Southwest Offers Business Travelers Boarding Priority, Free Booze

Starting tomorrow, frequent travelers who fly 16 round trip or 32 one-way flights in 12 months with Southwest will receive automatic boarding priority through a new “Rapid Rewards” program called the “A-List.”

Southwest sent an email to their members (Thanks, Mark!) about the change:

The Rapid Rewards A-List – Just fly 16 roundtrips in 12 months and we’ll put you on our A-List where we’ll reserve you the best boarding pass available on all your flights for an entire year, which means you’ll most likely get an A boarding pass.

Log into your MySouthwest® account on southwest.com tomorrow to see how close you are to making it on the A-List. Members who qualify for the A-List as of November 8, 2007, will be receiving notification either by postal mail or e-mail within 3 to 5 days.

They’re also raising and rebranding their last minute fares. The more expansive last minute fares are now called “Business Select” fares and they include a cocktail and guaranteed priority boarding, according to the email.

Business Select – When you purchase this new fare, you can guarantee that you’ll be among the first to board, and you’ll also get extra Rapid Rewards credit and a free drink to boot!

USAToday says that Southwest’s CEO Gary “Put Some Clothes On, Young Lady” Kelly estimates the changes will bring in an extra $100 million a year for Southwest.

Southwest giving boarding priority to highest-paying fliers [USAToday]

Comments

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  1. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    And so begins the charging for A boarding passes…

  2. vaxman says:

    Is it just me, or is boarding first a silly thing to make this trivial… If they want to prove they have better customer service, they should just worry about getting from A to B in the shortest amount of time possible. Everyone gets on the plane, so rearranging the order they get on makes no sense at shortening this time.

  3. mandarin says:

    Wonder how many flight attendants will partake on free booze…

  4. Youthier says:

    @vaxman: You think that until you sit at a Southwest gate. People are camped out in the boarding lines like it’s a Star Wars movie.

  5. budartagnan says:

    Very glad to see this. I often find myself buying the last minute fares 1-2 hours before the flight. It’s no fun to pay double what most people are paying yet have to board last since there’s little to no way to get an A boarding pass with 60 minutes until the flight. Plus free booze, woo.

  6. JKinNYC says:

    Now, do kids who travel a lot get priority a-list status? :)

  7. BK88 says:

    It’s unfortunate that a company, the only one in its entire industry to make a profit for the past 34 years straight, is being told to “make more money” by “investors” that never gave the airline a chance in the 1970s.

    Gary Kelly (SWA CEO) makes less than $1 million per year in total
    compensation, compare that with airlines who bleed money on a regular
    basis. I think he should stick with the heart of Southwest and resist
    these calls for enourmous short term profits.

    BTW, I think they did right on the boarding pass group+number. That
    was probably the only real way to improve it and still keep it first
    come(login)-first serve.

  8. Hoss says:

    Did they say “a complimentary cocktail”, as in one — I mean, as in one eye-drop bottle of cheap booze? Come on. And I’d rather board last as to minimize time in the tube

  9. nweaver says:

    This makes sense. It takes a LOT of flying to get 16 round trips on Southwest, and those travelers are likely to check in 23 hours and 59 minutes before their flight anyway.

    Also, making the “full fare” walkup ticket more valuable is a good thing for them as well, because otherwise a business traveler would NEVER willingly select it, because of the “we dont’ charge change fees, just price delta” policy.

    OTOH, you fly 6 round trips you get a free booze booklet…

  10. Buran says:

    @Franklin Comes Alive!: Where does it say you’ll get charged for one? Just check in promptly and I doubt you have anything to worry about.

  11. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    @Buran:

    I quote:

    Business Select – When you purchase this new fare, you can guarantee that you’ll be among the first to board, and you’ll also get extra Rapid Rewards credit and a free drink to boot!

    If they sell enough of these tickets, it won’t matter when I check in.

  12. Buran says:

    @Franklin Comes Alive!: Yes, I read it. Where exactly does it say that you have to get into either program to be on the A list?

    It doesn’t. Hence, they’re NOT charging for them.

  13. Buran says:

    @HeyHermano: Won’t be anymore with the new 5-at-a-time system.

  14. CMU_Bueller says:

    @Buran: No they don’t charge for it per se, but they do heftily encourage it. You have to read between the lines a bit here.

  15. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    @Buran:

    Let’s say there are 60 A seats on a plane. Then 60 (or more) business travelers buy the ‘business select’ tickets. I go to check in 23 hours and 59 minutes before my flight. I’m the first one, but since there are 60 ‘special’ people, I get a B seat. That’s how they are selling the A seats.

  16. b612markt says:

    Yay, my first Consumerist submission that’s picked!

    I just flew Southwest yesterday, actually and was THRILLED to see the little laptop work stations for customers. In *every* southwest gate area they have a small table that seats 4-6 people and their laptops. There’s A/C power for everyone – even USB charging outlets. No more plug hunting! That may be an industry first. I’ll bet the AA, Delta, United customers will be sneaking into SWA gates to suck up the A/C.

    The whole A/B/C thing was always fine with me. I usually get A or B when I check in online and then sit in a seat until that line is almost done, then I walk behind the last person in the line and waltz onto the plane. The campers make me laugh. My Saturday 6:30 am flight from Chicago to Houston had TWENTY people on the plane, and the people who sat on the floor for 30 minutes to get their precious first spot on the jet looked pretty silly.

  17. s25843 says:

    @b612markt:

    Actually, Delta has had laptop/phone charging stations in several airports for quite awhile now…

  18. Mattazuma says:

    Well, that explains why I was person #21 when I checked in exactly 24 hours before my flight last night.

    I’m guessing that getting on the plane the next few weeks is going to be a pain as they “retrain” their customers to the new boarding policy.

  19. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    @Mattazuma:

    You could actually easily be that high before the change. When you fly a multi-leg trip that involves changing planes, you can check in for all your flights 24 hours before the earliest one. Therefore, you can check in for your second (or third) flights earlier than 24 hours beforehand. When a lot of people on your flight do that, you can still get a relatively high number even if you check in right away.

  20. Geekybiker says:

    So now its really frequent and business travellers “a” kids, then everyone else. So chances are if you’re an average traveler who check in advance, you’ll still be somewhere in B group behinds all the breeders.