Much has been written about Southwest Airlines and their ability to thrive in a difficult airline market due in large part to their corporate culture and attitude towards customer service. I can say first hand that I have never experienced such consistently good service (especially when traveling) and I’ve determined that it’s not just their cheap flights that make them excel far beyond their competition.
Let’s take their refund policy for example. Granted, their cheapest fares are non-refundable but they will let you retain the full credit of that flight for future travel if you cancel – no penalty fees attatched. None. I just cancelled a trip to Florida – and sure, I spent $200 on a flight I’m not using but I’m not losing the money because I know I’ll travel sometime in the next year and I won’t lose a dime of that initial charge. Do you know how rare this is? I booked a flight on American and United through Hotwire for $149 to Phoenix last year and ended up having to cancel due to scheduling changes. The customer service representative was happy to tell me that I could retain the entire value of my ticket – hooray! But just a small reminder the rebooking fee through Hotwire is $150.
Wait. So if I wanted to use the credit from my flight (esssentially my money, they still get to resell that seat and I’m out $149), I’d have to pay $1 extra to rebook in addition to the cost of the new flight?
Well, yes m’am. But you will still have your $149 value in full.
But you’re charging me more than the value to rebook.
Oooohkay then. I think Southwest gets it right here on so many levels. I can be assured with SW that if I book a flight, I can always cancel up to the last day and not lose my money – and that assurance is worth way more to me than the value of the ticket. It’s assurance that I’m not throwing money away that I’ll never see again. I wonder how much Hotwire makes a year on flights they sold and then were able to resell due to cancellation? I bet a lot.
Southwest also has an excellent frequent flyer program which I only recently signed up for. I had been participating in Continental’s OnePass program which includes a variety of partners including Delta and American. Which was great – I’ve banked almost 20,000 points in just a few years. However, flights not on Continental don’t count towards Elite status (you know, where you can get upgraded and all the perks?) so I have exactly 0 Elite status points despite my number of miles.
I also discovered that if I wanted to use my points, I could probably get from Boston to Newark. And still have to pay about $15 in fees. Sounds like a good time.
I signed up for Southwest Rapid Rewards and upon calling their customer service line, was told I could actually get credit for all the times I’ve flown with SW in the past 24 months. !!!! What? Yup, and to top it off? The rep actually stayed on the phone with me and punched in ALL MY CREDIT CARD NUMBERS to check for any flights I may have taken. She clarified that she probably shouldn’t do it but I was clearly a frequent flyer with SW and she wanted to make sure I was rewarded accordingly. Hot damn they are good.
It takes 8 roundtrip flights to get a free flight on Southwest. EIGHT. That’s it. I almost have a free flight and I just signed up a few weeks ago due to my back log of travel. I’ve been traveling with Continental and partners for 3 years and I can’t even fly to Newark for free. FAIL.
We talk a lot around here about how to survive in this economy. What the newest trends are (green, sustainable, affordable, necessary) and what will help drive companies forward as a new way of thinking falls on us. But I truly believe that this model – where customers are given so many tools to get the most out of every minute of every experience they have with the company ? It is the golden ticket. As a consumer, my ideal world would consist of Southwest airline policies in every experience I have.
They get it right. A lot.
**I was not solicited or paid for this blog – it is literally a manifestation of some really great experiences in a sea of crappy customer service.
Posted by: Ashley / @ashleyatcaster