Want to Be Amongst Those Who Board First? $40.00, Please

You now have another option to be amongst the first passengers to board the aircraft on a Southwest Airlines flight: pay $40.00 to score one of the earliest boarding positions at the gate at the airport.

This new boarding option will only be offered at the gate on the day of travel, beginning 45 minutes prior to the departure of the aircraft — and it is only good on revenue tickets and not award tickets or companion passenger tickets.

Want to Be Amongst Those Who Board First? $40.00, Please

Many FlyerTalk members express their anger and disappointment, calling this new option of selling upgraded priority boarding of unused boarding passes within the Business Select range of A1 through A15 “lame” and “unbelievable” — and even citing this new policy as a devaluation of the Business Select concept.

Some FlyerTalk members portend the end of no fees for baggage and itinerary changes for those passengers who do not have elite status in the Rapid Rewards program. That would negate the intense promotion of their advertising campaign where “bags fly free” with “no change fees” to differentiate Southwest Airlines from the competition — especially as representatives of Southwest Airlines have reportedly reiterated that there are no plans to start charging fees for checked baggage.

Does this mean that a person who paid $200.00 less for their airfare than you can simply cough up $40.00 to board ahead of you? Could priority boarding for credit card holders be far behind?

In fact, FlyerTalk members first found out about the upgraded boarding position fee last month, along with other fees which Southwest Airlines reportedly intends to implement — such as a fee for a third checked bag, a fee for those passengers who do not show up for a flight, and an increase on some existing fees on AirTran Airways, which was purchased by Southwest Airlines in 2011.

Summary

Perhaps I am missing something here: other than the opportunity to sit in a coveted seat with extra room for your legs or to stow your bag in the overhead compartment, why would someone pay $40.00 to board early? There is not even a premium class cabin on which you can enjoy a beverage before departure if you board early.

While income is income, I also fail to see how Southwest Airlines will profit significantly from this new upgraded boarding position option for $40.00 — especially if only up to 15 upgraded boarding positions will be available for purchase on each flight. I could be wrong, but I just do not see a stampede of customers clamoring to take advantage of this option. On Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, priority boarding is an available option starting at $9.00; and United Airlines changed its boarding policy earlier this month to the chagrin of numerous FlyerTalk members.

As for me, I will for now stick with being a passenger on airlines with flights on which I have an assigned seat, knowing I can board at my leisure once my row or zone is called. Southwest Airlines may have low or even decent airfares — but when a desired experience is similar to that of a competing airline, the $40.00 chips away at the perceived “bargain” and renders Southwest Airlines closer to not having a distinct advantage over its competition in terms of lower costs overall for customers.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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