13 May, 2009

Beware Southwest Airlines Standby Policy is HORRIBLE

I wanted to travel on an earlier flight. Turned out my schedule was such that I had earlier availability than when I booked. So I looked online to try to find out what the policies were for standby. I immediately found a website that reviews all airlines' policies. And what I learned was simple: Don't fly on Southwest Air if there's any chance you want to fly later or earlier.

Here's what most airlines do: If you want to standby earlier, and be confirmed in advance, you pay a $50 fee. If you do not mind waiting until the last minute to be confirmed (i.e. at the gate) then you pay NOTHING.

Here's what Southwest does: If you want to standby, at all, you pay the difference in fares between your original price, and the current ticket price (which, of course, day of flight, will be exorbitant).

In Southwest's defense, they do have one policy that is apparently better than any other airline, in that, if you cancel your flight in advance, you can get a full credit, minus ZERO penalty. This is compared with most other airlines charging $150 rebooking fee. But why have such a paralyzingly strict standby policy? The seats on the plane will be empty if no one takes them. Why not allow people to make adjustments to meet their schedule needs? Oh, because they're an airline, and they don't care about people. We are nothing more than neatly stacked piles of hundred dollar bills that they cram onto the seats of their flying metal prisons.

So why did I choose Southwest? Well, my alternative for the trip was US Airways, and I decided it would be nice to support a smaller airline. And what do I get for it? This. I told the representative on the phone that I will never fly Southwest again. And that is true. Just like I will never use a product from Chase Bank again. In a world where customer service is the only thing that differentiates one company from another, there's no reason to give any business to those whose policies are not satisfactory.

On two separate occasions, I have seen businesses contact me as a result of writing a blog. One was King Arthur flour. The other was STA Travel (heck, they'll probably come across this blog, just because I put their names in it!). I will be quite surprised if an airline has anyone watching the blogosphere for feedback. But we shall see!


  1. For what it's worth: I've flown dozens of times to/from Cali on Alaska airlines, and they've always let me fly earlier for no charge. Have always had great customer service with them.

  2. Yes. This is pretty much standard policy for all airlines except Southwest. Where most airlines screw you on cancellations/rebooking, Southwest instead screws you on standby. Not sure if it's six versus half-dozen, or if it's worse. Some might argue their system is better for most people.

  3. i love alaska airlines.... except for that maddening prayer comment on their napkins.

  4. That's not good. I think many of the airlines that people have become accustomed to having made some poor decisions over recent years. Perhaps they have been forced into those decisions by an accumulation of smaller, bad decisions over time.

    The travelers are the ones who suffer, having to pay out fees in order to reach unfamiliar locations, or even endure a level of service that they are not used to.