Southwest Airlines to add new fees for pets, unaccompanied minors

BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: May 30, 2009
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DALLAS — Southwest Airlines Co., which has bashed competitors for charging fees, said Friday it will add new fees for passengers who bring small pets onboard and for unaccompanied minors.

It also will raise the charge for checking a third piece of luggage or an overweight bag.

Other airlines have raised hundreds of millions of dollars since last year with fees that include charges for checking luggage and talking to agents on the phone.

Southwest fired back by spending heavily on television commercials that blasted other airlines for charging "hidden fees.” Southwest officials said they were winning customers turned off by the new bag fees.

Friday, Southwest officials defended their own new fees, which Chief Executive Gary Kelly called "just the starting point” for more changes later this year.

"It is always our goal to be upfront with our customers and to set the right customer expectations,” Kelly said. "Our changes today associate a charge for items that are truly an extra service.”

New revenue
Southwest has lost money the past three quarters, and it has joined all other airlines in searching for new revenue, a job made more difficult by a downturn in travel during the recession.

Southwest already charges for checking three or more pieces of luggage and for cocktails, and it is testing onboard Internet access for a fee.