Brands survey ideas all the time, most of which never see the light of day. But when Southwest Airlines surveys new names for its fares – all of which move from the current 3 fare types to 4 – it’s notable, because it makes clear they’re studying the idea of new, more restrictive policies for their lowest fares.
Currently Southwest has 3 fare types:
- Wanna Get Away non-refundable
- Anytime refundable
- Business Select refundable, comes with the best boarding position, and a free cocktail
Here are the potential fare names being survey:
[P]anel members were asked to vote on eight different combinations of fare names.
- Wanna Get the Most, Wanna Get More, Wanna Get Away + and Wanna Get Away.
- Complete Freedom, Freedom, Wanna Get Away Plus, Wanna Get Away.
- Freedom & More, Freedom, WGA Plus, WGA
- Go Ultimate, Go Anytime, Wanna Flex, Wanna Get Away
Southwest Airlines gains tremendous brand loyalty from what it calls ‘transfarency’. A ticket comes with two checked bags, they don’t nickel and dime with fees. And there are no change fees, either. If you buy a non-refundable ticket and cancel your plans the full value of your ticket can be used towards your next purchase.
The airline still generates ancillary revenue – charging for a third checked bag, Early Bird Check-in to get a better boarding position for those not buying the most expensive fares and without elite status, and selling the best boarding positions when still available at the gate. However their generous change and bag policies have made them a customer favorite and family friendly carrier.
Still, there’s pressure from Wall Street to conform to median industry practice. It may not happen, and if it does it may happen ‘in a Southwest way’ such as:
- Charging for second checked bag instead of third (‘bags still fly free’)
- Eliminating the ability to apply ticket funds towards future travel in the event of change in plans
- Awarding fewer Rapid Rewards points
- Eliminating tier credit earning
Basic Economy holds less potential for Southwest Airlines than it does for major carriers, at least while they lack pre-assigned seating.
The value in basic economy is less the $20 each way buy up they might charge leisure travelers, and more the way it is used to segment business travelers to keep them buying higher fares.
In order to get value out of basic economy Southwest would have to assign such customers the last boarding position, so that basic economy customers get the worst seats, otherwise there’ll be little reason not to buy the fares and pay for more expensive fares instead.