Southwest, AirTran in Low-Cost Airline Ad Duel

Southwest Airlines is well-known for its humorous television commercials touting their low ticket prices and lack of fees, often poking fun at its competition.

But when fellow low-cost carrier AirTran Airways noticed that it was the butt of the baggage fee joke in Southwest's latest ad, they decided to respond in-kind with an online video that takes its rival to task for its oft-criticized passenger boarding practices.

A "March Madness" themed TV ad by Southwest shows an enthusiastic group of its baggage handlers and ramp workers running out onto the tarmac and cheering as they line up alongside another airline's plane and open up their shirts to reveal letters painted on their chests which spell out the message "BAGS FLY FREE", a reference to the fees most airlines now charge passengers for checked bags.

The commercial then cuts to a stunned female passenger inside the airliner. "Take my bag, not my money!" the announcer says. Although the logo on the airliner is blurred, eagle-eyed employees at AirTran recognized the plane as one of theirs and demanded that their airline retaliate. And so it has...

A new online video from AirTran shows a herd of cattle -- played by AirTran crew members, we're told -- mooing as they patiently wait in line to board a flight, the Southwest Airlines logo at the gate similarly blurred but easily recognizable. The gate agent, with a wave of his cowboy hat, then yells, "Yee-haw! We're about to board this airplane here! It's every steer for himself! Giddy-up on in there! "

As the cows race down the walkway to board their flight -- a reference to Southwest's lack of assigned seats and its zone boarding procedure derided by critics as a "cattle call" -- the video cuts to the inside of another airliner. "Welcome aboard AirTran Airways," the flight attendant says to a comfortably seated female passenger as she sips a drink. "I hope you enjoy your flight." The woman then peers out the window to see three confused cows standing out on the tarmac. "Skip the stampede," the announcer says.

An "udderly hysterical" response to their competitor's baggage fee barb, brags AirTran. We agree.

Carter Yang is a Washington, DC-based producer for the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. He covers aviation, transportation, and Homeland Security.

  • Carter Yang

    Carter Yang is a Washington, D.C.-based producer for the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley. He covers aviation and transportation.