Southwest adds $10 early check-in fee

September 2, 2009 

Southwest Airlines, the low-fare carrier that has avoided extra fees implemented by rivals, will charge passengers $10 to reserve an early boarding spot.

The airline doesn't have assigned seating, so paying extra to get a better seat might appeal to some passengers.

Still, the company has shunned extra charges for checked bags and other services that other carriers are using to boost revenue during the recession. It's even touted that strategy in some of its advertising.

The EarlyBird Check-In option will be available for travel beginning Thursday.

"Any kind of increase in revenue airlines can generate, they are going to do it," Hunter Keay, an analyst with Stifel Nicholaus & Co., told Bloomberg News.

Southwest is the second-largest carrier at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, behind American Airlines and its sister American Eagle.

Southwest also announced this week that it's cutting daily flights in 92 markets starting Jan. 9. The carrier will add service in 42 others to adjust its schedule to the slower winter travel season.

For example, Southwest will cut 12 daily flights from Baltimore while adding four.

Airline officials said that RDU will not be affected, said airport spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin.

But Southwest will make two cuts at RDU in November. The airline will eliminate one daily flight to Las Vegas, leaving only one to Sin City. And it will trim its daily flights to Philadelphia to four from five.

The cuts will give Southwest 27 daily departures at RDU, down from 29 now, Hamlin said

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