An e-mail from a FrontBurnervian reminded me that I’d forgotten to emphasize a significant point in yesterday’s post. While Southwest Airline’s fares certainly remain competitive on nearly all its routes, what the Wall Street Journal piece was really remarking on was that the days are over in which Southwest can be called a cheaper-than-a-bus-ticket, lower-priced-by-two-touchdowns discount carrier. (“Downright frumpy, flying middle managers to Kansas City on bargain fares,” as a new Economist article puts it.) It’s the way that many of us still think of Southwest, though the numbers show that’s no longer what it is.
It’s been many moons since I spent enough time in Europe to take advantage of easyJet or RyanAir, with their truly dirt-cheap flights. I’d forgotten that no airlines in the U.S. really offer services like that. Not that I’m eager to book a flight on which I might well end up having to pay to use the toilet. It’s just nice to have options.
However, we’re forgetting an even earlier phase in Southwest’s history. Check out this ad from about 1971, which brags about the airline’s “executive class service,” “first-class leg room,” and “free cocktails for everyone.” Those were the days, right?