New CEO says there are no immediate changes
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly has been asked countless times over the past decade whether the airline could join its competitors in charging for checked baggage.
Its responses range from never say never to, in recent years, an outspoken defense of its baggage theft policy in the face of the billions in revenue its rivals collect from checked baggage fees. At least a few times he has gone so far as to say that the bags will remain free as long as he is CEO.
So Wednesday’s announcement that Kelly is stepping down as CEO in February raises a key question for travelers: Will the bags still fly for free?
Kelly’s replacement, longtime Southwest executive Bob Jordan got a quick response in a brief interview with USA TODAY.
âI will categorically say that we will not charge for luggage,â Jordan said. “And there will be no (ticket) change fee.”
Kelly joked that he would not retire or leave the company because he would remain executive chairman until at least 2026.
“That’s one of the beauties of this: Bob and I are very well aligned with our values, with our love for the business, with our embrace of the South West culture and certainly our attitudes towards customer service.” said Kelly. no baggage fees. ”
Despite references to a new era for Southwest in a note sent to employees about the change in leadership, Jordan said the company is not planning any drastic changes. It was more of a reference to the airline’s next 50 years following its 50th anniversary celebration last week, he said.
âIt’s not like we’re changing the DNA of the company or the brand or anything like that,â he said.
Could Southwest (finally) switch to allocated seats?
Southwest has sometimes considered changing another of its quirks: open seating. Instead of allocating seats, the airline allocates numbered boarding positions into three groups based on online check-in time and other factors including frequent flyer status, ticket type or the payment of an early boarding fee. Passengers are free to choose any free seat when they board.
One of the allocated seat studies, led by Jordan, led to the creation of the current boarding system in 2007. “You spoke and we listened! Southwest Airlines says open seats are here to stay,” the airline said when announcing the decision. .
Jordan said “whenever the airline has looked at changing its seating policy, customers” generally prefer open seats. “
He didn’t rule out retesting the assigned seat, putting it on the same side as other potential changes to come, including the addition of new international routes. Southwest does not serve Europe, for example, concentrating its international service in the Caribbean and Mexico.
âIf it was clear that the need (for assigned seats) was there, that it was critical to our product, we would absolutely look at that,â Jordan said.
Kelly, who has previously acknowledged that Southwest’s open boarding turns off some potential customers and said the airline’s new reservation system gives her the ability to allocate seats, however, said for now: “There is no there is no work on that. “
Is this seat taken? Southwest seat economy drives some passengers crazy
Kelly and Jordan said Southwest is still working on new products or services that will increase revenue, the silence efforts they regularly touted before the pandemic without providing any details.
“Very good opportunities”: Southwest Aggressively Plots Ways To Increase Revenue
On Wednesday, Kelly said plans were still not ready for “prime time,” but said two of them fit in well with the resurgence of leisure travel. Southwest, like most airlines, has added flights to several vacation destinations to respond to pandemic travel trends.