If you’re a fan of what may well be the best economy-class service to the islands, that being Southwest Hawaii flights, prepare for some sticker shock today. The airline has significantly raised the cost of its version of paid seat assignments.
This follows Southwest receiving the highest marks of any airline in economy class, which WalletHub reported on their customer satisfaction survey. Hawaiian Airlines was unfortunately not included in the study of only national (not regional brands).
Based on our own independent review of Southwest Hawaii flights, we concur with WalletHub and believe they would have retained that position even had Hawaiian Airlines been included. On the other hand, and at the diametrically opposed end of their study, which is business class, our experience is that Hawaiian is at the very top of the pack.
Beat of Hawaii will be doing more reviews from our unique on-the-ground in Hawaii perspective this week and throughout the upcoming summer months.
Southwest’s equivalent to paid seat assignments.
Southwest doesn’t have seat assignments, which they’ve long practiced and apparently will forevermore because of the improvement in aircraft turn time that provides them. You put yourself into any available seat, which saves valuable time.
If you, like us, loathe sitting in middle seats (we have one very social friend who actually prefers those – lucky her), Southwest offers “EarlyBird Check-In” to get a better boarding number before your flight.
Those top boarding positions are first given to people who pay for Southwest’s Business Select. But when those aren’t taken, they are sold during check-in.
When editor Jeff flew from Hawaii to the mainland recently, he purchased an EarlyBird check-in to try it out. That allows check-in 36 hours in advance. For $25, he got on early enough to select an aisle seat near the front of the plane. Not bad. The other option, Upgraded Boarding, was available for $50 (now $80), which moves you into the very first A1-15 boarding group if available.
Now the cost of a top-seat pick on Southwest increased by 60%.
Based on an internal memo reviewed by a reliable source, Southwest said it would now charge $80 for Hawaii flights when you want Upgraded Boarding. That’s an increase of 60% compared with the prior $50 price. $80 is the maximum price Southwest charges, and that fee is based on distance and demand.
Following is the official statement from Southwest:
Upgraded Boarding is one of Southwest’s most popular ancillary products, allowing Customers the option to buy an upgraded boarding position in Group A1-A15 (when available). We’ve shared with our Employees that Upgraded Boarding now will be offered in a variable range of $30 to $80. Upgraded Boarding price points will work the same as they do today whereby prices can vary based on the length and popularity of each flight. Price points within the new range are subject to change at any time, as they do today. We hope our Customers continue to enjoy this product.
Unlike less frequent travelers, Southwest Chase premium credit cardholders may remain immune to the cost. These cards reimburse Upgraded Boarding up to 4x per year.
Southwest didn’t announce any change to the current $25 charge for EarlyBird check-in, although we suspect that will be coming next.
Do you choose either of Southwest’s improved boarding position options on Hawaii flights?
Hat tip: View From The Wing.