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Southwest CEO: We’ll Never Go Basic Economy During My Tenure

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Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly definitively and defiantly swept aside any speculation that his airline was adding a basic economy fare.

After reports emerged suggesting the airline was considering the move, Kelly told employees on Monday that it’s not happening.

And never will.

In a weekly address Kelly provides to employees updating them on the carrier’s news, the CEO said: “I’m on the record many times saying that Southwest—at least as long as I’m around—will never do basic economy, so I’m on the record with that.”

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Aviation observers and fliers saw signs – including a survey of Southwest’s Customer Advisory Council and online chatter – that seemed to indicate such a move was 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.

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

Kelly said that basic economy “is a fare category that our competitors use to try to compete with us, and it’s just not a very good product.”

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.

“You know, the one thing that the article got right was the last line, and I’ll just quote it to you, ‘The passion of loyalty of Southwest Customers makes the very idea of a Southwest basic economy so difficult to conceive,’ ” he said. “And I couldn’t agree more.”

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