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Southwest Security Line Changes

Carol Sottili

Southwest is apparently trying to make itself even more attractive to business travelers by offering priority security lines for its best customers. Travelers holding business select tickets, or those with "A-List" designations (must fly at least 18 round-trip flights per year) will get access to the fast lanes, which will start later this month at seven airports, including BWI. The airline plans to add additional airports to its "Fly By" system in November.

In a press release, Kevin Krone, Southwest's VP of marking, sales and distribution said, "Expediting passengers through security is just one example of how Southwest is enhancing the customer experience by offering added convenience for seasoned travelers." That's a different tune than the one sung back in 2006 when the legacy airlines all started creating high-speed lanes for their frequent flyers. "All of our passengers are elite," a Southwest spokesman told USA Today at the time in an article about the priority lines.

But the economy has changed: Southwest is still profitable, but growth has slowed and, like most carriers, it is looking for ways to increase revenue. Southwest's latest advertising campaign -- geared around its refusal to charge many of the fees that other airlines have instituted -- means that it will have to find different ways to attract passengers.

This isn't Southwest's first attempt to attract business travelers. Last year, it changed its boarding procedures from a free-for-all A,B,C system to a numbered system that rewards frequent flyers and those paying more for tickets with a higher number. Some travelers decried the changes as a deviation from Southwest's democratic, all-travelers-are-created-equal history, while others thought it only fair that the most loyal customers should get first dibs on the good seats. And some (count me in here) were just happy not to stand in line forever: But I wonder how I'll feel when the sanctioned line-cutters move in front of me.

By Carol Sottili |  October 3, 2008; 6:58 AM ET  | Category:  Airline Industry , Carol Sottili
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I use to fly SWA all the time from BWI to Islip when it was $29 each way. Then they went and made these "business" changes and I only fly when I absolutely have to, which ironically has ended up being mostly for business, but I still go for the lower airfare since my company's a non-profit.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | October 3, 2008 8:54 AM

How about making all the lines move quickly? Working it so some lines move quickly and the others move more slowly is not solving the right problem. Even people who don't fly 18 times a year want to move quickly through the security lines. Rather than being known as the airline where business travelers move quickly, why not aim to be the airline where everybody moves quickly through security? How much money do they really save by providing slow service?

Posted by: Tom | October 3, 2008 10:23 AM

uh, quick fack check, Carol. It's: "32 or more qualifying one-way flights within a 12-month period" to qualify(http://www.southwest.com/rapid_rewards/aList_membership.html)

32/2 = 16 roundtrips, not 18.

They have to be paid trips, though - frequent flier redemptions don't count.

Posted by: swdc | October 3, 2008 10:59 AM

I'm trying to figure out WDC's complaint. (Not being snarky, just confused.)

If you routinely flew to Islip, wouldn't you then qualify as a frequent/favored flyer in SWA? Which would then qualify you for the perks system they are trying to implement?

Posted by: Chasmosaur | October 3, 2008 2:02 PM

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