I recently flew on Business Select on my last Southwest flight – and although it was only a $35 upgrade, I’m not really convinced it was worth the extra money. I enjoy Southwest as an airline and fly them a lot, but I don’t think I’ll bother with this upgrade again. Business Select really gets you four things, some of which aren’t really what they’re cracked up to be.
- Priority Boarding (A15 or lower): I was A3 and A2 for both legs of my flight. However, since my flight originated in Sacramento before arriving in Phoenix, they allowed everyone who originated in Sacramento to board ahead of the A group, so even boarding as a A2 there was already close to 15 people on board. The best aisle seat I could find with overhead space for my carry-on was in Row 6. And in both cases, an unusually large person from boarding group C sat in the middle seat, making it a very uncomfortable flight – even with priority boarding, it’s still luck of the draw who sits next to you I guess.
- A free drink – at a whopping $5 value. I actually got two drink coupons since I had a layover, so make that a $10 value, although I didn’t get to use either of them since I was travelling on business…One way to improve this incentive would be to allow it to be unlimited drinks as opposed to just one like other airlines do for First Class, and including full bottles of water and other premium NA beverages for those that aren’t drinking (Vitamin Water, Gatorade, premium Iced Tea, etc.).
- An Extra Credit – this might be the only value-add that was worth it. Since my flight was over 750 miles, I got two credits instead of one. For $35 fee, it would only take me 8 flights instead of 16. This works out to 8 flights x $35 = $280 extra to earn that extra round-trip. The math kind of works out, especially if you’re cashing in those drink coupons. But if any flights are under 750 miles, that extra credit is only a quarter of 1 credit (.25) extra so then the value gets thrown off considerably.
- Fly-by Security Lane – this can be a huge help sometimes, other times not so much. It probably depends on what airport you fly out of most frequently – PHX is usually pretty efficient. Even saving 5 minutes can be nice though. Between the extra credit and the shorter security line, I’d say this is where the real value of the upgrade is at.
In the end, I’d say that $35 is about the most I’d pay for this package, and even then, it would probably be a wash over the long-run. For families this might be nice, so you could all sit together in one of the front rows – but then you’re paying that $35 premium per ticket, which adds up.
There are some definite improvements Southwest could add to make this package more worth the money, starting with allowing business select customers to board the very first (even before layover passengers), being more generous with the drink coupons, and boosting the extra credit to 2.5 points or 2 points for shorter flights. However, in the end it’s still luck of the draw with Southwest – who will sit next to you? In some ways, it’s almost better to board in late B group or early C group, as then you can choose who you sit next to, even if that means being a few rows further back.