Three Cheers to Southwest Airlines, Where They Don’t Have Fees for Everything

Well, check it out. Today, Southwest Airlines (LUV) is crowing about their lack of fees.

So that means “NO First or Second Checked Bag Fees, Change Fees, Fuel Surcharges, Snack Fees, Aisle or Window Seat Fees, Curbside Check-In Fees, or Phone Reservation Fees.” Hurray!

What the “legacy” carriers don’t seem to understand is that some people really, really don’t like hidden fees. Like how some restaurants in San Francisco hit you with an undisclosed 4% tack-on when you get your bill

Fly with Southwest and you’ll think you’ve been transported back to the 1970’s, when fees were a four-letter word:


Nostalgic photo via Church of the Customer

Now, some may quibble about a few things, like how the cheapest fares from Southwest are only available online. But that’s as it should be, since reserving a flight by yourself lowers the expenses of running the airline. This is a better approach than a company advertising a price and then surprising you with a fee that you didn’t even know existed. The point is that Southwest has none of the new fees all the other airlines seem to have.  

Now this might put SWA at a disadvantage when they advertise their rates, because they lose all those little “profit centers” the other airlines take advantage of. But just remember that Bags Fly Free, and lots of other things are free, when you fly with LUV.

Hurray. Certain other airlines should take notice of this.

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9 Responses to “Three Cheers to Southwest Airlines, Where They Don’t Have Fees for Everything”

  1. John Thacker says:

    “Now, some may quibble about a few things, like how the cheapest fares are only available online. But that’s as it should be. The point is that Southwest has none of the new fees all the other airlines seem to have.”

    Are you saying that having the cheapest fares only available only is “as it should be,” or that the quibbling about such is “as it should be?” After all, it seems to me that there’s at least as good a case for charging for luggage than there is for only selling cheaper fares (sometimes by hundreds of dollars for a roundtrip) online. An “online discount” is the same thing as an “in-person or by phone surcharge,” just with a different name.

    Southwest also doesn’t have a pet fee– because they don’t allow pets at all. (And if you say, “But I never need to transport a pet,” well, I almost never need to check luggage.)

    The most annoying part of the luggage fee specifically is that they exempt carry-ons, which means that you get even more people making you wait in line in security and filling up the overhead bins.

    The most annoying part of all the fees in general is that they’re unexpected. People don’t know what they’re getting into, and it makes it difficult to compare airline fares with each other. Is an average traveler supposed to remember that airline A charges $X for Y, but airline B charges $Z, or doesn’t charge at all? Of course, it’s somewhat difficult to compare Southwest’s fares with anyone because they don’t make them available to the various fare comparison and booking sites, only publishing them on their own website.

    As someone who doesn’t travel with a lot of luggage, I’m not sure that a world where almost every airline had the same luggage fee would be that bad. The problem with the fees is that they’re surprises, not the overall cost. After all, they could always just raise the ticket price instead.

  2. MC says:

    The main reason SWA can do this is probably because they were smart and got a long-term oil contract a while ago. Let’s see how they fare when that contract expires:

  3. Will says:

    For me it’s not even whether the fee is hard to find or openly disclosed, it’s the fact that I hate being nickle-and-dimed to death.
    Quote me a price that covers your costs plus a reasonable margin. Don’t quote me an artificially low price and then stick 14 fees on top of it to bring the total back to the same costs+margin price.

  4. sfcitizen says:

    Paying less for doing a reservation yourself is as it should be. SWA does things a different way than haveing a surcharge. I prefer SWA’s approach as it’s more transparent.

    SWA doesn’t participate in the big reservation systems because it would cost them/us money.

    Agree, there shouldn’t be surprises and raising ticket prices would be preferable.

  5. sfcitizen says:

    And for commenter #2, i was already aware of some big move that SWA made with their fuel costs. We’ll see what happens.

    I think SWA has a different outlook, generally.

  6. JorgXMcKie says:

    I’ll point out to John Thacker that no one is forcing him to fly SWA. If he has very little or no carryon luggage and doesn’t want to put up with the slobs who try to shove piano crate sized ‘carryon’ luggage in the overhead (I’m not wild about it, either), then he’s perfectly free to fly some other airline. (Although he may well find other ‘hidden’ surcharges when he shows up for his flight.)

    I currently avoid all flying that I can, but if an SWA flight is available I usually put up with the hassles inherent in their business model *because* I know what I’m getting (and getting into) for what I’m paying.

  7. Bill says:

    The real issue is not bags but what happens when things go wrong. When you have a crisis at the last minute and need to change your flight, the legacies take it as an opportunity to rob you blind, Southwest, while not free, is far less nasty.

    Re: SWA is only succeeding because of fuel hedging: SWA was the only airline who could hedge their fuel prices because they were the only airline with a strong enough balance sheet. Their strong balance sheet was a product of being the only US airline to be consistently profitable which in turn is due to their superior business model.

  8. dr kill says:

    Disclaimer- I don’t own any part of SWA; I don’t know anyone who works for them either.

    They are the best damn airline currently on the planet.

  9. ann_in_arizona says:

    Flew twice in June — NWA to Ft. Wayne, IN, and Southwest to San Antonio. Northwest: surly desk personnel and attendants, incredibly cramped economy section and carry-on bins. Southwest: generous seat spacing, pleasant check-in, and enthusiastic, efficient attendants. Plenty of room overhead, and well-organized operation. I would (and will) pay more to fly SWA because it’s good for my blood pressure. Best feature is– I don’t have to pay more!