A bizarre change at Southwest…

While I’m not a Southwest customer, there’s no airline I have more respect for than them. They’re just customer friendly. Justified or not, customers love Southwest. There’s many things they do right, and then there’s some things they get credit for that I just can’t understand, like people uniformly claiming they have the lowest fares.

Anyway, they’re always known for being the customer friendly airline, so when they make a change that isn’t pro-customer, it’s shocking. And even though it’s not all that significant, it kind of is because it’s Southwest making the change.

What am I talking about? Starting August 1, they’re making huge changes to their “drink coupon” (coupons for free alcoholic beverages) policy. In the past they’ve accepted coupons regardless of when they expire, even years past their expiry date.

Well, they’re making three key changes. First, starting August 1, coupons past their expiration date will no longer be accepted. That’s fair enough, though less than a week advance notice isn’t very much lead time.

The second change they’re making is that coupons with an expiration date will now expire on August 31, 2011. So they’re adding an expiration date to something that doesn’t have an expiration date. Really? Gotta make sure those 50 cent minis don’t turn the company unprofitable, I guess. 😉

The most foolish change of all, in my opinion, is that Business Select coupons will be valid for the day of travel only. As a Business Select customer you get two onboard “perks” — a free drink and early boarding. But let’s think about this for a second. The average passenger on a “Business Select” fare is probably leaving early in the morning, heading to the office for the day, and flying back a day or two later. They can’t really drink on the outbound flight if they’re headed to the office, but now they can’t even save that drink coupon and use it the next day on their return flight to get two drinks.

Southwest flyers in this FlyerTalk thread sure aren’t happy about the change. And while it’s not all that big of a deal, I don’t get why they’d make this change. Southwest is the no fees, no restrictions, no asterisks airline. This change is everything they don’t stand for, and it’s all for something so minor. Fine, don’t accept drink coupons that have expired, but add an expiration date to the ones that don’t have an expiration date and alienate your highest revenue customers? Not smart…

Comments

  1. Don’t forget the recent change to their Contract of Carriage that lumps aircraft maintenance issues into the same delay/cancellation category as weather and acts of God.

  2. @Lucky — Very cheap of Southwest, especially since I actually bought some of their drink coupon books.

    @Iceman — OMG, are you serious? Wow, I will never fly Southwest again.

  3. @Iceman – Sounds like you need to get your info from a better source. WN never said aircraft mechanical issues, but media and bloggers like the link you point to, assumed that. So very quickly WN revised the language.

    http://blogs.nutsaboutsouthwest.com/blog/southwest-airlines-addresses-misinterpretation-regarding-contract-carriage

    @Lucky – This change is in response to some states that have been sniffing around looking for ways to get additional revenue from non-traditional sources and fines. Remember the Frontier fight with NM back in 2007 over license requriements? Some states are now taking a stand saying drinks as a ticket perk are for day of only. Other states are saying unexpiring drink coupons could get a license revoked. So in order to stay consistant across the board WN is making these changes.

  4. The Business Select rule makes sense to me as it’s a perk tied to the fare that you are flying that day. Yes, it’s a perk that you might not use at certain times, but it’s not a drink coupon that you earn forever. It’s designed so that you get a free drink on the flight that you paid the Business Select fare. I mean if you pay for a first class seat on a morning flight and you don’t drink for whatever reason, you don’t get free drinks on the next flight. I know there are other perks for first class that justify the fare difference, but the free drink isn’t the only perk of Business Select either.

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