Bob Jordan hints at "new initiatives" that may change Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is a favorite among budget travelers and some changes are incoming according to the words of CEO Bob Jordan.
Southwest Airlines  Arrives at San Diego
Southwest Airlines Arrives at San Diego / Kevin Carter/GettyImages

Southwest Airlines is a popular transportation option for the budget traveler. With low ticket prices and free checked bags, the airline does an excellent job courting those looking to avoid high fees. Open seating is another reward that some travelers love but it may be going away as rumors spread thanks to comments from CEO Bob Jordan.

Speaking with CNBC on Thursday, Jordan made a comment that has people concerned about seating changes by Southwest.

“We’re looking into new initiatives, things like the way we seat and board our aircraft,” Jordan said in the interview as they discussed an underperforming first-quarter.

Southwest customers are allowed to sit wherever they like on their flights. The single economy class cabin has a “first come, first served” policy. Customers can pay an additional fee for early entry so they can get their favorite seats. This has allowed the company to keep costs down and simplify an aspect of their service.

This potential change comes at a time when organizations like Delta and United Airlines pull in high revenue figures thanks to charging a premium for seating in business class or offering upsell opportunities. Along with that, other airlines are increasing the costs of checked baggage, with some even opting to introduce “peaking pricing” for checked bag fees. All the while, Southwest continues to offer up to the first two checked bags for free. When directly asked if baggage fees are coming, that idea was shot down.

“People choose Southwest Airlines because we don’t have bag fees,” said Ryan Green, the Chief Commercial Officer.

However, changes are seemingly on the horizon without any clarity around what they may be.

“Customer preferences do change over time,” Jordan said in the interview.

It will be interesting to see what type of impact any changes that result in increased fees would have on the airline that is considered the top pick for those looking to avoid the high fees often attributed to flying.