And it’s actually a lot cheaper than you might expect.
At the best of times, flying isn’t the most enjoyable way to spend your time. Even with a cocktail and an in-flight movie you’d never watch at home, you still have to deal with delays, cramped seats (which actually are getting more cramped all the time) and, sometimes, rude customers sitting right next to you.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is trying to make things better for travelers. This summer he’s announced a proposal that would guarantee that customers would get a refund for a canceled flight or a flight delayed by more than three hours, if they chose not to take a later flight.
He also recently sent the major airlines a stern letter telling them to both get their act together, and to stop having so many cancellations delays (which are caused by a variety of factors, ranging from crew shortages to climate-change induced weather disruptions), and to start providing food vouchers to passengers who have to wait more than three hours, and lodging accommodations for passengers who are stranded overnight.
But Buttigieg is just one man, albeit one with the bully pulpit of a cabinet office. There’s only so much that he can do to make the modern air travel experience more tolerable. Fortunately, Southwest Airlines (LUV) – Get Southwest Airlines Company Report has introduced a new feature that, for a price, might make it a little easier to get a comfortable flight.
What Feature Has Southwest Airlines Introduced?
If you’ve ever sat down at your seat, realized you’re next to a screaming baby, and thought “hard pass,” take heart.
As part of its ongoing $2 billion upgrade, Southwest has introduced a feature that will allow customers to change their boarding group for an added fee. The change can be made online or via the Southwest app, within 24 hours of departure. The prices start at $30 per segment.
This feature used to only be for passengers in business class, but now it’s been extended to the less expensive tiers “Anytime,” “Wanna Get Away,” and “Wanna Get Away Plus.”
Also, if you are the forgetful sort who never remembers to check in, and therefore you find yourself at the mercy of taking whatever random seat is left, then good news.
Southwest has also introduced an EarlyBird Check-In option that will automatically check you in 24 hours before departure. It will cost $15 per one-way flight and is available for purchase 36 hours before departure.
Southwest Has Been Trying To Improve Things Lately
While Buttigieg has been getting on the airlines’ case recently, Southwest can legitimately claim they’re doing their part.
In a second-quarter earnings call earlier this year, Southwest’s Andrew Watterson, executive vice president and chief commercial office, announced that credits for canceled and delayed flights will no longer expire. Previously, the credits would typically expire within a year, much to many customers’ annoyance.
“We also are eliminating the expiration date on any flight credits that are currently valid and unexpired, including those travel credits that were issued as customers changed their travel early in the pandemic and would have expired this coming September,” he said.
“We’re famous for offering industry-leading flexibility across the board, and customers tell us it is one of the key differentiators of our brand. Repeat purchases by engaged customers is a cornerstone of our business model and our success. Our customer research and feedback tells us that flexibility has become even more important to customers over the past two years.”