Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Southwest Airlines Possibly Charging for Checked Bags

It has been reported in the past several days that Southwest might start charging for checked bags. This is very upsetting to some people, not because it is unfair or bad policy, but because it is seen as Southwest missing a better opportunity, which has been brought to Southwest's attention. According to documents we have obtained, one email to Southwest read as follows:

"Southwest usually is ahead of its competitors, which its loyal customer base appreciates. So, it is surprising that Southwest might follow its competitors down a misguided aisle in charging for checked-bags (“Will Bags Always Fly Free?” Fri., Oct. 25). The painful consequence of charging for checked bags is to provide a powerful stimulus for passengers to try to carry on-board as much luggage as possible, which lengthens the boarding and deplaning process and, worse, creates undue messes as passengers push and scramble and struggle to cram bags into overhead bins before the bins fill up. The irony is that, whatever Southwest might seek to achieve by this reversal of policy on charging for luggage, it could achieve in a far more rational and efficient way by charging not for checked-bags but for carry-on bags. That way, passengers would be encouraged to carry on fewer bags, the boarding and deplaning processes would accelerate, the crammed-overhead-bin problems would evaporate, the “a la carte approach” noted by the Southwest CEO would be realized, and Southwest likely would make as much or more in added fees as charging for checked-bags. In short, by going back to being an innovator rather than being a follower, Southwest can do better for its passengers and better for itself."

Lest anyone thinks Southwest does not care about customer feedback, the documents further reflect that the author of this email received a responsive call from a Southwest official in Dallas. And as she candidly explained, Southwest pays serious attention to customer comments, assessing both the merits of any suggestion and the number of comments making the same point. In short, then, numbers matter.

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