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

Airlines are under pressure to deliver.

No, not to customers, but to the greasy types on Wall Street desperate for their unfair share.

One way airline managements decided to please the greasies was to introduce baggage fees, under the cover of fuel prices going up.

And when fuel prices went down, the baggage fees didn't.

Southwest Airlines decided to resist this heinous trend. It clung on to desperate protestations of humanity by insisting that, on its airline, bags fly free. 

Yet every year so-called analysts wonder whether this will be the year Southwest succumbs.                

And then there's Basic Economy, aka Sub-Cattle Class, another money-making wheeze created by the more venal airlines.

This takes away even the most basic benefits of flying Economy Class, in the hope that you'll loathe it with such a passion that you'll pay more for anything but this.

Delta, United and American all have it.

United's might be the worst of all. It still won't let Basic Economy passengers carry on a bag that goes into the overhead bin.

Surely, though, Southwest has to succumb to this eventually. It's under financial pressures too.

Well, no. 

On its latest earnings call, Southwest's CEO Gary Kelly told analysts precisely where they could shove any notion of a Southwest Sub-Cattle Class.

As Skift reported, he said: 

You're not going to see Basic Economy from Southwest. That's not what we do, and as I already said, we're not going to charge for bag fees. We have, we think, better opportunities that fit our brand.

There's an enormous lesson here in understanding your brand.

I suspect executives at American Airlines and United would find it very hard to present a convincing description of what their brands stand for.

For American it might be: Er, We're Big.

For United, it might be: Um, We're Not Dragging Passengers Down Aisles AnymoreHonest. 

Southwest knows that its positioning as a customer-friendly airline would be jeopardized by doing things that would manifestly annoy customers. 

It also understands that being a brand means having a distinct personality and attitude.

Kelly put it like this: 

I love the fact that we're different, and they unbundle and we don't. And so we just need to continue to find ways with the universe of travelers and the varying needs that they have to see how we can stay true to our brand and offer something of more value to road warriors, to once-a-year flyers, whatever it might be.

Executives at the legacy airlines sometimes sneer at those who fly only once a year. 

Some claim this may be 80 percent or more of their customers. Many airlines don't feel they need to do anything for these customers, as they're not regulars.

They fail to grasp, however, that anyone who has a good experience with your airline passes the word along.

Moreover, those who fly only once a year now might fly more often in the future.

Every customer has value.

You just have to care enough to make them feel good.

Published on: Feb 2, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.