Southwest reported record revenue earnings in the second quarter of 2010 and their CEO, Gary Kelly, attributed it to “success to the company’s policy of not charging for bags and excellent customer service offered by employees.”
As someone who flies Southwest regularly, mostly on shorter flights under two hours, I can say that I’ve flown at least a dozen times without incident. There have been a few transfers in there but I’ve never lost my bag, I’ve never been delayed (yes, never been delayed… but remember these are often shorter flights), and I’ve always been happy. In fact, I think Southwest has spoiled me for the entire flying experience!
In a recently trip out to Reno, for a week-long hiking trip in South Lake Tahoe, I flew United, U.S. Airways, and Southwest and only the Southwest flight was without incident. In fact, even when we paid the $23 to check a bag, they were still able to lose it on my wife’s transfer! My flight out to San Diego on United went through Charlotte, where the connection was delayed two hours. My wife’s flight was outright cancelled, so she needed to cab it from Baltimore to Dulles to catch a flight half a day later (they paid for it but it was still a hassle). Finally on our way back, when we though we’d arrived half an hour early (finally a “good” result), it took over an hour to get our luggage.
Southwest doesn’t charge you for the opportunity to mishandle your bags, and lose them for a day, and that’s why they are winning.