Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Southwest's baby steps: "optional" fees

Southwest Airlines has so far made a name for itself staying out of the airline industry's Year of the Fees. Last year, I wrote about their marketing campaign in which they bragged about not charging fees to check baggage. That's still the case, even as they lose millions—and other airlines bring in millions with baggage fees.

But now they're taking baby steps into Fee Land, offering an optional $10 fee to get a priority spot in the boarding queue. For those of you who haven't flown Southwest, they do not assign seats; it's first-come, first-served. So your position in the boarding queue is critical if you don't want to sit in a middle seat.

The more people who take advantage of this new option, the fewer aisle and window seats will be available to those who don't. I predict the tipping point will be reached quickly, and the $10 fee will become all but standard. I also predict this is the beginning of Southwest's journey toward charging the same fees as all the other guys.

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