Southwest Airlines has given its employees a refresher on why they have the most “customer friendly policies.” Noting that competitor airlines have made changes to offer no change fees on most fares, and free same day standby in some cases, Southwest presents itself as the leader and only airline offering customer-friendly benefits in ‘every category’.
Naturally the chart is misleading – but it also leaves out the most important customer benefit, something that Southwest never markets, and therefore that passengers don’t usually realize sets them apart.
A lot of this comes down to ‘we don’t offer basic economy fares’.
- Southwest doesn’t have cancel and change fees, because other airlines offer a subset of fares that are restrictive and either do not allow changes or charge for them.
- Basic economy fares may also exclude same day changes, and also free award ticket redeposit.
- Delta and JetBlue actually impose draconian restrictions on their cheapest award tickets – though Southwest’s chart should show JetBlue the same way they show Delta, which is that the lack of free award cancel and redeposit applies only to basic economy. (Interestingly, Southwest also shows JetBlue under its old stylized ‘jetBlue’ – which I sometimes do, too, for the same reason I sometimes go to iflyswa.com when I want the Southwest Airlines website.)
Oddly same day standby gets a check mark for airlines which exclude it on basic economy fares, but an X where basic economy fares prevent free changes and free award redeposit. That’s likely because Southwest wants to give itself a check mark here and their own benefit isn’t as generous as some competitors.
And of course Southwest leaves out categories in which it doesn’t come out on top. For instance Southwest Airlines recently raised the cost of internet to $8 per flight segment from $8 per day, while both JetBlue and Delta generally offer free internet, that’s faster than what Southwest has.
What’s truly marketing malpractice, though, is Southwest’s failure to market what may be their best advantage: more legroom in standard coach than other U.S. airlines. Delta, United, and American allot 30 inches for each coach seat as standard. Southwest has 31 inches on its Boeing 737-700s and 32 or more inches on its 737-800s and 737 MAX 8s. I find the extra two inches on the bulk of their fleet to be the difference between opening my laptop or not, so this matters even to someone that’s rather short.