Southwest Says Thanks But No Thanks to 'Basic Economy' Fares

The airline knows it ain't fooling anyone — here's why

By Diane Rommel

 
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30 January 2017

The Big Three U.S. airlines — United, Delta, and American — have all signed on to Basic Economy fares: bottom-tier fares for next-to-no perks. They vary in their amenities, or lack thereof — just assume that unless it's available to everybody (i.e. WiFi), you don't get it. 

One airline is bucking that trend: Southwest.

The airline built its reputation on low fares, but it's lately been heralded for its customer service and resistance to fees. According to Skift, the airline's CEO Gary Kelly came out against Basic Economy fares on a conference call: "There is huge value in offering our customers — 100 percent of them — a great product.”

This sort of stance isn't new for Kelly, who in October announced that the airline wouldn't introduce bag fees. As the Dallas Business Journal reported: "If we want to improve [revenue generated from each seat flown a mile], we should not charge bag fees,” Kelly said. “We have a unique and beloved position within the industry with this approach,and we would be foolish to squander it."

Kudos Southwest. We never thought we'd say this, but you're becoming the white knight of budget airline carriers. 

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Spirit, which already has a reputation of rock-bottom fares and non-existent amenities. Those who follow their rules can tolerate the restrictions, but woe to those who forget to print a boarding pass at home or ignore the precision of its baggage rules. Sample Onion headline: "FAA Report: Spirit Airlines Is the F***-ing Worst."

Today, the airline introduced yet another pay-attention-or-just-pay rule: From April forward, the Bare Fare limits personal items to 18 x 14 x 8 inches — a reduction from 16 x 14 x 12 inches.

Get your measuring tape ready. 

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