Southwest Tries to Win Back Customers Amid Boycott of New Boarding Changes
The airline is making a coveted perk available to all customers.
Southwest Airlines is a fan-favorite among travelers thanks to its lack of change fees and its unique boarding process. But the latter has undergone some changes, most recently with the removal of EarlyBird Check-In—which allows you to pay for an earlier boarding position—for some flights. Passengers were up in arms about the news, with some saying the opportunity to check in ahead of the typical 24-hour window is "one of the biggest reasons" they prefer to fly with Southwest. But if you're debating whether you'll switch your airline allegiance, you might not want to abandon Southwest just yet. The airline just announced another new change to its standby policy in an attempt to win back customers. Read on to find out how the airline is switching things up yet again.
Free same-day standby will soon be available for all passengers.
In an Aug. 15 press release, Southwest confirmed that free same-day standby will soon be an option for all passengers. As explained in a video posted by the airline on X, this feature allows you to add yourself to a standby list for a different same-day flight via the Southwest app. If you're cleared off the list, you'll be rebooked on the earlier flight free of charge. If you're not cleared, your ticket is kept with your original booking.
Selecting this option doesn't guarantee that you'll make it off of the standby list, which is based on seat availability. And @maxmilespoints, who broke down the new policy on X, added that there are some instances where you'll need to see the gate agent. He notes that your coveted boarding group will also change if you're moved to a different flight.
The change is set to take effect by the end of August, Chron reported, having historically only been offered to A-List Rapid Rewards Tier Members traveling on the Business Select, Anytime, or Wanna Get Away Plus fares. Now, all customers, including those flying on Wanna Get Away, the airline's base fare, will also have the opportunity to select this option.
Best Life reached out to Southwest for additional details on the policy change, and we will update the story upon hearing back.
The change is being made amid backlash.
The change to offer this perk to more passengers was enacted amid threats of a boycott due to the limiting of EarlyBird Check-In.
"Early bird check-in was what made me a dedicated Southwest customer. Without that confidence of where I'll be seated I'll be looking at the competition," a post on X reads. "Knowing what my seating options are going to be is the most important feature for me when traveling. This change was a mistake."
Other travelers asserted that Southwest is alienating certain travelers by getting rid of EarlyBird Check-In.
"So disappointed you guys are getting rid of EarlyBird Check-In. You are no longer a low budget carrier so I guess it's time for me to find a new favorite," an Aug. 10 post on X reads. "Southwest used to care about us little people but not anymore."
But in a statement previously provided to Best Life, Southwest spokesperson Tiffany Valdez confirmed that Southwest was actively working on improving the customer experience.
"Many initiatives are underway across the company to modernize the customer experience and win more customers," Valdez said. "This focus brings an opportunity to evolve our fare and ancillary products, while maintaining the value they bring to our customers."
The more inclusive standby policy is likely one way they're doing so, with one X user personally thanking the airline—but some Southwest customers still aren't pleased.
A-List status isn't exactly easy to earn.
A-List members work to earn and maintain their status with Southwest.
Like most airline rewards programs, to get to the top tier, you need to fly with the airline more often. A-List status is earned when you travel on 25 eligible, one-way Southwest flights, or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year, according to Southwest's website. Reaching this tier affords you several benefits—which previously included the exclusive standby option—as well as the ability to board via priority and express lanes when they're available.
A-List Preferred members get the same benefits, as well as free inflight WiFi and expanded earning opportunities.
But despite those exclusive benefits, A-List members are now claiming the standby perk is something that should remain reserved for frequent fliers.
Members asked why they should work to earn A-List status.
On X, A-List members flooded Southwest's posts with questions and concerns.
One traveler wrote, "Earning and maintaining A-List gets a little less useful every year as the benefits are watered down."
Another added, "So what is the point of being a frequent flyer and earning A-List status if you are going to offer this perk to everyone? I fly SWA everywhere for work, and a big reason why was to be an A-Lister and get free standby. Now, anyone can do it….not a good move Southwest."
Another asked the airline, "What are the perks of A list anymore? Any?"
The airline replied to this post, as well as several others, clarifying that tier members are given priority.
"While the perks associated with A-List and A-List Preferred remain the same, our Tier Members will still have priority on the Standby list if they choose to make a Same Day change. We look forward to seeing you soon!"