This is a story about  Southwest Airlines and American Airlines.

In some ways, it's about such a little thing. But then it also feels like everything.

You might recall a year or more ago, that American Airlines got a lot of positive press for promising to do something people found attractive--a small gesture that Alaska Airlines was already offering, and that Delta Airlines had literally announced it would offer literally the day before.

Namely, they said they planned to offer free text messaging to all passengers, regardless of whether they had paid for inflight WiFi or not. 

A year later, earlier this month, a journalist covering the travel industry thought to ask American whether they'd made any headway in actually following through on their text messaging promise. 

The answer: Zilch, zippo, nada. 

Or as they put it in corporate-speak to Gary Leff at View From the Wing: ""We're re-evaluating the cost and benefits of texting options but don't have a timeline for implementation."

Now, I'm not sure how popular free texting actually is. Paid texting only costs a few dollars, so you might wonder how many more people would actually use it if the price were ero.

And maybe that's an argument in favor of setting it aside, regardless of what American Airlines might have promised back in 2017. But there's also another side to offering a little something extra.

There's the intangible boost to how passengers feel about an airline. It might be imperceptible by itself, but it's added to the long list of little factors that either boost a brand or tear it down.

All of which makes the recent announcement by another airline all that more striking. Hilarious, even, if you're viewing all this in context and paying attention.

Because just as people were noticing that American had promised free texting but hadn't delivered, Southwest announced it had already rolled it out on their planes.

No fanfare, no big deal. They just started doing it.

Southwest "began rolling out complimentary messaging on select aircraft with Wi-Fi earlier this month," a Southwest spokesperson said, according to USA Today. "Passengers can send instant messages via iMessage and WhatsApp as long as they download the apps before the flight."

Exactly how many Southwest airplanes have this feature set up isn't clear, but it seems that it's significant, and ultimately will approach 100 percent. Even before this new offer, Southwest was offering text messaging for $2 a flight, so it seems like the technology is mostly already aboard.

Lool, I doubt too many passengers would choose one airline over another because it offered free text messaging.

But isn't really about that. Instead, it's about offering yet another freebie, on a long list. It's about not keeping a promise--or about underpromising and overdelivering.

And it's making a smart announcement, subtly, casually, and ultimately hilariously to people who pay close attention to this industry. 

At least I found it funny. And maybe you will too. 

By the way, if you're reading this on a Southwest flight by any chance, text me: 424-245-5687. I'd love to hear how well it works.

Published on: Sep 30, 2018
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