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Southwest is renowned for not assigning seats or flying with a first or business class at the front of the plane.
But it will have the capabilities to assign seats, sell extra legroom, and create a dual-class cabin when it completes several technology projects in the next three to five years.
Speaking at a luncheon at The Wings Club in Manhattan on December 10, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly likened the state of the airline’s IT systems to its 737-200s that need replacing as part of fleet modernization efforts, but added that he’s excited about the new commercial opportunities ahead.
Kelly noted that partner Amadeus implemented an international reservations system for Southwest in 2014 and is currently replacing the airline’s domestic reservation system. These commercial changes, along with several tech projects on the operations side of the business, will give Southwest new scheduling flexibility, along with fare- and revenue-management capabilities, he said.
Southwest won’t necessarily make these changes but when these IT projects are finished the airline would have the capability to assign seats, sell extra legroom and launch a dual-class cabin, Kelly said.
“We are not planning on making those changes” but have the capability to do so in the future, Kelly said.
Although Kelly said he’s excited about the new technical and commercial capabilities, he was adamant that a key part of Southwest’s strategy is not to “nickel and dime” passengers, or charge for the first two checked bags or levy change fees.