How often will you be able to find a domestic airline flight that is cheaper than low-cost Southwest? According to a new study, the answer depends on whether or not you check a bag.
You might recall that Southwest has clung tenaciously to its longstanding policy of allowing its passengers to check up to two bags for free – putting it at odds with its competitors (and with the wishes of Wall Street analysts, who would like Southwest to get in line with the industry in order to boost its fee revenues).
Topaz International, which specializes in travel expense auditing, has come out with a new study that found Southwest’s reputation as the lowest-priced option doesn’t really hold up for many business trips – although it is doing better than it was four years ago.
But it is generally the better deal for most leisure travelers. And what’s the difference? Checked bags.
Topaz studied base fares plus bag fees in 97 domestic air travel markets, looking at comparable flights offered by Southwest, American, Delta, United, Alaska, JetBlue, Frontier, Spirit, and Virgin America.
“Most business travelers that Topaz International has spoken to and interacted with during our 35 years of travel consulting are more likely to carry on their luggage in an effort to speed up their trip and get both to their destination and home when completed,” Topaz said. “In this case, while Southwest Airlines can be the lowest cost alternative, 45 percent of the time they are not.”
But adding in the fees for two checked bags means Southwest is almost always the lowest-priced option. In that case, “Only 13 percent of the other airlines’ fares were lower than Southwest Airlines, slightly up from 12 percent in 2012. In fact, they were higher 87 percent of the time.”
Still, Southwest appears to be making progress even with business travelers. While competitors beat Southwest’s fares 45 percent of the time in this year’s study when no checked bags were involved, that’s a drop from 60 percent in the firm’s 2012 study.
You can download a copy of the new study here.
Do you fly Southwest much? Do you check bags when traveling on business? Please leave your comments below.
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