If you have traveled internationally using air transport you will know the additional fees that you are billed with when it comes to your luggage. On average, the traveler would pay twenty five US dollars for the first bag and forty US dollars for the second bag with a limitation of fifty pounds placed on each piece of luggage. It is pretty much a standard when it comes to travel with the exception of Southwest Airlines. With the airline launching its direct flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Belize City yesterday, novel concepts surrounding this airline and their policies were highlighted during an interview with Brad Hawkins of the Dallas Southwest Airlines.
“We have opened a new facility this weekend in Fort Lauderdale that is easier than Miami and cheaper than Miami and it brings the value of bags fly free and no change fees for Southwest travelers in the United States. They want to go to wonderful places hence we are now taking them to Belize City from the East Coast of the United States. We already serve it from Houston every day and from Denver this summer on Saturdays. Now for Belizeans what that means is bags fly free and no change fees on the way to the United States. Every seat on Southwest is first class and that is one of the things people love about us. There is an egalitarian approach there that air travel should be fun and easy and we found that orderly boarding and open seating two very novel concepts make the flying experience more enjoyable for people but they also help us use the airplanes more efficiently. If the airplanes are in the air we are not paying for them to sit on the ground and we can keep our fares low and so it’s all about the efficiency of Southwest set against the hospitality that our people are delivering on a world famous level. I think what’s interesting is that Southwest is by far the largest airline in the United States which people don’t realize, we carry 120 million people a year, we have more planes, more cities and more seats that anyone else but international spaces are new for us and so now we are able to talk about what has been so successful in the US for 45 years in these new places and we have successfully competed against many airlines, many of which are no longer around, because we use the planes efficiently, we pay our people very well, we keep fares low and we offer the value of Southwest airlines. So it’s not just about the low fare it’s about no surprises, no gotchas at the airport. People don’t want to pay a change fee, they don’t want to pay for bags, if you’re going on vacation you’re thought is ‘yeah I want to take some clothes with me.’ so we are selling a product that is friendly with no surprises.”
“When you say no change fees what do you mean?”
“Well say you have a ticket on Tuesday and you want to go on Thursday if the fare is the same we are not going to charge you $150 or $200US simply to change your ticket and print a new piece of paper. Now if the fare is different then you’ll have to pay that difference but often you can get a credit back if its cheaper on the day you want to travel. So we don’t charge change fees ever, no change fees and bags fly free to for every person on the airplane. We are the last airline that doesn’t charge for bags and we’re very proud of it.”
As we mentioned, the direct flights from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Belize began yesterday and is the outcome of a collaboration between Southwest Airlines and the Belize Tourism Board. According to BTB’s Director, Karen Bevans, they partnered in the marketing aspect after recognizing the demand in South Florida.
“We recognize that the South Florida area there is not much competition in that area but yet there is high demand. Florida is one of our top five source markets and they did their business case, analyzed the information and realized that that was a good opportunity for international travelers to Belize and we in turn thought it was good idea for Belizean travelling out to south Florida. We recognize that any decision for a direct flight into Belize we want to ensure that we sustain that route, we want to ensure that we fill that plane because that results in increased arrivals to Belize. So we do marketing, we partner and we perform all these marketing initiatives like today you see where we are jointly agreeing that we will sponsor the media of Belize to come up for this event because we want it to be big in Belize, we want it to be big here in South Florida so we do everything together to make it as big as possible for benefits of both parties. USA accounts for about 70% of our arrivals to Belize and from the USA Texas is our #1. With that we have New York, California, Florida so Florida is one of the top fives and when they recognized the numbers coming from Florida they realized that there was an opportunity there in addition to that because of the marketing that they do they are really big on marketing and because of our partnership to even make that marketing bigger we believe that we could even stimulate increased arrivals from that area and that is where we started and where the discussion got more and more enhanced and together we did it.
Seven reporters and videographers were flown out on Friday evening to cover the inaugural flight and to attend an event on Saturday night at IHeart Media.