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Trip Doctor: Why Southwest’s New Fees Might be Good for You

Southwest Airlines

In a move that hardly said “Merry Christmas,” discount carrier Southwest seemed to take a page from the Spirit Airlines' playbook when it announced a slew of new fees last week. Among them: doubled costs for overweight bags, increased early check-in fees, and strangest of all, a to-be-determined no-show fee. But don’t consider yourself Scrooged just yet: these new moves may actually be in your favor, offering optional alternatives to fees that are standard stuff nearly everywhere else.

LUGGAGE FEES: Hate flying with just a carry on? Southwest passengers can check two bags each way—free of charge. To compensate, the airline is raising the overweight luggage fee from $50 to $75. Same goes for your third bag.
WE SAY: You really shouldn’t be hauling so heavy a load unless you’re moving cross-country. And checking two free bags? Practically unheard of in today's fee-happy world.

EARLY CHECK IN FEES: Early bird service automatically checks you in and puts you at the front of the queue for a prime seat—it used to cost $10, but in March, it’ll bump to $12.50.
WE SAY: A $2.50 increase is negligible, and on other airlines, we’ve paid over $50 just to steer clear of a middle seat.

THE DREADED NO-SHOW FEE: Most airlines overbook flights to compensate for no-shows, but Southwest doesn’t even take standby passengers. Why? Passengers aren’t charged a change fee when modifying itineraries. To prevent the gesture from being abused—and planes from flying half-empty—the airline is instating a no-show fee. But you’ll only be charged if you forget to call ahead before you’re meant to depart.
WE SAY: Poor manners shouldn’t ruin everyone’s fun—and though it's certainly unconventional, we’re happy to have this fee if it preserves fliers’ abilities to change itineraries at no cost.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo © istockphoto.

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