The End of Free Drinks?

Old Jan 11, 18, 12:36 pm
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The End of Free Drinks?

It's been well known that Southwest FA's would often not collect payment for drinks on the plane. Sometimes it was a gesture because of a delay sometimes it was for special reason and sometimes for no reason at all. It is also fairly well documented that Southwest did not reconcile the drinks served with coupons which were discarded or sometimes "recycled" by the FAs. That seems to be over. Last night on my 4th flight of the new year I noticed the FAs didn't have those clunky credit card machines but were carrying some type of tablet. After I got my drink the FA came through and collected payment and noted every drink and I think the seat the customer was in.

Seems like Southwest is clamping down on the freebies.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 1:09 pm
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Yesterday I noticed the same thing on my two flights. I must admit, there were many times when my coupon was not collected (slightly late or bumpy flight), and the few times I ordered drink with no coupons I was not charged.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 1:15 pm
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Originally Posted by rsteinmetz70112 View Post
I noticed the FAs didn't have those clunky credit card machines but were carrying some type of tablet. After I got my drink the FA came through and collected payment and noted every drink and I think the seat the customer was in.
Could be they had an issue with the other card readers. It's awfully time-consuming to collect separately on a second pass, particularly on shorter runs and during turbulence.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 1:21 pm
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Probably tightening up loose/sloppy procedures...quick data point...if on average if even just one drink fee is "waived" or not collected per flight, there are 3200 flights daily on WN. That is $16,000/day in lost revenue...or $5.84 MILLION a year!

Generosity can add up quick...
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Old Jan 11, 18, 1:49 pm
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In early Dec was on a flight where I thought I was getting a free drink, but about 15 min before landing (on a 4hr flight) the FA came to collect from me adn those who ordered drinks nearby and said she forgot to take payment. Another FA had come up with her so I am wondering if that one was enforcing the rules and she had tried to be nice...

Earlier in the fall I was getting free drinks more often than not, but in Nov and Dec it seemed like they collected 100% of the time from me. (I only average ~2025 flights/year so I am not a road warrior and certainly have less instances to compare to).
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Old Jan 11, 18, 1:50 pm
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Originally Posted by PAX62 View Post
Probably tightening up loose/sloppy procedures...quick data point...if on average if even just one drink fee is "waived" or not collected per flight, there are 3200 flights daily on WN. That is $16,000/day in lost revenue...or $5.84 MILLION a year!

Generosity can add up quick...

Sometimes good will goes a long way too.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 3:23 pm
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There has definitely been a crack down. First half of 2017, my drink coupons were not collected about 30% of the time. Around October, the FAs started not only collecting but checking expiration dates. FAs made announcements on several flights that expired coupons would not be accepted, and ďdonít even try us,Ē etc. Then aggressively checked the dates (even turning on reading lights to see). My first flight of 2017, I handed over drink coupon, then was later asked for credit card (had to remind I already gave coupon). Soon after, a second FA asked if my payment had been collected. FA explained they are being watched like hawks about this now.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 3:50 pm
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Has something happened internally at Southwest where the employees are being very customer "unfriendly"? Speaking strictly on drinks, FA's collected (or later charged) everyone on both flights, and I was also carded on both flights. FA's were nothing to write home about and were "primarily there for my safety". Flew Delta a few days ago and was never carded, got a free drink on one of my flights and felt the FA's made me feel like they valued my business. This is not the WN I've come to remember and love.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 4:18 pm
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Originally Posted by LegalTender View Post
Could be they had an issue with the other card readers. It's awfully time-consuming to collect separately on a second pass, particularly on shorter runs and during turbulence.
I'd heard that the tablets were coming, so I think it's just an update in technology.

It may also be that the FAs on my flight haven't figured out how to work them yet. Mine told me they'd just had them a couple of weeks. But I hadn't noticed them before yesterday. Seems to me if you used a tablet to take orders then collecting payment would be easier. They might even be able to take payment when they take the order as many FAs used to do, but others didn't. I paid with a coupon. I didn't notice how they swiped the credit cards.

My flight yesterday was only 1 hour in the air but there were only 57 people on board.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 5:19 pm
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Over the Thanksgiving and the holidays I was only asked to pay for 2/5 drinks ordered over 3 flights. One flight was delayed for an hour. IME, if a flight is delayed the FA’s are more likely not to collect payment for drink orders. I used to launder expired drink coupons on night flights but that’s harder to do these days.

Interesting observation, I flew Virgin America up to PDX and the seat back IFE wouldn’t let you order drinks with one hour (or less) of flight time remaiming. The FA’s said they couldn’t sell me a second drink either because there wasn’t enough time remaining which I thought was bizarre. I can understand if we’re already descending into the destination but it seemed excessive.

Last edited by Dunbar; Jan 11, 18 at 5:25 pm
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Old Jan 11, 18, 6:08 pm
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Originally Posted by Dunbar View Post
Over the Thanksgiving and the holidays I was only asked to pay for 2/5 drinks ordered over 3 flights. One flight was delayed for an hour. IME, if a flight is delayed the FAís are more likely not to collect payment for drink orders. I used to launder expired drink coupons on night flights but thatís harder to do these days.
You definitely weren't on my flight. Two days before Thanksgiving our flight was delayed an hour due to a late arriving FA. FA's made sure on our flight to collect coupons, charge drinks AND ID everyone who looked under the age of 40.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 9:24 pm
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At least the new tablets don't ask for a tip amount, ala F9.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 9:41 pm
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Wait... everyone is now complaining about no more free drinks when they were never free to begin with?
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Old Jan 11, 18, 10:16 pm
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I was on a SWA flight in December that was 30 minutes or so late. The FAs didn't collect on the first round of drinks. I didn't partake in a second round, but others did, not sure if they got charged or not.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 10:52 pm
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The introduction of the iPad has made our lives as FAs much easier with respect to drink payment as they are much more reliable than the old handheld devices, and all receipts are available online. If you have tools that work, employees will use them more often. We have not been told by management to reduce how much we comp drinks - we are still encouraged and allowed to provide free beverages in the event of a special occasion or service failure/delay/etc. Personally, I am more than happy to comp when it is appropriate and builds goodwill; at the same time it is frustrating to be given an incredulous look when asking for payment for a beverage during an on-time flight that has had no service issues or delays.

(As always, the views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Southwest Airlines.)
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