Southwest Ad Blitz: ‘We Don’t Charge Extra’

CHICAGO As more airlines charge extra fees for such routine items as checked baggage and aisle seats, Southwest Airlines begins a campaign on Monday positioning itself as the carrier that offers true low fares with no strings attached.

New print, online banner ads and radio spots, via GSD&M Idea City in Austin, Texas, will convey messages like “No surprise fees,” and “Fees don’t fly with us.”

The No. 7 carrier in terms of annual revenue, Southwest also will bring back two TV spots that aired early last year between efforts that touted all-new leather seats and the launch of Business Select fares.

The end tags of those older spots will be updated with the no nickel-and-diming mantra. One ad features a flight attendant on a fictitious airline announcing fees for magazines, pillows, using the restroom and pressing the call button. The other commercial shows a traveler feeding quarters into coin boxes to open the overhead bin, adjust his seat and close his window blind.

“We produced these ads a while ago, to show our core brand position and that customer service was foremost for our experience,” said Anne Murray, senior director of marketing communications. “Fees are such a hot topic now because it’s getting worse. It’s sort of surprising because [no fees and serving complimentary snacks and beverages are] fundamental to Southwest. We proudly provide what we think are basic elements of service.”

The Southwest ads follow American Airlines’ announcement this week establishing a charge of $15 for a first checked-in bag, joining its $25 fee for a second checked bag. US Airways also said that it would cease serving pretzels to coach passengers starting July 1. Many other network carriers, squeezed by rising fuel costs, already have been assessing fuel surcharges and fees for phone reservations, curbside check-in, ticket-change fees, and snack and beverages.

“We’re seeing the industry struggle against the high cost of fuel and whether that means more fees coming from the competition, we could see this campaign run for some time,” said Murray.

Southwest spent $170 million on U.S. ads last year (excluding online), per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.