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Is Southwest Considering a Basic Economy Fare?

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Is Southwest Airlines considering joining its peers at American, Delta and United by adding a Basic Economy fare?

Aviation observers and fliers are seeing signs – including a survey of Southwest’s Customer Advisory Council and online chatter – that seem to indicate such a move is pending.

Although Southwest didn’t use the phrase ‘basic economy,’ USA Today reported that the survey sent to members of Southwest’s customer advisory council asked travelers about proposed names for four fare categories, according to a summary of the names posted on the online frequent flyer forum FlyerTalk.

Southwest already has three different types of fares – Wanna Get Away, there’s AnyTime, and Business Select. In that order, they range from least expensive to most expensive. And, at the moment, all three fares include two huge benefits that allow Southwest to differentiate itself from the Big Three – two free checked bags and no fees to change a ticket.

But many in the industry, frequent fliers included, believe the array of names Southwest offered up in the survey for a fourth type of fare equates to adding a basic economy fare.

Basic Economy is loosely defined as the lowest fare possible, but with passengers forced to give up amenities such as taking carry-on bags on board and being able to utilize overhead bin space.

According to Inc. Magazine, Southwest did not respond to questions asking about the proposed fourth fare. Inc. also said that Southwest, while profitable, is under pressure from Wall Street to increase its revenue and profits.

“The whole psychology of Basic Economy was to get passengers to dislike the concept so much they’d pay more to get merely the same as they did before,” the writer noted. “… If, even for a second, it feels as if the airline is trying to worsen its essential product, it could have a painful effect on the brand as a whole. One of the most difficult maneuvers in business is trying to make more money while keeping your customers emotionally on your side.”

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Airlines Scaling Back On Some In-Flight Services Due to Coronavirus

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A few airlines, including those already affected by the coronavirus outbreak, have begun scaling back on some in-flight services as a way to help fight the virus.

The Points Guy writes that Singapore Airlines – obviously based in Asia, where the coronavirus has been most dangerous after originating in China – recently sent its frequent fliers an email about such changes.

Singapore advised its customers that some in-flight amenities will be discontinued, such as hot towel service, after-takeoff drink service, removal of reading materials from seat-back pockets, and suspension of in-flight sales.

Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research, said that Chinese and Taiwanese carriers have taken similar precautionary steps based on government guidance, including removing pillows and blankets on some flights.

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“They’re changing their cabin service procedures, so the passengers will notice this,” Harteveldt told The Points Guy.

But Harteveldt also remained optimistic that passengers wouldn’t pitch a fit given the circumstances.

“Passengers will accept (the reduction in services) because they’re being done in the interest of health and wellness,” he said.

As the virus, now known as covid-19, continues to expand globally, it remains to be seen if other airlines – including those based in the U.S. who offer international travel – adopt the same practice.

The aviation industry is quite often a copycat business, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some similar changes put into place.

“As adults, we have to be logical and rational when we experience these inconveniences,” Harteveldt told The Points Guy. “This isn’t cost-cutting, this isn’t random, this is in the best interest of public health.”

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