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News Opinion Readers Respond

Customers support Southwest Airlines' changes

As a proud employee of Southwest Airlines, I read your article ("Is Southwest Airlines losing the luv?" Feb. 9) with dismay. Within the article you acknowledge the fact that Southwest is still the only airline allowing two bags to fly free while simultaneously berating the company for "swelling its bottom line." While most of the reporting in this piece is technically accurate, the omission of information is unfortunate at best and could easily lead readers to believe that the opinions reflected by the few customers quoted here represent a majority.

Firstly, while criticizing the new rapid rewards program you neglect to mention that customer feedback indicates that the majority of Southwest's customers are happy with the new program and its lack of blackout dates. The best evidence of customer satisfaction in this regard is the fact that the program has increased its membership significantly since being revamped.

Next you mention that Southwest "...cut the legroom on many planes to fit more seats," neglecting the fact that the new interior increased under-seat storage space, utilizes stronger materials that allow for more comfortable personal space and provides better lumbar support, and saves about six pounds per seat, allowing the airline to burn less fuel per flight and reduce carbon emissions, all the while sacrificing only a tiny amount of leg room. Again, the proof here is in customer feedback, which indicates overall support for the redesigned interior. Many, including myself, industry experts, and customers recognize that the interior redesign was a creative way to increase revenue in a very challenging economic environment without sacrificing the customer experience — all while allowing ticket prices to remain stable, an obvious benefit for fliers.

Lastly, you indicate that some customers are unhappy with the new optional fee for early boarding, failing to highlight the clear and significant difference between a mandatory fee and an option, which gives customers the choice of participating in the program. Oh, and once again you fail to note that the majority of customer responses to this program have been positive. While there will always be a few dissatisfied customers among those who fly any airline, I believe most of Southwest's customers recognize that the changes the airline is making are necessary in a challenging economic environment and, overall, are beneficial to fliers.

Mike Jacobson, Baltimore

The writer is a Southwest Airlines pilot.

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