Southwest Is The Best Airline You’re Probably Not Flying: 11 Reasons

by Shelli

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.

Southwest Airlines Quirky Perks and Hacks: The Complete Guide
Southwest Airlines Best Airline You Probably Never Fly

The airline people LUV! Let me tell you why.

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.

Southwest Airlines best airline

Southwest allows all customers to choose a seat, just not in the same order as other carriers. There are plenty of tricks available to boost your experience, though.

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.

Check out Southwest’s latest card and others like it here.
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:

Sacramento (SMF)
Oakland (OAK)
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!”

Upshot

Southwest Airlines is an outlier. Is Southwest Airlines a good airline? 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.

 

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

16 comments
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16 comments

henry LAX August 15, 2018 - 2:25 pm

1. Southwest doesn’t waste your money — try doing a same-day change on WN. Free with status on US3, minimal fee for others. Full-fare Y for WN.

8. These days there’s almost nowhere they don’t fly — except places that people want to go like Canada, Europe, Japan etc etc.

And speaking of Hawaii, they kept thumping how they’re so amazing for California fliers and didn’t announce ANYTHING from LA Basin to Hawaii.

And still no partners, no interline, no assigned seats, no flat beds, and definitely no aspirational awards for all the miles/points you earn.

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Shelli August 15, 2018 - 2:33 pm

Thanks for your comment, Henry. I hope SWA is reading because they do for sure have room to improve.

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Ed August 15, 2018 - 3:02 pm

I agree with everything you’ve written and are all reasons I’d never fly WN.

As a frequently flyer I find that standing in line (arriving at the airport early enough to stand in the first boarding line) to claim a better seat is insulting. Knowing where I’ll sit, even when I’m the last to board, removes the stress. I pick a great seat when I buy the ticket, hope I get upgraded to first class, and vacation internationally – all the things that WN can’t provide and almost always for the same fare.

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Shelli August 15, 2018 - 4:10 pm

You and Henry make good points, Ed. It depends a lot on your home airport, routes flown, and what you’re looking for in a carrier. WN does create loyal fans, though.

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kp August 15, 2018 - 3:41 pm

If you home airport is out of NY, no way it would be southwest their lack of non stop service is way too small. Jetblue all the way.

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Shelli August 15, 2018 - 4:11 pm

Glad Jetblue works well for you, kp. Somehow I still haven’t flown on Jetblue, but really should give them a try.

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Rafi August 16, 2018 - 12:22 am

I certainly see how SW doesnt work for everyone, but for myself, who like Shellie, is based in SAN, SW can take you to many destinations (albeit in USA and Mexico) non stop, while other carriers would take you with an inconvenient stopover. That is a huge value. Add that to some of Shellie’s points and SW is big win for us here

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Al August 16, 2018 - 1:03 am

Totally agree with Ed and henry LAX assessment – no partners, no assigned seats, awards for miles/points to use for trips outside of the US are a totally turn off for me. With all the flights I’ve flown on United in the US for my business trips which I could have also flown on WN, I’ve racked up enough miles with UA to fly to Sydney Australia from SFO and even upgraded myself to business using miles on UA. I can’t do that with WN.

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Deanne December 19, 2018 - 7:01 am

the SW terminal at San Diego is the most crowded, crazy I’ve been to and has little seating (people were sitting on the floor) so I’m surprised that is your main airport. I HATE SW seating policy mainly due to the huge number of people that “fake” save seats. I’m not picky about where I sit but so often I encounter bags/hats/purses on seats and I’m told “sorry its saved” and I end up in the last row. I saw a guy save seats on both sides of him so he didn’t have to have a seat mate at all, betting that the flight was not sold out. I once sat in the last seat in the back moving a sweater out of the way. A lady came back later to yell at me, saying it was “saved”…..by who? She wasn’t even on the plane yet. But some people pay for one in their group to get early seating and then they put signs/items to save multiple seats. It is a nightmare in my opinion, not worth the aggravation. Flight attendants said it is out of control and they can’t intervene but the early checking option is a big money maker for southwest.
Also, re: customer service if you write about an issue, they will respond but you will NOT be able to reply back as they close that ticket. You must go back into customer service and start all over again, providing your flight details and issue and hope the next time the person understands your question.
this article was so biased for SW I thought this provided some balance and the price of tickets for alaska airlines to san diego is the same and the service just as good….just saying….

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Shelli December 19, 2018 - 9:10 am

You make good points Deanne. The terminal at SAN is a mess. Sounds like you’ve had some awful SWA flight and seat experiences. It does makes sense to be open to flying whichever airline has the best prices and flies into the airports that have the easiest terminals to navigate. Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your experiences with us.

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Thomas January 3, 2019 - 2:44 pm

#2 should not be listed as a reason to pick a certain airline over another one.

Including baggage in the flight fare is just “window dressing”, the airline will need to make a certain yield one way or the other. In fact if you are flying on a fare which includes 2 pieces of baggage, but you don’t have one, and the passenger next to you checked in 2 pieces, you paid for 1 of his pieces.

Also, I have seen it numerous times, that the total fare – flight only fare plus separate baggage fee – was cheaper than an all-inclusive fare.

Don’t get me wrong I like Southwest and it is my 2nd favorite carrier for domestic travel within the US after JetBlue, but in the end it’s all about doing the math … and perhaps legroom. JetBlue btw. outscores Southwest and any other US based carrier on the latter:

While Southwest operates a 737/738 fleet (31″-32″ legroom in a standard seat), the comparable portion of JetBlue’s fleet consists of A320/A321 (32″-34″ legroom in a standard seat), which have a greater cabin width (+7″), meaning also more space for upper body parts …

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Shelli January 3, 2019 - 4:59 pm

You make great points, Thomas. Your comments on baggage got me thinking. And of course there are credit cards that allow for reduced baggage fees as well. The fares do need to be considered in and of themselves. You once again reminded me that I MUST try JetBlue. A good goal in the new year. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to add to the conversation. Much appreciated.

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Thomas January 4, 2019 - 9:55 am

Yes, please try Jetblue … there in the process of refurbishing their planes (cabin), plus you’ll get a variety (not just cookies as on Southwest) of unlimited free snacks and free WiFi. Hope to read your review on here soon … 😉

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Thomas January 4, 2019 - 9:57 am

*they’re (not there)

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Shelli January 4, 2019 - 8:35 pm

Will do, Thomas! You’ve challenged me publicly, so now I must give JB a chance 🙂

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A. Fortune October 18, 2019 - 9:56 pm

As I boarded this SW flight, and was attempting to get a seat, utilizing Southwest’s ‘open seating’ policy, the attendant blocked me from getting to a seat, stating he was holding the seats for others.  Because I asked him repeatedly about the Southwest policy that he was not adhering to, he got loud stating that I need to find another seat.  I did and apparently I needed to have a ‘cheery’ disposition, because before I knew it, another attendant was in my face telling me I need to listen to the attendants.  I was already in a seat and was lost as to what she was talking about, …, sure enough another employee (seemingly drug impaired) who was not even with the crew, comes on board and is now demanding that I verbally answer him, when he tells me I need to listen to the attendants (and no I was not in the emergency exit, nor was I doing any duties for the airline).  So yes we are back in kindergarten and I answered him, but that too was not good enough, because he provides his rendition to the captain and I was told to leave the plane.  I was not loud, nor drunk, nor physically abusive, I did not raise my voice, nor did I cause a commotion.  And now I am told to leave the plane because 1 person, decided to take his frustration out on me.  I did nothing wrong to anyone on that plane, nothing wrong to anyone in the airport and Southwest can justify people making decisions like this.  If you are frustrated with your job before 9:00am then why does Southwest have morning flights?  Clearly the employees DO NOT want to deal with customers during certain hours.  And what is even more disheartening, is the fact that they are allowed to document lies and nonsense to cover their end and nowhere is it documented what I went through as a paying customer.  I guarantee I would not recommend Southwest to anyone ever.

Reply

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