Southwest is great airline, if you want a bargain ticket to one of its destinations. Known for being a no-frills airline, passengers line in up a boarding cue and can pick pretty much whatever seat you want. Of course, for those flying as elite members you get to line up at the front, but that is just a small percentage of people who are flying.
Now, Southwest has begun charging for the privilege to board a little bit earlier by charging a ten dollar early bird fee for coach passengers to line up ahead of other coach passengers. This might be worthwhile for some elderly passengers who are unable to stand for a long amount of time during the check in process which proceeds much like a cattle call. Many airlines are charging for checked baggage, which makes sense as if you are carrying a lot with you it is extra fuel that the airline needs to burn through to get you where you are going.
Many analysts are hoping that this move by Southwest will help move the company out of the red and provide ten or hundreds of millions of dollars in extra revenue extra year. But what’s next? Personally, I prefer almost any terminal over the inside of an airplane. Why would I want to pay an extra ten dollars just for the privilege of getting inside the airplane that much earlier? Of course if you want a specific type of seat, like a window or aisle, then this might be advantageous. And if you are afraid that you won’t be able to find room for your carry-on luggage on the plane, then it might be helpful to be able to get on the plane that much earlier. But, all you need to do is get in line earlier and you will get on the plane that much earlier.
Personally, what I think they should do is charge for allowing some passengers to get off the plane earlier. If you are at the back of an airplane when it is deboarding, then you know that it might take you an extra fifteen to twenty minutes to get off the plane, a delay which could cause you to miss a flight. Of course, this would be impossible to enforce as pretty much when the plane stops moving everybody gets up and begins gathering their luggage to exit the plane.
This is why I think that airlines could install a door at the back and the middle of plane, and charge passengers extra to get off of the plane as these special “elite” exits. For ten dollars your misery of being banged in the head with luggage that somebody pulled out of the luggage bin over your head can be over, for a price.
One of the worst things about being stuck on a grounded plane is having to breath that recycled air. However, what if airlines provided masks flowing with fresh air and maybe a little extra oxygen. If oxygen bars in tokyo can basically sell air, then why not airlines? For perhaps twenty five dollars I could get a special plastic mask which blows a steady steam of filtered airplane air with added deodorizers and a little extra oxygen. Certainly, some road warriors would enjoy this option.
While many airlines charge extra for checked luggage, what about helping out with America’s obesity epidemic and charging fliers extra if they appear to be obese? That extra thirty bucks obesity charge might be enough for Uncle Ned to think about losing a couple pounds, if only for the savings. Maybe this is why some airlines started charging for soda and snacks on their flights: they don’t want their regular customers to gain extra weight that they will have to fly around the country.
Time will tell if the Early Bird check in program is a success.