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Why There's No Such Thing as an Official Southwest First Class

These days, it can be a real challenge just to find a seat that you can cram yourself into when you're flying on a commercial airliner. Over the years, most commercial air carriers have made their seats smaller and smaller, along with cutting down space in between rows of seats, all in the name of getting more seats on a single airplane. As is the case with most things, it's all about making as much money as possible. However, it's frequently done at the expense of the passengers, making it so uncomfortable to fly that most people dread the need to board an aircraft in the first place.

Of course, there are a few air carriers that allow you to fly first class so you don't have to worry about a lack of comfort. That being said, what should you do when you're flying on an airliner that doesn't have first class service to begin with? Air carriers like Southwest don't even offer it, so you don't have any choice except to fly in coach because that's largely all that is available. Clearly, you're already aware of that if you’ve booked a flight or you’ve previously flown on Southwest Airlines. Nevertheless, you might be wondering why Southwest doesn't choose to incorporate first class service into their schedule.

In short, it comes down to one thing and one thing only. Southwest was originally designed to be a more affordable air carrier than many of the other major airlines like Delta or American, as well as United. As a result, it provided a different level service and from the beginning, all of its seats were basically the equivalent of coach seating. However, there's also another reason that might be even more important. Southwest Airlines is considered a regional air carrier. Although they offer flights to destinations that are more varied today than they ever have before, they still don't typically do long-distance flights. The majority of their flights are what pilots consider short hops, meaning that the aircraft is usually in the air at cruising altitude for less than an hour.

Even on the longer flights for Southwest, they're usually not airborne for much more than an hour. It's a rare occasion that you find a Southwest Airlines flight that lasts anything approaching two hours. That's precisely why they made the decision long ago not to incorporate first class service on their flights. It really doesn't make a lot of sense because they're not in the air for that long to begin with.

Having first class service means that they would basically have to fly different aircraft than the ones they currently fly. That's largely because the aircraft that are currently in service with them aren't big enough to incorporate the types of seats the passengers have come to expect on first class. Considering the average distance of their flights, it just doesn't make sense. It would be an economical nightmare for the airline to try to incorporate it, and there's absolutely no guarantee that they would be able to recoup those funds in a reasonable amount of time, mostly because people that are flying short distances don't want to pay first class fees in order to have a little more leg room.

When it's all said and done, there's a big difference between being cramped on a flight that lasts 45 minutes and one that last four or five hours. It's easy to understand why air carriers that fly longer distances would incorporate first class service. It makes good financial sense to do so. On a regional air carrier, it's more like financial suicide. Besides, Southwest Airlines has always marketed itself as a more affordable airline that doesn't have all of the bells and whistles other airlines incorporate, which is precisely why they're able to keep their ticket prices down. Therefore, it would prove to be counterproductive for them to turn around and start doing the very thing they’ve always advertised against. Southwest has a relatively dedicated customer base. Therefore, they’re not likely to do start making any drastic changes that could potentially jeopardize the business they already have.

There is no doubt that the very face of air travel is changing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything has to change all at once. Regional carriers like Southwest are doing just fine so at least for now, it wouldn’t make sense to start offering first class seating on their flights.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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