Southwest: Some AirTran Bags Will Fly Free

In what might strike most travelers as a bizarre but welcome twist, one airline is actually dropping its baggage fees – but AirTran will do this only under certain conditions, and only if a trip includes a flight with AirTran’s parent company Southwest.

But wait – other new fees are on the way

Listen to Rick (“I never check a bag”) Seaney on the future of bag fees:

Free Bags on AirTran on Shared Southwest Flights

Southwest of course is the airline famous for the slogan “bags fly free,” but bag fees remained part of the AirTran experience even after Southwest acquired the carrier back in 2011. So it was something of a surprise when Southwest announced progress connecting networks with AirTran that the new option for passengers could include free bags.

Southwest ad featuring “handsome” baggage handlers

How it Works

As Southwest explained in a news release,

“As is standard with industry code share arrangements, the marketing carrier’s rules and policies apply to reservations and ticketing [while] the operating carrier’s procedures apply to boarding, seating, and the onboard experience. Southwest is making one exception: any itinerary with a Southwest segment or that is purchased through a Southwest point-of-sale channel will not have bag fees for the first or second checked bag.”

It should be pointed out that while the bags will be free, passengers would pay a fee if the luggage is oversized or overweight. Meanwhile, shared itineraries are now available in 39 markets and Southwest says it is on pace to “fully connect the networks in April.”

Southwest CEO: “Never Say Never” about New Fees

AirTran’s new free bag policy on shared flights is especially interesting in light of recent comments from Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly, who was asked about continuing the policy in view of so many other airlines raking in millions from bag fees. “Never say never,” said Kelly, but so far, free bags prevail on Southwest – and now, in some cases, on AirTran flights.

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Published: February 15, 2013