We Flew Southwest…

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So I flew Southwest yesterday for the first time since my 2006 mileage-run extravaganza. Yes, there was some irony at the time taking an airline that doesn’t award real flight miles on the way to a mileage run, but when you need a positioning flight for cheap you do what you gotta’ do!

Continental pricing on nonstop flights from Cleveland is just insane these days, it’s almost like they are trying to close the hub by driving people to other airlines and/or airports. A nonstop round-trip flight on the sub-700 miles flight to Kansas City on Continental is now $400 (Typical pricing used to be under $250) and Southwest was just $135 all-in. That’s just 7,000 Southwest points required for the round-trip flight to be free.

I’ll pay a nice premium for Continental, but not that nice!
We booked a direct flight on Southwest that claimed there would be “no plane change.” Sounded pretty good on paper at least. When you book direct flights, Southwest.com makes it as hard as possible to find out where you’re connecting. You need to manually search for all possible nonstop destinations (Baltimore, Chicago, Nashville, etc) to figure it out.

I’m spoiled with elite status whenever I travel. When I booked the Southwest flight I worked some magic to get matched to their “A-List” status and hoped that would help out.

Some thoughts on the experience:

-2 free checked bags are nice, but I get that and then some with elite status on other airlines. If you have credit cards from Continental, Delta, or United then 1 bag is free as well.

-The checkin agent wanted to see a birth certificate for my son who turned 6 months old…first time that happened!

-A-List status did nothing for me. There were 50 people on the flight and we boarded close to last. It doesn’t have any value besides for that.

-Do people really like the cattle call boarding process with no assigned seats? I for one can’t stand it. Reminds me of this beauty of an ad:

-It’s strange seeing a one-cabin plane on the 737.  I’ll definitely miss Airtran and their easy free upgrades for elites once Southwest swallows them up.

-Honey Roasted peanuts (Star K-parve) made just a few miles from my house. Like!
Asked for more and was given a handful of ’em.

-Flight attendants are definitely jollier/friendlier than on the major carriers.

-Wi-fi was $5.  Workarounds exist…

-Got 4 free premium drink coupons in the mail for being a Southwest credit card holder.

-Before deplaning they asked that all customers continuing onto Kansas City remain on the plane until everyone else deboards and then we would be counted and allowed to change seats and stretch while remaining on the plane.  After waiting for everyone to get off the plane they then announced that there would be a plane change after all and that we had to hustle from B19 to the A4a satellite gate at the other end of the airport.  Then they had to get us our stroller that was gate-checked through to Kansas City.  The people outside the gate were going to West Palm Beach, so what was the deal?  Why did they make us stay on the plane and then have to run to the next gate? It definitely wasn’t a last-minute change.

After running to our new gate in the rush of boarding the plane my wife left her new Galaxy Nexus phone in the cupholder of the stroller that was being gate-checked under the plane.  Somehow, someway, impossibly, and maybe even miraculously, the phone was still in the cupholder when they brought the stroller back up after the flight to Kansas City.  Go figure!

-No honey-roasted peanuts on the new plane, someone had an allergy.  No wifi either on the 2nd flight.

-The bulkhead has tons of extra room on the floor, but there were no tray tables or seatback pocket space at all and of course all of your bags have to be in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing.  Still not sure if it’s worth the tradeoff or not.

So what’s your take on Southwest? Love ’em? Hate ’em?

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36 Comments On "We Flew Southwest…"

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senioreditor

Free drinks for being a credit card holder? I have 3 SWA cards and NEVER receive free drinks? How do you get them?

Dan

@senioreditor:
They sent me 4 drink certs in the mail along with a letter thanking me for being a SWA cardholder.

M. Josef

Just flew Southwest for the first time this past Chanukah. Pleasant expereince. Free 2 checked bags. Friendly check-in service. Very friendly Flight attendants. Lots of Kosher free snacks & drinks. (Got beer & hard ones for free as well 🙂 ).. Changed my ticket TWICE, No change fees, Which is great! Flight was on time both ways.
Con- Like u said Dan, the no seat assignment is not my style. Its like u walked down the isle & think, hhmm…… who should I sit next to… & then the person you choose is thinking…. hhmmm, why did he choose to sit next to me. Was just wierd.
All in all- Great experience, great costumer service, I give them Two Thumbs Up!!

Avid Reader

How does SW compare to Jetblue? Better, worse?

pizzaz

As a parent of a child under the age of two, the no assigned seats make things easier for a lap child. If you bring a child to the flight in a car seat, they will tell you at the gate if the flight is full. If their is an empty seat, you will be able to take it for your child. If not, just check your car seat for free at the gate. I don’t know why you boarded next to last, Dan. I have found that families with small children get to board automatically after business class tickets(or whatever they call them). I have never had a problem entering in time to find an empty row for three. On other airlines you would have to graciously ask your neighbor in their aisle seat if they would mind moving ten rows back to sit in between two large fellows. Of course if your baby is not enjoying his lap time, they cant wait to comply. This is not a favor I relish asking from strangers. Of course the other way to do it is to put your child in your own seat and draw straws with your wife to decide who gets to stay, and who gets a wonderful child free flight in another area of the plane whispering to their neighbors of the incompetence of the parents of the screaming child back in row 24.

JohnnieD

One gets what they pay for on SWA…………

David

If anyone is interested i have $200 Gift cards for southwest that im looking to sell

golan

Southwest overall is great ! of course the way to board is crazy. but got many “+” and service is great !

clevelander

I flew southwest in dec and loved everything about them!! I flew with my son,so we got priorty boarding. On the connecting flight which we just made there were no 2 seats next to each other so the flight attendent was super nice and offered a free beer to anyone who would make 2 seats next to each other!! a few pple obviously jumped up and they gave all of them a free beer even though they werent all needed. I thought that was very nice of them to help me out with that. I actually had to change my flight the night before my scheduled departure by one day and officially it would of been 35000 points per one way bec it was last min. my wife called up and spoke to them and they said for another 4000 points theyll do the switch. I dont know where they got that number from but im not complaining. The last thing i liked about them is their sense of humor. On each flight they made jokes before take off which set the tone for the relaxing and positive expiernce I had with them. 2 free bags and free drinks as many as i asked for they said sure with a smile. would fly them again.

chaim

I love em’. The Bags are nice although I get them free on delta and have the $200 allowance with my platinum card and $100 with the blue sky preferred. When travellling with my family (wife and 2 kids[2yrs old and not yet 1]) southwest is much more accommodating and helpful. We preboard because of the babies. Dan you should have done that. and they give us everything we ask for. drinks snacks bottles of water to go big bag of snack to take with us crayons and paper for my older daughter…. I cant complain.

Dan

@Avid Reader:
Jetblue is much better. More nonstop instead of connecting flights, much more legroom, directv, etc.

@pizzaz:
I’ve yet to have that problem on a major airline. You book an aisle and window in advance and usually nobody will take the middle seat between you.

I should clarify this though, on both of the flights there were only about 50 passengers, so we boarded at the end of the A group.

Normally families on Southwest get to board between A and B, but there was no B group.

On most other airlines families get to preboard before everyone else.

@JohnnieD:
True.
I think the worst part may be no standby without paying full fare.

@clevelander:
There definitely are plusses, it’s a very different flying experience to say the least.

rebdude

i always fly southwest when i can. love the free bags. if you check in inline early, you get a better boarding position. i have always gotten an aisle close to the front.

whYME

ah, southwest…
I see things haven’t changed in the last few years…
http://bezerkely.blogspot.com/2006/05/i-hate-southwest-why-start-this-blog.html

Tt

I used my 50k with SW for $600 in GC.

mikes

I’m a big fan now that we’re in ABQ (and with the help of 100k free points from Chase.) The boarding doesn’t bother me, but we’ve never run into the “no B group” scenario. We have twin toddlers, and have never been unable to find 2 pairs of seats near each other. Usually towards the back, but we normally have to wait on the strollers anyway.

I was just able to book my wife and kids ABQ-AUS RT for under 30,000 points total. That, I LUV… 🙂

Aay B.

@Dan:

HILARIOUS…. Wud love flying SW after watching this clip..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?nomobile=1&v=-_MfHMQWmiE

Let the fun begin..

Pizazz

@David: do they expire? How much do you want for them?

TedR

You left out the most important feature (at least for us)–the privilege of cancelling an itinerary and getting 100% credit to your SW account that must be used (nontransferable) within one year of the booking date (not the flight date). We have used this privilege many times (even rebooked same itinerary at a lower fare immediately after cancelling original booking). Tip: never book a round trip on a single itinerary. Book each segment separately, so if plans change for one segment, you are not required to cancel the segment that hasn’t changed. I know of no US domestic airline that allows this flexibility and peace of mind when plans are tentative or change unexpectedly.

N.

@Pizzaz- Never gate check a car seat as-is if you can help it. There’s no way to guarantee its undamaged and has no invisible, hairline cracks inside after you land since it could have fallen off a pile, had baggage fall on it or been tossed to the ground by uncaring baggage people (sadly, all too common). Once that happens, its deemed unsafe and as if it’d been in a crash. You can’t use it then unless you want to risk using your child as a crash test dummy. Stow it up in a luggage compartment if you can (my Radian folds and does that easily for when kids are under 2) or wrap very well in lots bubble wrap and gate check like that.

J

Hey Dan.. flying on AirTran to Orlando in a couple months.. any recos for upgrades? Not too familiar with the airline

yossi

@DAN

what is the workaround for the $5 wifi fee , or where can I find it ? thanks bro …

jj

The seats have more legroom, flight attendants are nicer and funny, cheap fares (although they used to be cheaper), in NY its not so convenient, alot of flight req connections..when I lived in Baltimore it was a pleasure they had non-stops everywhere.

Anonymous

At least they don’t brake guitars…

Big Jim

@David: How much do you want for those $200 gift cards?

Chris S.

As a Southern Californian, I’ve always viewed Southwest as being phenomenal for the short hops between LAX/SNA-SFO/OAK/LAS/SMF/PHX, but as a sort of “last resort” for trips elsewhere.

I flew LAX-BNA-CHS a week ago on Southwest, and wasn’t super-impressed by it. I certainly got what I paid for: I ended up sitting in the middle seat next to a large, talkative dude (who never flies) for 3h. No music, no video/television. Not that I should expect a PTV in the era of iPads, but it’s a nice touch on a flight 3h long.

I, like most folks my age, am more interested in price than level of service, but if I can get from point A transcon to point B on DL/UA for ~$25 more than WN, it’s a no-brainer.

Ben

@David: I’m interested!

SoCal Dude

Dan, I still can’t get over your wifes amazing mobile phone story! It is absolutely stunning that her mobile phone was in the cup holder of the stroller all the way from where you changed planes (Midway or Baltimore?) to Kansas City all the time in the belly of the plane! Great story and 1 in a million chance! Thx for sharing!

Dan

@TedR:
This is true, but my plans rarely change. I can see that being important for some though.

@jj:
If you live near BWI or MDW it’s great!

@Anonymous:
LOL!

@Chris S.:
True, for short, nonstop flights they’re great.
But I would’ve definitely paid an extra $100/ticket to fly nonstop with Continental instead of connecting with Southwest.

@SoCal Dude:
Midway-Kansas City.
Let’s just say it was a tense flight as the phone is less than a month old, had no insurance on it, and is nearly $700 to replace without a new contract!

I’m still in shock myself!

Charlie Kay

Living in SoCal, the only place I use Southwest is to San Francisco, Las Vegas and occasionally to Sacramanto. Southwest is great for short flights. and i mean an 60 to 90 minutes max!! I cannot ever see myself flying with Southwest on a longer flight. Their personell are generally great. Understandably there are always some shmucks in the mix but generally they’re okay.

MILES

what is B groupe

mikes

We just got the 4 drink coupons (x2) as well. 8 total, but goo through the end of the year so we ought to be able to ‘consume’ them. SW/Chase are being mighty generous this week, between this and the 1000 free miles for paying a couple of utility bills with the card.

@miles: SW boards by numbers, and the numbers are broken into groups of 60. The first 60 are A1 through A60, which is called A group. The next are B1-B60, so it’s B group. There is sometimes a C group as well.

yossi

@DAN

please tell us what is the workaround for the $5 wifi fee , or where can I find it ? thanks bro …

Yudell

I also am always annoyed that families with children are boarded between groups A & B; especially now that we travel with a lap child and another child in a seat. I saw another family with children with a good method: the father paid to be in group A and went on first and held onto an entire row for his family. His family then boarded after group A and came to the seats that he was holding for them. I will do this next time I fly to KC.

This past trip and the trip before, the southwest ticket counter forgot to give us the “security document” so that the lap child could be taken past the checkpoint. They also forgot to give me my ticket! So after waiting in the security line, we had to go back to ticketing and then go back into the security line again. Very annoying. I find that those working for southwest may be nice, but they are quite stupid.

JayB

Nevr having flown Southwest, my only kvetch is the schlep to MacArthur Airport from Brooklyn to catch a nonstop to Florida.
If you do the same, be aware that you can get long term parking for cheaper there by reserving a space at a local hotel with a shuttle on demand from 5 am to midnight (or so advertised) at http://globalairportparking.com/islip_macarthur_long_island_airport_parking_ISP
for $6.00 per day and up comapred to $12.50 per day and up.

BW

Love SW! Airline of choice for FLL-BWI (we use often) and FLL- California. Cant beat the flexible flight changes, and the comparable great prices. signed up (twice) for the Chase CC with the 50,000 bonus miles and saved lots on the above bookings. FYI our kids, with babies, didnt do online check in cuz they knew they would get family boarding. arrived at airport, checked in luggage and went to gate. they got bumped from their flight cuz it was oversold ad they didnt have pre-printed boarding passes. Compensated them fairly , though! All worked out!

CarlyR

Personally, I love flying Southwest despite the boarding process and shabby planes. I agree that the staff is excellent and have had some great flights… My only problem is that MDW is so far from my house.

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