Southwest Passenger Pays $100 To Skip Long Line

There are likely over one million passengers whose flights were cancelled by Southwest Airlines over the holidays. Airline phone systems, and customer service lines at the airport, weren’t made for this.

Lines have been interminable. And that’s true even for passengers whose flights are on time, or at least haven’t been cancelled. I managed to fly Southwest successfully on Tuesday with just a one hour delay waiting for a single flight attendant coming in off of another flight, but lines at the ticket counter were obscene.

Most people are paying for service from their airline with their time. One ingenious mom in Atlanta decided to pay to cut the check-in line with money instead. She slipped someone close to the front of the line a $100 bill so they’d let her cut in front of them, potentially saving her hours of waiting. Was this ok to do?

PAYING TO SKIP LINE: Would you pay $100.00 to skip this Southwest Airlines line? That’s exactly what one woman just did at @ATLairport to make her flight on time with her two children ✈️ I walked up as she was passing the 💵 to another traveler. #travel #southwest @GoodDayAtlanta pic.twitter.com/6N2LwzfDxm

— Billy Heath III (@BillyHeathFOX5) December 27, 2022

She probably overpaid. Just ask person after person, someone will take $5. But if not, try $10 or $20. If someone is holding out for $100, find someone else to cut in line.

She’s cutting everyone in line, not just one person. The person you cut in front of generally can say yes or no, but now everyone is back farther one spot in line. She didn’t pay everyone that’s been inconvenienced, just one person.

Of course passengers ‘cut in line’ all the time. Whether it is Delta offering a premium line to get into its Sky Clubs, airlines offering premium check-in and boarding, or passengers skipping the long security lines with PreCheck and CLEAR, there’s priority all around us. People also pay for airport escorts to meet them at the gate and even walk them through priority immigration, all around the world.

Indeed if you plan in advance and pay a higher fare to Southwest (Business Select) you can use their priority queues. Those can be long during weeks like this too, so you might have to pay Southwest – and the passengers in front of you! And Southwest also sells ‘Early Bird’ check-in which puts you closer to the front of the line for boarding.

Perhaps the issue here is simply who gates paid and when. Bundling priority services that are prepaid either through past travel purchases, or advance purchases (paying the airline), seems different than being seen to slip someone a $100 on the spot and where other passengers actually see you cutting in front of them? In other words, it’s how blatantly obvious is it that drives the moral response?

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