Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

No matter your personal or moral stance, some things are hard to resist.

History has shown this when it comes to individuals, governments and corporations.

I feel a touch deflated, therefore, to hear of a new announcement from Southwest Airlines, one that seems to have money at its heart.

I'd always thought of Southwest as the People's Airline.

You know, like Diana was the People's Princess and Donald Trump is the People's President.

Southwest markets itself very cleverly as the airline that has open seating, as well as no baggage fees. 

It's popular because it feels populist. In the good meaning of populist.

Yet here it is suddenly launching the Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.

The airline had always eschewed having a slightly snooty credit card. That's consistent with its brand, after all.

Yet this new posh card will cost you $149 and offer fancier bonuses.

As long as you use the card a lot, that is.

For example, Priority Card people will get a 25,000 bonus. They do, though, have to spend $15,000 on the card.

But for any daily spending you might make, this card doesn't actually offer you any more points than Southwest's other two cards. 

Which I believe are called the Really Regular We're All In It Together Card and the Card-Carrying Ordinary Joe and Josephine Card.

I might be very mistaken about those names. However, the fee attached to each is a canny $99.

Of course, there are perky little tweaks that some will find tempting with the fancy new version -- such as the ability to get into the first 15 to board the plane four times a year. 

People actually pay up to $50 for this slightly questionable joy.

It's hard being Southwest when credit cards are very fine profit centers for airlines. Why, even United is making its Flight Attendants hawk them on every flight.

Moreover, banks are launching their own milesy cards to compete with airlines' rewards cards.

Frankly, it would take your own personal actuary to help you decide whether these cards are worth it or not.

This new Priority Card, however, exposes one of the essential dilemmas of the Southwest brand.

You want to be the airline for everyone. Yet you know that many people use you for business and their socialist populism only goes so far.

They want some of those unctuous businessy perks.

You also know that these business customers could be the source of far greater profits, but would that change the essential character of your airline?

It's 11 years since the airline introduced Business Select fares

These give businessy types -- or merely the self-important -- a few perks. But not a Business Class seat.

Some question how often these Business Select fares are worth it.

The churlish would, of course, insist that Southwest's more egalitarian approach has its limits. 

Even if this $149 still has a long way to go before catching up to some of the other airlines' cards that can enjoy a fee of $450 -- the United MileagePlus Club Card, for example. 

Still, might the launching of a fancier credit card presage the introduction of other fancifications on Southwest?

I wonder how the people would react.

Published on: Jul 21, 2018