Monday, December 23, 2013

Southwest Airlines is so much less than what it promised

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Southwest Airlines is so much less than what it promised
By Ray Hanania

Flying on an airplane used to be fun. But these days, it’s changed. And it’s not just because of Sept. 11. It has more to do with greed.

Southwest Airlines is a good example. Cited 10 times by Fortune Magazine for its financial management, it knows little about how to treat customers.

Southwest Airlines began in Texas in 1967 as Air Southwest and changed its name in 1971. It has always portrayed itself as the “little guy” in the airline business, promising the highest service and the lowest cost.

Like all of the airlines, Southwest Airlines saves money by nickel and diming its passengers, offering the lowest fares by treating passengers like cows. But Southwest Airlines has taken it all one step further.

They don’t assign seats when you buy your ticket. That’s too civilized for cows. Instead, you line up based on whether you pay them extra money. Some people might call that bribing the company to give you a better place in line.

You get seats in one of two ways. You are assigned a “boarding position” when you register for your flight online at least 24 hours before your flight.

Or, you can pay the airline $15 per passenger to have them assign you a “boarding position” 36 hours before the flight in boarding positions 1 through 60.

But 40 minutes before the flight, Southwest Airline sells the first spots in line to passengers who are willing to pay $40 more.

Worse, is that no one really checks to see if people are being honest. The boarding steward doesn’t care. He just checks you in. So many people simple get in the line even ahead of their real assigned number.

You can see how all that ala carte spending starts to add up.

It’s uncivilized, which is what Southwest Airlines should use in its motto. “We’re the uncivilized airline, but we’re rich” rather than their worthless motto which now laughingly proclaims, “Doing the Right Thing.”

What does that mean anyway? The “right thing” for who? Not the passengers.

When you pay $15 to “early register” for the flight, don’t you think that means getting a seat assigned. No. It means getting in a pecking order on where you stand in line trying to get a seat.

The steward jokingly urges passengers to pay the extra $40 per person “to sit with your significant other,” meaning the chances of a family sitting together are probably only 30 percent. Those are bad odds.

The uncivilized way they assign seats is only the beginning. The seats themselves are the most cramped of any airline. In fact, when you get into your seat, somewhere at the back of the plane after paying a fortune, the fold-out tray opens and touches your stomach. It has a sliding feature, but it has no room to slide on normal people.

They are constantly also trying to “balance” their airline wait, asking passengers to take a later flight for a flight coupon. That tells me they constantly overbook.

Maybe they should call Southwest Airlines “Sardine Airlines.” At least you will know what you are paying for.

I liked the old days when airlines treated people with respect. You got what you paid for. Now, they want to take your money and give you what they want.

There was a time when people meant something. These days, we’re just Sherpas for someone else’s profits.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. Reach him at Or follow him on Twitter @RayHanania.)

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