Southwest Airlines, which has long touted its low fares, has introduced a priority boarding option that lets passengers pay $40 for the privilege of early boarding. Southwest's move is part of the game plan that airlines of all stripes have eagerly embraced to earn more revenues by selling as 'extras' services that were until recently free.
Southwest's $40 priority boarding fee could mean that the number of passengers who get the coveted Group A boarding pass free of cost by checking in early will be fewer, to help the airline make more money.
Passengers with Group A boarding passes are the first to board Southwest flights.
Southwest customers with Business Select Fare tickets automatically get priority boarding.
It’s not clear if Southwest will continue to offer the $10 EarlyBird Check-In option that customers can purchase at the time of booking the tickets. EarlyBird Check-In purchases usually guaranteed a Group A boarding pass.
Launched on January 21, 2013, Southwest’s $40 priority boarding option will be offered only at the gate on the day of travel, starting 45 minutes before the flight departs.
The airline says it tested the new boarding option in San Diego in December 2012, and received positive feedback.
But that's a claim one should swallow with more than a pinch of salt. It’s hard to believe passengers flying on a low fare airline will be happy to hand out $40 just for the privilege of boarding early.
Southwest passengers will hear an announcement in the gate area and can buy an available boarding position via credit card from the airline's customer service agent.