Monday, November 30, 2009

The art of raising prices without raising prices

I'm always amazed when businesses create new offerings that amount to ways to take more of your money for basically the same old product. I'm even more amazed when I agree to such scams.

Today, Southwest Airlines amazed me.

A group of us are heading to Las Vegas this weekend for the UFC's Ultimate Fighter Finale 10 (and lots of other fun stuff). We're flying on Southwest, in large part because it has the only direct, nonstop flight from here to Las Vegas. Today, Southwest emailed me that if I wanted to get to register for my boarding position 36 hours in advance--as opposed to the usual 24--I should sign up for the new EarlyBird Check-In feature. I did--and in the process had to pay an additional ten dollars per flight. So, Southwest raised my ticket cost by twenty bucks without ever changing the price.

Sure, I could have saved money and not opted for this feature, but then my boarding position would have been terrible, because everyone else who wanted a good seat would have already signed up. On Southwest, if you don't have a good boarding number, you can find yourself in a middle seat between Bubba the retired pro wrestler, who's now on disability due to excessive girth, and Grandma Liddly, whose Tourette's will be better soon and who is transporting a five-pound-bag of limberger cheese--a bag that has now burst open--to the home where her axe murderer son is under constant care.

I admire this particular scam, because it is such an effective trap, even though I also hate it. In any case, from now on, when I fly Southwest, I'll be paying ten bucks extra per flight.


Anonymous said...

and don't forget that unless you forked over the extra cash for the business select fare when you booked, you're actually paying for the privilege of being first among the second tier of people to board anyway!

southwest has just ensured that i will never voluntarily fly them again. which is a bummer, because once we're actually on the plane, i think they have the best service out there.

i loved their original boarding policy; it dovetailed nicely with my habit of getting to the airport with plenty of time before my flight, and my willingness to sit on the ground meant that i could almost guarantee i'd be one of the first handful of people on the plane.

when they switched to numbered boarding and multiple classes of privilege, that catapulted them to the bottom of my list for seating; at least on other airlines i can choose my seat in advance, and being elite on all the major alliances right now, i've really enjoyed my ability to select exit row seats immediately after booking.

but charging me extra to retain the ability to do what they've already degraded once is just the last straw. sadly, southwest will join united on my list of airlines to be avoided unless there's absolutely no other feasible option. (and yes, i'm going to tidy up this rant and send it to them as customer feedback, too.)

however, i'm still looking forward to our trip!! :)

- lisa

Mark said...

Yeah, I now definitely prefer other airlines.


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