Why Southwest Airlines Refuses To Introduce Basic Economy

Several airlines in the United States have adapted to the modern market by introducing basic economy seats. However, unlike its counterparts, Southwest Airlines has refused to introduce the fare to its operations.

Southwest Airlines McCarran Airport
Southwest has stood by its stance on basic economy seating. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Simple approach

Southwest currently has three fare categories, which are all uniquely named. According to Point Me To The Plane, the carrier’s top-tier seating group, titled “Business Select”, offers priority boarding, bonus points per dollar, and a complimentary alcoholic drink. Furthermore, these tickets are fully refundable and exchangeable.

Its middle class is named “Anytime”. Here, passengers can change their tickets at in any moment without facing a charge. Meanwhile, its most standard ticket option is dubbed as “Wanna Get Away”. Tickets are non-refundable under this fare. However, despite being the standard option, passengers get plenty of features that many airlines now charge for with their basic fares.

Tickets can still be canceled or changed without any extra charge. The fare can even be applied toward a future Southwest flight if a customer can’t make the current one. As with the other options, fliers also get to check in a pair of bags for free under this class.

Southwest Boeing 737
Southwest has a lot to offer, even with its most basic fare. Photo: Southwest Airlines

An inclusive offering

This service is a cut above what is available for passengers traveling on the cheapest option on many of Southwest’s rivals. If a passenger wants to change their ticket, check a bag in or choose a seat, it is likely that they will be charged in basic economy.

With the aviation industry becoming increasingly saturated, Southwest’s model separates it against its rivals. Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and American Airlines have all adopted basic economy options in order to compete against low-cost carriers such as Spirit.

However, by maintaining its current approach, Southwest gives an aura of integrity, something which is important for carriers to hold.

Delta Basic Economy
Basic economy seating can often be a valuable solution for passengers traveling with the likes of Delta. Photo: Delta

Maintaining standards

Earlier this year, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly shared that he appreciates that Southwest stands out with this motive. Business Traveller reports that he said his company upholds a standard by breaking up its products further.

“We’re not going to charge for bag fees,” Kelly said, as reported by Business Traveller.

“I love the fact that we’re different, and [other airlines] unbundle and we don’t; and so we just need to continue to find ways with the universe of travellers and the varying needs that they have to see how we can stay true to our brand and offer something of more value to road warriors, to once-a-year-flyers, whatever it might be.”

Nothing is forever

It will be interesting to see if Southwest can carry on this approach once the 2020s are in full swing. An unpredictable market could force the airline into making reluctant changes. There are already rumors on FlyerTalk that it might be adding a fourth fare class.

Southwest 737
Could Southwest be tempted to make a change in policy during the next decade? Photo: Southwest Airlines

However, as things stand, Southwest is able to simplify its product range without compromising on its service for passengers.

Simple Flying reached out Southwest for comment on its stance on basic economy. We will update the article with further information.

What do you think of Southwest’s approach to ticket fares? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.