Southwest Airlines had a great new idea for customers (then it ruined things)


A little desperate?

Screenshot by ZDNet

I don’t have strong feelings about Southwest Airlines.

Well, no strong negative feelings. Lake.

Yes, the airline mistakenly left me on LAX once, but I’ve forgiven it. For the most part.

And I’ve flown to the Southwest a lot in the past, always for short, practical trips that were perfectly enjoyable.

Recently, however, the airline has admitted its own tormented feelings. And shortcomings.

It can’t hire pilots and flight attendants fast enough. The technology offering is still on the slightly dated side. It is also one of the airlines that has canceled far too many flights this year.

Of course, this could be related to not being able to hire pilots or having the best technology.

However, I was positively moved when the airline announced that it had stopped thinking about the people. It’s the people’s airline after all: no seat assignments and a general sense that everyone is in it together.

Go away. For real.

This time Southwest had come up with a new type of fare. This is called Wanna Get Away Plus.

Yes, four words is a bit much for a brand name. But this fare class allows business types on a budget — ergo, a non-refundable fare — to make same-day changes without penalty. It also ensures that, should you have to cancel, the flight credit can be passed on to a loved one. Or to a loved one that your official loved one knows nothing about.

While it’s unclear how much more this Plus will cost, it’s certainly an exercise in true human thoughtfulness.

A few folks at the airline — or maybe a whole planeload — wondered what customers would actually find useful and found a way to deliver it. (For a price.)

I immediately felt more positive about Southwest.

No, please go away.

Still, the timing of this move was a little awkward. At least for me.

You see, Southwest has suddenly become extremely needy.

Also: Southwest Airlines has excellent news for everyone (except Bill Gates)

Where in the past I might get a few emails a month with a great – but inappropriate – deal, March saw a frenzy.

It started with the offer of $59 flights that were “about to leave town.” It continued with my last chance to earn a Companion Pass.

There was a return to offering low rates. Maybe those $59 flights had had engine problems—or a pilot shortage—and the planes were still at my home airport.

Within days, Southwest was desperate to tell me I could “save up to 40% on points now.”

Five Days Later: “Sale of $49. Lucky Duck!”

And we weren’t even half way through the month.

There were pleas for more discounted rates, a repeat of the points savings, an offer to earn 40,000 points for my “next adventure”, and then an offer to save 20% if I booked with points.

A total of 15 emails in 28 days.

None of these offers were convincing.

All this felt like a former lover who just wouldn’t let go. Even after they found someone else.

How much luv is too much luv?

Regular readers will know that I worry about companies emailing you too often. Yes, you can unsubscribe from the list, but you might miss something useful.

Still, an email every few days says little about the recipient and a lot about the sender.

Also: American Airlines pilots want customers to know how bad things got

Recently, I enjoyed a great customer experience at Best Buy. This did not stop the company from emailing me 18 times in a very short time.

Email marketers seem to disagree on how many emails are too many.

However, a customer becomes attuned to how often a particular company chooses to contact them. When that rhythm is disrupted, you feel like something is wrong. With the company, yes.

Not all airlines have done this. American Airlines, for example, is pleasantly measured in how they’ve emailed me and what messages they’ve used.

This sudden need won’t stop me from flying to the Southwest – which prides itself on “LUV” – if the occasion warrants it. But I wonder how aggressively the airline will market itself in the future — and whether that will work.

Southwest enjoys tremendous customer goodwill. However, it has an imperfect track record with email marketing.

Last year, Southwest kept emailing me to say that I had left a flight to a miserable city in my cart when I hadn’t even considered flying to that miserable city.

This was deeply annoying. And now Southwest seems a little desperate.

You’ll be fine, Southwest. You are one of four airlines that together control more than 80% of all seats in America.

I have a feeling you’ll be fine when the masks finally come off and things really start.

Unless you still can’t hire enough staff, that is.

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