Southwest Airlines decided to fly solo as other U.S. airlines rolled out fees last year.
Executives thought that surprising customers with fees would run counter to Southwest’s no-nonsense reputation, while bucking the rest of the industry would win over new customers.
But selling passengers on an abstract concept proved tricky. The new fees weren’t a hot button for travelers until they’d experienced them, and many Southwest customers only fly once or twice a year, said Kevin Krone, Southwest’s vice president of marketing, sales and distribution.
Southwest started last fall by declaring its airport counters as “no-fee zones” and emphasizing in its advertising that there were “no hidden fees” for its customers.
“While people got the message, it was not something where you could see a 30-second spot and immediately understand,” Krone said.
Early this year, the carrier shifted emphasis to luggage, rolling out its “bags fly free” theme as families traveled for spring break.
After more analysis, the airline made the message even more specific: Flying on Southwest would save a passenger up to $100 per trip on bags alone.
Southwest advertised heavily in June, and Krone believes it is no coincidence that passenger traffic took off a month later.
“It’s a nicely refined message, easily understood by customers,” Krone said.
In September it rolled out new TV ads, created by GSD&M Idea City and featuring Southwest ground workers who handle bags.
The broader theme of the campaign: “Grab Your Bag. It’s On.”