Southwest's No-Show Fees Benefit Courteous Customers

by  Maryrose Mullen | Jan 3, 2013
Southwest Airlines plane
Southwest Airlines plane / Boarding1Now/iStock

About a week into the New Year, it’s typical for resolutions to wane. You’re dragging yourself to the gym less and less, your brand new bass guitar is already gathering dust, and you couldn’t even make it through a day without lighting up one more “last” cigarette. But Southwest Airlines is bent on keeping a fairly common resolution – to save more money – by instituting a new fee on fliers who forget to cancel their flights.

Beginning sometime this year, Southwest will impose a “no-show” fee on customers who fail to cancel their seats before missing their flights. The airline is well known for implementing fewer customer fees than its competitors, remaining the only major U.S. carrier to not charge fliers for changing flight plans or checking bags. Under the current policy, no-show customers are able to apply the full value of their ticket toward the purchase of another, and that policy will remain.

However, Southwest officials claimed the policy required a revamp after too many customers took advantage of the lenient rules, leaving too many unoccupied seats aboard flights. The new “no-show” fee will be applied to fliers using the cheapest fares to rebook tickets that went unused and not canceled, said chief commercial officer Robert E. Jordan. The fee’s cost and date it will go into effect have yet to be determined.

Southwest, known for its excellent customer service, hopes that the new policy will engender customer behavior that rewards everyone involved. CEO Gary Kelly believes travelers understand that both the customer and the company stand to benefit from “the opportunity to resell a seat.” Indeed, the fliers can evade an unnecessary fee for rebooking at a later date, and Southwest can profit from reselling the seat. It’s a win-win.

Additionally, Southwest announced it hopes to raise $100 million in revenue this year from new fees. Such fees include a hike on the “EarlyBird” priority boarding fee – which allows passengers to board the aircraft first – from $10 to $12.50, and raising the price of overweight bags from $50 to $100.

While we hate to hear about new fees, this one is easily avoided (assuming that they don’t require you to cancel your flight days, or months, in advance). In fact, it might even help travelers, as flights that had been sold out may end up being easier to book once people get into the habit alerting the airline of their canceled plans.

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