Is Southwest Airlines about to start charging for checked luggage?

Just as Delta Air Lines announced plans to raise its checked baggage fees, another carrier appears to be quietly considering charging its customers for the first piece of checked luggage.

The airline? “No-fee” Southwest.

And those aren’t the only proposed changes. Rapid Rewards members, hold on to your hats.

Here’s a screen shot from a recent survey sent to its customers. On one of the screens, it asks passengers to pick which leisure fare they’re likely to buy. The survey lists two existing fare types, Southwest’s Business Select and discounted Anytime fares. But what’s this?

Here are two new kind of fares that are considerably more restrictive. Let me draw your attention to “New Fare B.” There are no free bags, a change fee and the fare is “not reusable.” Sounds a lot like the kind of fares the legacy carriers are offering, and perhaps worse.

Reader Tanya Keyser describes her reaction when she saw the poll.

I was surprised, and a little uneasy, to see in a survey Southwest sent me hints they might change their Rapid Rewards program, and that they are moving more and more to an a la carte system like the legacies. They’ll still have my business as long as they keep their no change fees and ticket credits, but…

Oh, yeah. The survey also mentions an “improved” Rapid Rewards system that ties points to the amount of money you paid for your ticket. From the survey:

It’s difficult to say if Southwest is just floating these ideas past their customers, or looking for a rubber stamp. I guess we’ll know soon enough.

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Update (10:30 a.m.): Southwest says it has “no plans” to charge for bags. “Surveys simply help us learn more about our customers,” it says.

(Photo: gTarded/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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