Newest Review: ... 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. Th... more
Southwest Airlines - what budget airlines elsewhere should strive for!
Member Name: tenkilos
Advantages: Great price, amazing service, outstanding value, small destinations
Disadvantages: there really is no serious disadvantage
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.
Summary: If you are flying around the United States, there really is no other choice! Southwest hands down.
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