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

You think of Southwest as always the most people-friendly, customer-focused and generally human airline.

Actually, this has its limits. (As I discovered a couple of years ago.)

And I'm not merely talking about the fact that its planes are all narrow-bodied 737s or the fact that there's really very little for the fancier flier.

You see, Southwest used to impose a positively Neanderthal $5 fee to watch inflight movies.

It's hard enough to watch movies on Southwest anyway. You have to use your own device. There are no seatback screens.

Now, the airline has suddenly announced that it's going to offer its inflight movies for free.

A curious move, this.

Personally, I'd never consider flying Southwest coast-to-coast precisely because it doesn't have seatback screens. 

I may not always use them, but I want them to be there. I don't want to mess around with using my own device -- one that I could be using for (in a dire emergency) work.

Southwest, though, claims that its sudden Come To Freedom came about organically.

The airline's vice president and chief marketing officer Ryan Green explains: 

Our research shows that a positive experience onboard the aircraft can greatly influence the decision to come back to Southwest. We listened to our Customers and are enhancing our already award-winning experience.

Might I offer a swift translation?

How about: 

Holy crapoly. We just noticed that people are booking flights that have seatback screens. You know, like on Delta. Failing that, they want free entertainment, like on American and United. So what is wrong with us?

That must, at least, be part of it.

I fancy, though, that there's a little more.

As Southwest's press release gushes: 

It is not necessary to purchase WiFi in order to use the free inflight entertainment onboard. Customers should download the Southwest mobile app to take advantage of free movies, Live TV, and TV Series content onboard.

Now might Southwest want a lot more people to download its app, so that it can, you know, learn a lot more about its customers?

And you know what happens when you learn a lot more about your customers? You can sell them more stuff.

Southwest, after all, recently admitted that it needs to control costs. That would also suggest it needs to make more profit.

Which would also suggest that it wasn't making too much from charging $5 for movies.

Not, perhaps, it feels it could make a lot more by getting every passenger to download the app and selling them, you know credit cards or rental cars.

Now isn't that something to look forward to as you watch your horror movie?

Published on: Nov 3, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.