Southwest Airlines Overview and Information

Good Things about Southwest

No Small Planes– Southwest only flies Boeing 737s, which is great if you are traveling to or from a small or midsize airport where the other airlines operate small regional jets. Regional jets frequently run out of overhead bin space and are operated by subsidiary companies of large airlines.

Companion Pass– The companion pass allows you to designate a person to fly with you for basically free (only pay taxes and fees, which are $11.20 for a domestic roundtrip). The Companion Pass lasts for the year you achieve the pass and the following year. 

Easy to Use Point System– Southwest uses a revenue-based point system, which means the number points needed on average is cash price divided by 1.6 cents. (i.e. $200/.016= 12,500 points + taxes ($11.20 for a domestic roundtrip)).

No Fees– There are no fees to cancel or change your flight. Plus you get two free checked bags. Since there are no fees to change your flight, you can save money by checking the prices of your flight regularly. 

Free Alcoholic Drinks at Certain Times– You can also get free drinks on New Years, Valentines Day, St. Patricks Day, Southwest’s Birthday (June 18), Fathers Day, Independence Day, SW RR CC’s anniversary (September 20), Halloween, and Thanksgiving. Additionally, Southwest has an unwritten rule that if your plane is delayed more than an hour, you get a free alcoholic drink.

Cheap Wi-Fi and Free TV– Southwest recently installed Wi-Fi on all of their planes. This allows you to watch on-demand and live TV on your device (laptop, tablet, or phone) for free. Wi-Fi costs $8 per day, which is great if you have multiple flights in a day. Increased internet speeds will be coming in 2018.

Cheap Short-haul Flights– Southwest found early success in very cheap short-haul between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. They have continued that philosophy of pricing short-haul flights very reasonably. 

Great Customer Service– I think Southwest has the best customer service of all of the domestic airlines. Southwest seems to allow employees the freedom to problem solve many different situations. They solve many issues with free alcoholic drinks, which is a plus.

Other Things– 32 inches of seat pitch and they are modernizing their fleet (170 787-Max 8’s on order)

Bad Things about Southwest

Booking Within 14 Days– Southwest almost doubles a standard ticket price within 14 days of departure. Southwest really incentivizes booking in advance.

Forgetting to Check-In Online at the 24 Hour Mark– Southwest does not assign seats and your boarding priority is based on when you check in if you booked a “Wanna Get Away Ticket” and have no status. So be sure to check in right at the 24-hour mark. I have missed the mark by 30 minutes several times and ended in Group C (at least 120 people in front of me).

Can Be Expensive– Southwest is classified as a low-cost-carrier. I think that label is very outdated since Southwest offers more benefits than Delta, American, or United to the standard traveler. However, since Southwest offers so many perks, you have to pay for the ones that you don’t use. This translates to higher prices overall on many routes than the other major carriers.

Business Select and Flexible Prices are Very High: Many times a non-refundable first class ticket on American, Delta, or United is cheaper than a Business Select and Flexible fares on Southwest. However, Business Select fares do allow you to earn twice the number of points as a Wanna Get Away fare.

No Upgrades– Southwest’s planes are in an all-economy configuration, therefore the best “upgrade” you could get is to board early and get a bulkhead or exit row.

No Codesharing– Codesharing is a standard industry practice that allows you to book two or more airlines on the same itinerary (i.e. Delta from Detroit to New York and Airfrance from New York to Paris).

Bookable on Six-Months in Advance- You can only book flights on Southwest six months in advance. Plus they only release the new schedule every 3 months. United, Delta, Alaska, and American all allow you to book at least 330 days in advance. 

Last Flight of the Night- Southwest will hold the last flight of the night to a city until all passengers from connecting flights arrive. This is a big advantage to those passengers who have incoming delayed flights, but for the large majority of passengers, it means an extra hour or so waiting for passengers and their bags to be loaded. This combined with a tight schedule (no time to absorb previous delays in the day), is why I usually don’t try to fly Southwest later in the day. 

Southwest Airlines Information

Primary Hubs- Chicago-Midway, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, Orlando, Dallas-Love, and Houston.

Secondary Hubs- Oakland, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Tampa, St. Louis, San Diego, Fort Lauderdale, and San Jose.

International Flights-Mexico (San Jose Del Cabo-SJD, Mexico City- MEX, Cancun- CUN, and Puerto Vallarta-PVR), Belize (Belize City- BZE), Costa Rica (Liberia-LIR and San Jose- SJO), Jamaica (Montego Bay- MBJ), Bahamas (Nassau- NAS), Dominican Republic (Punta Cana- PUJ), Aruba (AUA), Grand Cayman (GCM), Turks and Caicos (Providenciales- PLS), and Cuba (Havana- HAV)

Booking Tip- Book Southwest flights as a one-way rather than round-trip. You get the points from the one-way flight as soon as you complete it, and it is easier to manage changes or cancellations (or if there is a lower price, rebooking at the lower price)

Fleet- Current Aircraft Fleet, Aircraft Deliveries, and Average Age of Planes

Seat Maps by Plane: SeatGuru

More Information- Wikipedia Page

Lost Items on Airplanes: Online Form