Southwest Just Made This Major Change for Future Flights
The airline quietly unveiled the marked shift from its longstanding policy.
Among all of the U.S. carriers, Southwest Airlines has always been known as an outlier. Unlike the other major airlines, Southwest has never charged a fee to check bags, to change your ticket, or to select a seat (after all, it boards in groups using a first-come, first-served approach). But now the airline is making a switch from one of the longstanding policies that has always set it apart from the others. Read on to find out what change Southwest recently made.
For the first time Southwest has begun offering tickets for booking through Kayak.
While you have long been able to book an American, United, or Delta airline ticket on a third-party travel agent site like Kayak, Southwest has always required passengers to book directly at its own site, Southwest.com. But one astute reporter at ZDNet noted that Southwest has begun, without fanfare, offering some of its tickets for sale on Kayak—and that's a first.
Southwest passengers can only book on Kayak if they have a business or corporate email address.
That is to say only some users will be able to book that way. These flights are only available through the the niche platform, Kayak for Business, which you can only use if you have a corporate or business email address.
Southwest had previously stated that it chose to sell its own seats exclusively as a way of ensuring better customer service.
Previously, Southwest publicly stated the position that it would be able to offer the best customer experience if it limited ticket sales to its own platform. "By utilizing Southwest.com and our call centers, customers can rest at ease knowing that when they go to book with Southwest, they're getting the lowest fare without any strings that online travel agencies might try to sneak in there, such as fees and restrictions," a representative for the airline told ZDNet last year. This is especially important as a low-cost, low-fare, high-quality airline."
The airline explained that "allowing a third-party access to our consumer fares and flights adds a new dimension that would erode our promise to our customers of offering friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel. We prefer to build a relationship with the customer on their journey from booking to destination, and OTAs [online travel agencies] would change the experience our customers expect from us."
Southwest Airlines also recently announced it would resume alcohol sales after a two-year hiatus.
The booking change isn't the only reason Southwest has been in the news recently—for better or for worse. The carrier recently announced the plan to resume alcohol sales on its flights beginning Feb. 16 after a break that neared two years, according to a corporate statement. The long pause was due to the spike of in-flight disruptions among unruly passengers.
Some passengers are enthusiastic about the reversal. "Customers have expressed a desire for more beverage options, so we're delighted to restore additional on-board offerings as a part of the Southwest hospitality that our customers know and love," said Tony Roach, Southwest's vice president of customer experience and customer relations, said in the statement.
But flight crews expressed dismay. The union that represents Southwest Airlines' flight attendants called the shift "both unsafe and irresponsible," according to Reuters. Lyn Montgomery, president of TWU Local 556, told Reuters that her union was "outraged" over the move. "We have adamantly and unequivocally informed management that resuming sales of alcohol while the mask mandate is in place has the great potential to increase customer non-compliance and misconduct issues," she said.