We have recently had the pleasure of using Southwest Airlines twice for flights from Chicago to New Orleans and then from San Antonio, TX to Los Angeles while on a holiday in the USA.
Firstly, you will find that Southwest are a very large American airline with flights virtually in all corners of the country and many airports having whole terminals or half terminals devoted to their flights. The proposition is simple: the company is a budget carrier, has numerous routes and is cheap, but does not try and squeeze every single last dollar you might have out of you like many of its European counterparts.
Booking the flight on their website is incredibly easy. There is no multitude of hidden charges like we get in the UK with bags flying free and no ridiculous check-in fees or whatnot. When you come to the airport, the service is also very good. There are kiosks where you can print off your boarding pass if you haven't managed to do so already and the queues were very short both times we travelled. Each passenger is allowed up to 2 hold bags weighing up to 50 pounds (around 22.5kg) and this is the only thing they are very strict on (we had to repack both times), but they are very courteous and helpful and the reasons for the rules are clear as the female staff at the desks have to manually haul your baggage around and then lift it onto the conveyor.
Once you oblige to not have overweight bags, everything else is very simple. You do not get assigned seats, but you get a number according to when you buy your ticket which lets you board in order. We boarded right at the end both times and still easily got two seats together by the window which were perfectly good for us. Granted, if you travel in a large group, this may be dificult, but at the price you're paying, it is hard to complain.
They are very generous with cabin luggage and allow much greater "cabin-sized" suitcases than you would get away with in Europe which most locals seem to make use of despite the huge hold baggage allowances. Moreover, we even found that the airline provides complimentary snacks and drinks on the flights including sandwiches which is great for short-haul flights. Ryanair and Easyjet are really put to shame! One more interesting point is that all flights operate from major airports which means you are both close to the place you're going and you get all the shops/amenities that you get with any other airline.
Last, but not least, the airline operates an interesting scheme where you can turn up to the airport and buy a special kind of ticket when the plane is full, proceed to the gate and wait to see if any passengers fail to turn up. This can result in you having to go back out and leave the airport if unsuccessful, but having witnessed a large number of people on many flights doing this and every single one succeeding, it seems an interesting concept if you have to fly urgently. It is also important to note that they operate very good terms for changing your flights with either no fees if done early enough or very low ones to change your dates which is also a consideration for some travellers.
Generally, I have found check-in lines for SouthWest to be very short, if they exist at all. I have checked in at 2 different airports when traveling with SouthWest. At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Arizona, USA, the line was nonexistent, and at Denver International Airport, the line was around 20 minutes long, however, considering this airport is huge and serves thousands of people a day, I was pleasantly surprised at the length of the line. The check-in process is predominantly automated. When you approach the check-in desk, you use a touch screen computer to input all the necessary details, normally just your confirmation number and how many bags your checking in (if any). Then, the machine prints your boarding passes and a member of SouthWest staff tags your luggage with the correct luggage tag, or if you have checked-in on line, you just have your luggage tags attached, as you already have your boarding pass printed off the website. Generally, the whole process takes around 3-6 minutes, and I am always traveling with 3 other people and 4 large cases. I am very impressed at how efficient, quick and easy the check-in area at SouthWest airports is and in my opinion, it is the best check in system out of all the budget airlines I have ever used, actually beating the system used by most european airlines.
SouthWest utilizes an ingenious system whereby you have a boarding letter and number printed on your boarding card, either A, B or C and a number between 1 and 60. When you arrive at the boarding gate, you then stand in your place in the line. For example, if your allocated place was B32, all the people with A boarding numbers would board first, and then you would stand in the B line, 32nd in order. This avoids having to queue for your place, as you know exactly where you are in the boarding line. However, you must realize that this is not a seat number, and once you are on the plane, obviously it is a free-for-all and you can sit where you like (with the exception of the emergency exit rows where you must be 15 years of age or older). I have found that if you are boarding group A, then you can be pretty certain that you can sit with your family, however if you are group B or C, the chances are (particularly on busy flights) that you will have to sit scattered around the cabin. This system means the plane gets boarded extremely quickly, and I have generally found it to take around 10-20 minutes to get the whole flight full with passengers.
The plane itself
When on the aircraft, it is a standard plane, but for a budget airline, I found it to be very clean and nice-smelling. When onboard, you get a complimentary drink and a bag of lightly salted peanuts, which I found of a perfectly acceptable quality, much better however than any european airlines snacks and drinks. The drink list is extremely extensive and offers the following drinks for free :-
Mr. & Mrs. T. Bloody Mary Mix
Cranberry Apple Juice Cocktail
Noncarbonated Purified Drinking Water (Or water as i like to call it!)
You can then pay an extra three to five dollars for the following drinks :-
Monster Lo-Carb Energy Drink
Baileys Irish Cream
Canadian Club Reserve
Coastal Ridge Chardonnay
Coastal RIdge Merlot
The plane is just as comfortable as all other similar services, and on one flight i sat in the emergency exit row, which gives you around 4 times more leg room!
The staff are generally very pleasant, particularly at the check-in counters. The cabin crew do act very nice, however it was clear to me that they were under intense pressure to keep things running like clockwork, and therefore the niceness that you see is evidently forced out. However, for a budget airline, and in comparison to European airlines, the staff at SouthWest are considerably nicer and better at doing their job efficiently.
In summary, this is a generally brilliant airline when you look at the excellent service you receive and how little you actually pay for the flights. I have absolutely nothing to complain about with SouthWest, they provide a friendly, efficient and cheap aircraft service around the USA and they do so brilliantly.
Southwest Airlines are by far the best airline out there. Their ideas need to be picked up by the other major airlines if they want to stay in business. This is a list of why "flying southwest" is best:
Most flights I've flown have ranged in price from $59 to $149 each way. The prices are stable and you can relatively sure of what to expect. Short hops can be very cheap.
This is the MAJOR benefit of flying southwest. If I change my mind on a flight, I can cancel it (even on the cheapest non-refundable fares) and be issued a credit for the full amount I paid. This is held in reserve and can be used against any flight in the future. No questions asked! For example, a few weeks ago I was due to fly from Tucson, AZ to San Francisco, CA. I had booked a few days before and my flight was scheduled to depart early, around 9am. That meant getting up very early. I woke at 7am and realised I could do with some more sleep. I logged onto the internet, checked for the next flight - 11am, canceled my original one and used the credit to purchase the new one. No fees incurred, no increase in price. Amazing! This is an incredibly flexible system and one that I have found to be particularly useful.
3) Rapid Reward Credits
With each one-way journey, you get a "Rapid Reward Credit". With a return flight, you get two. Get 16 credits and you get a free return flight to ANYWHERE in the USA. That's buy eight return flights, get one free. Even if you only do small hops, say from Tucson to Phoenix, a 30 minute flight, they will give you a return to, say, Florida. And if you sign up for their credit card, they'll give you a free flight too plus a credit for every $1000 you spend.
4) Good planes
Many of the European budget airlines cram people in, give you no legroom and attempt to sell you things like lottery tickets, watches & just about anything else they have lying around. Southwest doesn't do this, the legroom is ample and the seats are cozy. They dim the lights in the evening and serve free soft drinks, peanuts and pretzels.
I'm getting close to a free return flight - the problem for me is, where do I go?
I always fly with southwest because they have the best prices out of every airline and their are none of the extra fees that the other airelines are charging right now do to the rise in fuel prices such as, meals, snacks, drinks, checking any number of bags, and unaccompanied minor fees (we were charged $100 extra each way for my boyfriend's little sister to fly on American Airlines unaccompanied, she's 13, this is a ridiculous extra price).
Southwest doesn't charge any of these ridiculous prices, and that is why their business is sky rocketing and all the other airlines are plummeting. I know that Southwest's success and low pricing is made possible because before the gas crisis hit, southwest bought up a huge reserve of gas, so they are not having to worry about the rise in the gas prices because they have a stockpile of gas that they purchased when the prices were still reasonable.
I always purchase my tickets on southwest.com. Their website is very user friendly and offers all kinds of options that are easy to find. They also have great deals on the site that change every single day.
Another thing I love about flying southwest is that flight attendants are always so friendly and FUNNY. I learned in my international business class in college, that one of the characteristics that southwest requires in all of their employees is a sense of humor, which is just great. It makes flying so much more comfortable and entertaining.
I highly recommend southwest for all of your flying needs.
I had planned using AA for Orlando airport to Indianapolis, but then I discovered SWA. THe tickets were inexpensive it was a great service, but i have some complaints. Firstly it was a first come first serve basis and I hadn't gotten in line until the last minute. I got icky, musty, broken in seats. When I walked down the isle, I saw familes of four sitting at emergency exit places and kids who wanted the "window" seat got the emergency seats and it made me feel unsafe. The Emergency pamphlets were old and wet and the kid behind me kept kicking my seat. The run way was in bad conditon and there were no flight attendants. Enough with the bad... THe seats were soft and comfy, the windows were clean, which gave me a nice view. The trays in front of you were oversized, so I could write and we had a quick flight and a clean landing. The overall flight was good, but SWA needs to improve on service and safety.
Meet Dad... ------------------------------------------------------- Let me introduce you to THE DADDY of pretty much all the world's "budget" airlines - SouthWest - and as always the Americans seem to out-do us in everything. All the UK budget airlines, others in Europe (and even the "budget" airlines in the rest of the world too), took what is called the 'business model' from SouthWest Airlines. For us in the UK this includes EasyJet, Ryanair, Go etc. So, you may think that all "Budget" airlines are the same. But Noooo, you would be very mistaken. Each takes SouthWest's template - and usually changes it slightly, or in some cases a great deal. Started on June 18, 1971 and based in Texas, SouthWest has over 35,000 employees - a work-force comparable to a large airline like British Airways. It has won various awards over the years, flies to 58 cities, in 30 states using 59 airports and has around 2800 flights a day. Impressive i must say. Coincidently, i made the same journey as the dooyoo member who wrote the other review in this category about SouthWest Airlines - LAX to LAS return back in Feb of this year (that's Los Angeles International to Las Vegas McCarran International for those who have no idea what airport codes are :P). This service actually stops over at McCarran then goes onto Reno. And yes, before you ask what i was doing in the largest adult playground in the world, i will write you lucky dooyoo people a whole review on my tour of three west-coast US states. I have been lucky enough to travel all over the US - and i have travelled with many airlines (both US and others). These include the big players, and the cheaper airlines too. SouthWest Airlines falls into the latter category here. I would also admit i feel i am very qualified to review on airlines, services and travel in general, because i have done a fair amount of travelling and experienced these for myself. In the beginning was the word... ------------------------------------------------------- I don't like the word budget. As a student i speak from MUCH experience on this issue! None of us like to budget. Most of us can't budget let alone like it(!!), and although "budget" is often used accurately in the UK, from now on i am going to refer to SouthWest Airlines (and all other reviews i write on 'cheaper' US airlines) as "Low-fare/cost" and "No-frills" as this best describes them. "Budget" does not describe any of the "Low-fare" and "No-frills" airlines in the US very well at all. SouthWest airlines is no exception to this, so lets squash the "budget" idea right here and now :) Tickets ------------------------------------------------------- Tickets cost airlines money. They cost airlines a lot of money in fact. So does a complex ticketing system to assign people seats. Most low cost airlines therefore remove them altogether. So why not nuke the magnetic stripes, all personalised seat numbers, and just issue boarding cards instead?. Well, most low-cost airlines do this now. Electronic Tickets as they are called are the new "in thing" with all airlines in the world right now. SouthWest uses what it calls "ticketless" travel, a lot of other airlines call it this too. This is exactly the same as e-Tickets (elctronic tickets), and is basically exactly what you get when booking with SouthWest. Its a way of cutting cost, and it actually benefits you too. If you ain't got a ticket, you can't possibly forget to bring it with you, can you! :) You make a booking, which can be done quickly and easily using the SouthWest website (www.southwest.com) with credit/debit card, and get a reference number. You would usually take a print out or the number with you... however in all honesty you don't even need this to check-i
n. As long as you know where you are flying to (this always a good thing to remember! :P) and have photo ID with you when you come to check-in, you are set to go. This ID would usually be your passport if you are from the UK. Cheap tickets are limited and usually restricted, so no refunds if you miss your flight or you decide not to travel!. You can get flexible where you can change planes or get a refund with no penalty. Expect to pay $200+ for a ticket like this though, and you will get a cheaper price for all ticket types by booking online. Some things to bare in mind when booking are that flights before 7:00am or after 7:00pm, Saturdays and Sundays all have off peak fares. Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays with all airlines are 'traditionally' not as heavily booked as Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Flights around midday usually have more seats available than morning or late afternoon flights. So you can benefit from lower fares here. The most popular times to travel are Friday night, Sunday afternoon and evening, and Monday morning. So expect to pay higher fares during these times. Experience, Service and Atmosphere ------------------------------------------------------- Experience and atmosphere is everything. Especially given the state of the airline industry at the moment, and we are of course more likely to tell someone about a bad experience, than a good one. The experience of SouthWest was good i am glad to report. Upon arrival at LAX, i have to say I (and those i was travelling with) were utterly mortified to see the length of the queue for check-in at SouthWest. It was enormous. The last thing you want is to queue for hours after a 10hr 45min flight. But, as i have come to discover - a long queue can in some cases be extremely deceiving. SouthWest Airlines place a member of staff at the front of the check-in queues, to efficiently coordinate passengers (who often get distracted by starti
ng into space or talking) directly to free check-in agents. This amazingly keeps the queue constantly moving and cuts waiting time down considerably. All check-in desks were open too. I would like to see more airlines doing this, because something so simple (and cheap for the airline) really does make a HUGE difference. You get given a boarding card with you name, booking number, flight no etc on, but no seat number. Depending on the amount of time you check-in before you flight, you boarding card will have a LARGE A, B or C printed on it. This is a very fair system imho, and means those who check-in first will have first choice of seats, as you will board the aircraft in the first group. You get a decent baggage allowance too! Unlike in the UK with our "budget" airlines, soft drinks, juices, tea + coffee and snacks are free on SouthWest (except Alcohol which isn't, and is only available to over 21s - i.e. not me sadly! :P) SouthWest does not serve meals, but you can bring your own - and many people do. The drinks/snacks trolley is not used by this airline. Cabin crew take half the aircraft each, writing down quickly what each passenger wants - drinks are then distributed in batches of rows. Its fast, and means you don't end up waiting AGESSSS for a drink or snack, or for a trolley to move the entire length of the aircraft! Again, a good system which really does speeds things up. All aircraft operated by SouthWest Boeing 737s. They have a lot of old aircraft (737-200/300/500), but quite a few brand new ones too (737-700s). So the age of aircraft you get will be pretty much potluck i'm afraid. The seats are obviously nicer on the newer aircraft, but you get adequate legroom on all their aircraft. Turn around time when i travelled was fast, and their gate staff were very efficient at boarding passengers. Parents with children, or people with disabilities get priority boarding before anyone else. Again, all well
organised. Website ------------------------------------------------------- - Reservations/Booking - Contact - Flight Status info - View your - Book car hire and hotels with most popular companies along with your flight too. Rewards ------------------------------------------------------- SouthWest run a "Rapid Rewards" scheme. This i should imagine would only apply to very few people in the UK. I am quite lucky i can travel to the US (or anywhere in the world) for next to nothing on BA, as much as i like, but if you travel to the US and travel on SouthWest frequently then this would be worthwhile. It means you can get free flights, drinks or a companion can travel with you for free after you have collected so many points on your Rapid Rewards account. You can see your points online too. Tips ------------------------------------------------------- - Book well in advance. Use their Internet site (only allows booking up to 5 months in advance) and get cheaper tickets. - Check-in early, get boarding group A and then you will get first choice of seats on the aircraft. Links ------------------------------------------------------- http://www.southwest.com - SouthWest Airlines Other good ones to Consider: -> http://www.jetblue.com - JetBlue Airways -> http://www.airtran.com - AirTran Airways -------------------------------------------------------
I have used this airline on a number of occasions when in the US and have found it extremely good value for money. The company has regular internet specials and I took advantage of one of these to fly from Orlando to Los Angeles for $99 one-way. I have also flown from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for $39 one way. The website is user friendly and enables you to undertake ticketless travel whereby a booking code is assigned to you online and you quote this at the gate to get your boarding card. This airline was the one that the MD of Ryannair used as a blueprint for planning his service within Europe.