I came late in life to my Luv affair with Southwest Airlines. I always knew the airline had a cult following and assumed that most people knew everything there was to know about Southwest. Is Southwest Airlines the best airline, though?
These days I fly Southwest just about as often as any other domestic carrier, though. Being in San Diego, most of our airline options are equal in terms of routing (and many require inconvenient connections in places like LAX and San Francisco). I’m continually impressed by Southwest’s consistency and quirkiness, and I always find myself learning more things to LUV about America’s original discount carrier.
1. Southwest doesn’t waste your money.
Change your flight? Cancel it and fly later? No charge and no problem. When I see a good fare, even if I’m not entirely certain a trip will take place, I grab it. If I don’t use that ticket, I cancel and save that money for my next flight. These days when people accept use-or-lose as the norm from businesses, this reason alone makes Southwest better than other airlines.
2. Two free checked bags.
We all complain about rising airfare fees. But sometimes we lose sight of the benefits that some airlines still offer. Southwest still allows travelers to check two bags under 50 pounds at no cost.
3. Priority access is easy and sorta cheap.
It’s true that EarlyBird Check-in costs have gone up and are now from $15-25 each way, no matter how many stops you make. You’ll be checked in automatically and will likely end up near the head of the line to get an exit row seat, or, at the very least have your choice of window or aisle.
4. I actually prefer not having a seat assignment.
I know I’m weird but I rather like not having a seat assignment on domestic flights. Deciding on the spot, rather than ahead of time, where I’ll sit suits me better. If you go for Early Bird Check-in, which I never do, you’ll always have a wide selection of seats to choose from once you get on the plane. I get the games that are played with people saving seats and all, but I still like having a choice. I like the choice.
5. All the entertainment I need travels with me.
Maybe it’s just my luck, but in the days of monitors in the back of seats, I would invariably get someone sitting behind me using the monitor and touching the screen a lot! Southwest’s system is accessed through your own phone/tablet/laptop. This means no one is fussing with the TV in the back of my seat.
6. Southwest gets you places on time…….mostly.
Southwest currently ranks 8th in US airline rankings for on-time arrivals, but historically the airline has outperformed its traditional hub-and-spoke brethern. Connecting through smaller, less congested airports is often less stressful. Tarmac wait times and taxi times are shorter, and the whole operation feels quicker to me.
I’ve been lucky, that’s for sure. I do see Southwest travelers on other flights being delayed and rerouted, but for most of my time flying Southwest, the airline has been right on time!
7. Flying Southwest can still feel like you’re in some special kind of club.
Southwest is famous for preventing third-party booking travel sites from crawling their site for low fares. Many travelers don’t even consider Southwest Airlines into their search when planning travel. The people who do fly Southwest understand and appreciate Southwest’s methods and culture and seem really happy with their airline. If flying a domestic airline economy class can qualify as a relaxing experience, Southwest on a good day sure comes awfully close.
8. These days there’s almost nowhere they don’t fly.
With Southwest’s route expansion, the question is where doesn’t Southwest fly? If layovers annoy you then SWA routings can be annoying. However, now there are many non-stops on many routes and I recently enjoyed a non-stop transcontinental flight from Newark to San Diego. Just don’t expect lie-flats.
Did I mention Hawaii would be a sweet addition to Southwest routes?
Southwest held a meeting in Honolulu and revealed approximate dates Southwest flights will go on sale and start flying to Hawaii. SWA also announced that their two free checked bags and free flight change policies will remain intact for flights to Hawaii. Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Andy Watterson told the press that the announcement of flights will come by October at the latest, and service would “begin possibly just weeks thereafter.”
Southwest will serve the following Hawaiian destinations:
Lihue, Kauai (LIH)
Honolulu, Oahu (HNL)
Kahului, Maui (OGG)
Kona, Island of Hawaii (KOA)
Southwest will begin service to Hawaii from the following cities in California:
San Jose (SJC)
San Diego (SAN)
9. They have great crews in the air.
Even with all of the changes airline employees have had to work through, Southwest crews seem to have retained both their smiles and sense of humor. Smiles, jokes and a little encouragement to grab extra snacks from the basket are not unusual. This friendliness can mean a lot when you’re crammed into a flying sardine can with a bunch of tired strangers. The good-natured ease with which most of the attendants do their jobs makes the experience less stressful.
10. Southwest’s Customer Service is Great!
Maybe I should have put this first. Many years ago while on an SWA flight from the west coast to New York, during a layover in Chicago a man accidentally took my backpack, with laptop, from the overhead bin as he deplaned. I realized this when while waiting for the plane to take off again, I went to get my backpack.
As you can imagine, I freaked out. Long story short, SWA did help me locate the man and my backpack but when it arrived in the mail, my laptop was totally broken. I reached out to the head of customer relations and after a few emails back and forth, SWA paid for a new laptop. Don’t know how that story would end today, but years ago it was SWA Luv providing a happy ending.
More recently after picking up my luggage from the carousel, I noticed the handle was broken. I’d never dealt with SWA for an incident like this but after putting in my claim at the airport, it was only a few days until SWA called me, accepted the claim and sent me a check.
11. They have Fat Tire in cans.
My beer-drinking cousin added this one! He said, “Colorado craft beers for $5, an aisle seat, and a sunny day flying over mountains to the West Coast is maybe not the BEST way to spend the day, but I’ll take it!”
Southwest Airlines is an outlier. They garner amazing loyalty and their fans are not shy about referring to Southwest Airlines as the best airline. Its uniqueness means there’s always something more to learn about their policies and culture.
Shelli Stein is a health and fitness entrepreneur who travels the world in search of culture, food, and fun! Besides contributing to PointMeToThePlane, you can find her at Joy in Movement.