It is no secret that Southwest wants to aggressively pursue ancillary revenue opportunities as they look to remain profitable. They’ve already announced things like restricting the value of canceled tickets; this week they added the option to board first for $40 to their schedule of add-ons. The "A" boarding slots will only be available starting 45 minutes prior to departure and only on an "as available" basis, meaning only if the company hasn’t already sold them via their Business Select fares.
Southwest Airlines Customers LUV the coveted "A" boarding group, and now they have one more way to be among the first to board. Beginning today, Southwest Airlines will offer Customers the opportunity to purchase one of the earliest boarding positions at the gate for $40 per flight, when available.
Up to 15 Boarding Upgrades will be available for purchase on any given flight. Passengers will have to purchase them from an agent at the gate via a credit card; agents will be announcing if they are available prior to the flight. The company says that testing of this program last month in San Diego was successful.
Essentially the $40 fee is a second chance at getting towards the top of the boarding process. Many airlines are selling similar options at varying price points but not all allow passengers to move all the way to the front of the line for boarding as Southwest will be providing. In this case paying $40 – on a space-available basis – allows a customer to jump ahead of A-List customers, Southwest’s version of elite status. Yes, there is a limit to how many will be sold (plus the logistics of selling them in the ~15 minute window makes me question how many will ever sell) and more often than not it will still be passengers on high fares at the front of the line. Still, it is a bit of a slap in the face to the A-List folks to learn that their long-term loyalty is supplanted by $40 on an ad hoc basis.
Like many program updates this one likely won’t drive any behavioral changes on the part of members. But death by a thousand cuts is always a bit awkward to watch from the outside looking in.