Beating The Rush At Southwest

Airlines make a lot of money from ancillary fees. Add-ons for more leg room, checked bags, and wi-fi literally turn airline balance sheets from red to black. U.S.-based carriers racked up an estimated $12.4 billion windfall from fees in 2012.

Swimming against the stream with its "Bags Fly Free" campaign, Southwest Airlines has differentiated itself from legacy competitors who charge non-elite customers for checked luggage. But rising labor costs and the purchase of new aircraft have put SWA under pressure to find additional ways to generate income.

The airline apparently is not sitting on its hands. While maintaining its free checked bag policy, SWA recently announced plans to allow travelers to purchase early boarding status. For $40 per flight, customers will have first crack at seats and empty overhead storage bins normally reserved for the carrier's elite frequent flyers. With some 3,300 departures per day, SWA is betting that a handful of eager early-borders on each flight will translate into a big infusion to its bottom line.


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