay for beer, wine, liquor and bottled cold brew.
  • WiFi: Southwest used to charge US$8 per 24-hour period, but its now charges US$8 per segment.
  • Early Bird Checkin: Southwest boards passengers through a letter and number system. Travellers are given a letter (A, B, or C) during check-in alongside a number within the letter group, determining when a passenger boards. This early bird checkin is automated, meaning passengers don’t have to manually check in for a flight prior to boarding. Early Bird Checkin pricing starts from $15 and varies based on the popularity and length of each flight. Each individual flight segment requires an Early Bird purchase.
  • Upgraded Boarding: This is people paying for the up-front positions on the flight (A 1-15).
  • Southwest raised the price on some Business Select tickets and boarding upgrades.

Southwest said this change for upgraded boarding allows travellers to upgrade if they have a reason to be among the first group of passengers (behind those needing special assistance) who board and exit first.

“Last year, we launched the option to secure Upgraded Boarding became available through the Southwest Mobile App and,” the airline said. “Upgraded Boarding gives customers the ability to upgrade their boarding position to A1-A15 24 hours before the flight depending on availability. This allows customers the opportunity to be among the first to board the aircraft, pick their preferred available seat, and access the overhead bin space.”

Southwest used to charge between $30 and $40 per flight segment for upgraded boarding, but this has been risen to $50 on selected flights.

“Every few years, we review the price of our services in order to align with market and operational conditions as well as uphold the quality of our offerings. Southwest has increased the price of purchasing Upgraded Boarding to $50 in a handful of our markets while others remain $30 or $40 for the service,” the airlines said.

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