Southwest Woos Business Travelers

I’m way behind in blogging on the changes at Southwest – blame my  annoying job – but at least it has given me some time to consider the fallout. And, wow, did this one set the leisure travelers and the business road warriors sniping at each other.

Southwest announced yesterday a "business select" category that will offer A passes and early boarding to last-minute, high-fare passengers. Southwest will continue to have one-class cabins, but there’s no denying that this is a move toward stratifying service – unless you’re Southwest, which denies it.

Some leisure travelers see it as a betrayal of the egalitarian one-class ethos that they perceived in Southwest. Some business travelers see it as an affirmation of their rights to get more because they (or their employers) pay more.

What I can’t say, because I forgot to get an MBA, is whether this is a smart business move. Might be. It’s just a question of whether it will bring in enough high-fare business travelers to make up for the annoyance to leisure travelers.

Perhaps it matters less than it appears. If it does work, and it brings in significant revenue, it ought to help Southwest hold the line on its lower fares. And that may compensate for the inconvenience to leisure travelers. If it doesn’t work, there won’t be enough business travelers to have much of an impact on seating for everyone else.

Someday, when I’m feeling braver, I’ll blog a bit about the whole leisure traveler vs. business traveler thing. (I’ll apply my usual, extremely unpopular view: everybody’s wrong.) 


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