I don’t get it.

I recognize that this isn’t new news. But I just saw a Southwest Airlines commercial for their Business Select program, and, after all these months, I still don’t get it.

One of the charms – and differentiating features – of Southwest has always been their “everyman” personality. No first class, no preferential seating (unless you show up early), and a complete lack of pretension.

Business Select is a program that gives privileges to frequent business travelers. That, in itself, is not a problem (of course). But the ad I just saw has one customer loudly proclaiming how happy he is to be in the Business Select program, while his friend says, “Shh. Be quiet. If you talk about it loudly everyone will want to be part of it.”

That’s not Southwest. Way too exclusionary. If I’m sitting near the front of a coach section and I see a flight attendant close the curtain behind first class, I know I must be on American, United, Delta or Northwest. Southwest has never created a class system. Everyone has a fair shot, and that’s a big part of makes them special.

What’s next, a special bathroom for Business Select members? (Sound crazy? That’s exactly what other airlines do for first class passengers.)


  • bonnie larner
    May 30, 2008 - 14:57 pm

    How true, Bob.

    I’ve seen toddlers in tears, nearly wetting their pants because they weren’t permitted to cross the
    iron curtain to use the restroom in first class.


  • Steve Yastrow
    May 30, 2008 - 19:07 pm

    Erik Hansen wrote a funny blog post on tompeters.com a few years ago about being on an international flight (on some European carrier) where they announced on the loudspeaker, “Would the American passengers stop congregating around the washrooms.” They, also, should have wet their pants.

  • Steve Yastrow
    May 30, 2008 - 19:17 pm

    Here’s a thought … remember a few years ago when Southwest let a reality TV show be shot about them, allowing filming of real happenings with their operations? I suspect that they wouldn’t do this anymore. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this Business Select strategy suggests they’ve become a different company, with more to hide and more propensity to manipulate.

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