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Fri, Nov 09, 2007

Southwest Continues Its Push To Lure Business Travelers

Adds Liquor, FF Perks To The Battle Between 'Apple Juices' And 'Coffees'

If there was any question before of just how serious Southwest Airlines was with its push to lure more business travelers to the carrier... that's been answered. This week, in addition to radically altering its storied "cattle call" boarding process, Southwest -- once considered an airline-for-the-masses -- also announced new perks for passengers paying higher-price, last-minute airfares.

"Southwest is differentiating its product without changing its core philosophy," said Southwest CEO Gary Kelly Wednesday, stressing earlier statements the airline planned to shed its "one-size-fits-all approach."

Dubbed "Business Select," for a $10-$30 premium over the cost of a regular, full-fare ticket, travelers will receive a guaranteed "A" group boarding pass; extra Rapid Rewards credits; a free drink coupon; and the option of a full refund or changeable fare if they need to cancel their trip.

We dunno... the philosophy sure SOUNDS different.

Southwest will also reward its most frequent fliers, beyond the current Rapid Rewards program. Effective Wednesday, members who fly 32 flight segments per year will be considered "A-List" passengers... who will be automatically checked in for their flights. In Kelly's words, the move "gives our customers something to aspire to."

However you may feel about such radical changes to Southwest's business philosophy, it's not hard to see why the airline is making such a move. Though Southwest made its name on offering cheap airfares for a bread-and-butter clientele, including families... that's not where the money is anymore.

"We're giving business travelers new reasons to choose Southwest," Kelly (below) said, adding the changes "set the stage to give customers a reason to spend more."

Available Business Select fares will be capped at about 10 percent of available seats on each flight, reports The Dallas Morning News.

The changes extend to Southwest's website, as well. Regular, non-"Select" full-price fares will now be referred to as "Business Fares", while all discounted fares will be grouped under the catch-all "Wanna Get Away" category.

Maybe "Bourgeoisie" and "Proletariat" classifications were a bit too esoteric... but the "Coffee" and Apple Juice" analogy favored by Klyde Morris might have worked...

FMI: www.southwest.com

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