When an airline launches a new ad campaign, let’s just say the earth doesn’t exactly quake beneath my feet. It’s not exactly newsworthy, is it? Not surprisingly, then, my first inclination when I saw Southwest’s new commercial was to yawn.
But with Southwest, things are never so simple. And as it turns out, Southwest’s new ad is interesting not for what it says, but because of what’s missing: Southwest’s boastful “No Hidden Fees” tagline, which has dominated the airline’s advertising since last summer’s frenzy of new airline fees. Of course, anyone who has been reading SmarterTravel lately probably had a light bulb go off just now, because only last week, Southwest announced—guess what?—a handful of new fees.
“It’s an image campaign,” Dave Ridley, Southwest’s senior vice president of marketing, told the AP, “to reflect what we hope is the view of the American public that it’s kind of time to put the challenges and difficulties of the past year behind and get going.” Ridley also said there is no connection between the new campaign and the new fees, saying Southwest simply decided the “furor” over airline fees had cooled in recent months. (Obviously, Southwest doesn’t read our website.)
So let’s recap: Southwest has spent the better part of a year cementing itself in the minds of travelers as the no-fee carrier, and done a good job of it. Its ads have been relentless and, though generally good-humored, ruthless in their repeated skewering of the airline’s competitors. But now we have a new set of (relatively minor) fees and a change of tune, all coming as Southwest, for the first time in its history, is struggling to make a profit.
It would be irresponsible for me to speculate about what all this could mean for Southwest’s future, so I’ll ask you: Has the “furor” over fees really died down, or are you still irritated by all the little charges you have to pay? More importantly, do you think Southwest’s new ad is as innocent as the airline claims, or does it represent a more profound change at the airline? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.