A Southwest Airlines Trip Report? Yep, They Impressed Me

I wouldn’t normally write a blog post about a simple domestic airline flight. But as I haven’t flown Southwest in about six or seven years, it was basically a new experience and it ended up being an impressive one.

I flew from Reno to Las Vegas today and chose Southwest because of an ideal flight schedule compared with the options on United through San Francisco or Los Angeles. The fare was also cheaper by $40ish, but that honestly wasn’t a factor in my decision for this trip. While I’m oh so close to million-miler on United where every mile counts, I guess I’m beginning to value my time a bit more these days.

I didn’t purchase the EarlyBird check-in option ($10 each way) where Southwest automatically checks you in before the traditional 24-hour window. It gives you a better boarding position than those checking in manually. But as it’s only an hour flight to Vegas, I wasn’t too worried. I ended up with A-47 having checked in at T-24, which turned out to be very good position indeed. And I love the gate area lineup based on your group/number. It’s quite a smooth process.

My ride, a 737-700

My seat, 10A

I tweeted that picture of my seat earlier in the day and called it 11A, but it was actually 10A just ahead of the exit row on the 737-700 (my mistake in looking across at the staggered row’s number). The non-recline didn’t bother me because of the short flight and these seats were indeed the new “Evolve” low-profile type with thinner cushions. I was comfy enough even with the tight pitch.

Seat pitch

I wish the person ahead would’ve reclined so I could see the seat in action, but she never did. Once airborne, I checked out the Wi-Fi options out of simple curiosity for the pricing. To my delight, the flight tracker was free, as were access to Southwest.com and “Shopping” (I never clicked into that).

Wi-Fi options

Flight Tracker

The flight attendants were great (particularly during boarding while managing carry-on space), my seatmates were great and it was a truly enjoyable flight. And what would a trip report be without a pic of the meal?

The meal

My only regret is that I didn’t print a second boarding pass not knowing that Southwest keeps them after scanning at the gate. I normally would use a kiosk in the lobby, but the line was enormous at RNO so I skipped it. Ah well. Lesson learned.

View

Thanks, Southwest, for a great flight today.

Comments

  1. I fly SW a lot. Very rare a troubled experience. They respect your time in getting you from point a to b. That’s about all that matters when flying short distances.

    • @Pamela: Yeah, I’m not a fan of revenue-based FFPs given I’m a bottom-feeder on fares. But more airlines will adopt them as time continues.
      @Erndog: Thanks for noting a few positives about RR! 🙂 It’s not the program for me, but works for some.
      @Kris: I’m certain there’s a group of people who just assume Southwest is cheapest and don’t look elsewhere. Sort of their own “fault.”I have no issue shopping Southwest separately, but I’m not your average traveler, of course. And I’m not so sure WN would lose any customers if they were in GDSs (I think the opposite would happen). They’re not in GDSs primarily to avoid the hefty booking fees.
      @Zach: Yeah, this one flight was great – perhaps not a fair long-term analysis.

  2. I always have had a great flight experience with them. The RR program might actually be good since they are adding the Air tran flights outside of the US

  3. The WN RR program may have been devalued, but there are from time-to-time some decent one-way awards to redeem. I credit my Hyatt stay points (600 per stay) to Southwest, they add up. And I usually wind up redeeming for a family member or a friend, with their generous cancelation policy, I get my miles back if the trip gets canceled. If the trip is a go, my traveling family member or friend (almost always a non-elite) gets to check 2 bags free . . . A win-win (or a WN-WN, ha!) if you ask me . . .

  4. I also agree that Southwest is overrated. Their inflight experience may be great, but what they are really trying to sell people on is the low fares. They are often as expensive or more expensive than the legacy options, and they are able to do it because a lot of people figure southwest is the cheapest and don’t bother looking elsewhere. That is exactly why their fares aren’t in the GDS, if ITA/Kayak/etc is a one stop shop, SWA would lose many customers who could see all legacy carriers and SWA at once instead of having to do two searches (which they often don’t do).

  5. Maybe you should try flying WN on a Friday or Sunday. Saturdays are low volume and often low stress days on any airline. I also agree with the others, RR is the worse FF program.

  6. Kris — you’re arguing against a perception, not reality. Whether or not Southwest’s fares are as low as some people who fly them think they are has no bearing on how good a carrier they are. And though I prefer legacy carriers because I like international redemptions, I consider myself damn lucky to be based out of BWI where WN keeps prices pretty low.

  7. Half the people I know search Southwest and nobody else. that has no bearing on the inflight experience, as I said, but Southwest does everything they can to promote this falsity that they are the cheapest carrier. Not to mention that many of their commercials are deceitful, but hey, that’s part of how they get people flying southwest without searching other carriers, so why not?

  8. I fly Southwest as a leisure traveler about a dozen times a year, and am generally satisfied, but some of their recent super sales which preclude flyers from redeeming Rapid Rewards points for these particular fares has ticked me off and is making me consider other options.

  9. while this may not factor in for most readers based in the US, it’s important to remember that Southwest’s price includes two free checked bags. That’s roughly a $50 value when comparing to most competitors that charge for checking.
    I live outside the country, and when I come to the US and need to travel domestically Southwest is almost always the best option, when factoring in the checked bag costs.

    • @ex-pat: Great point. And as I’d venture to guess many Southwest fliers wouldn’t qualify for free bags on other U.S. carriers, you could look at it as automatic savings on a ticket.

  10. I recently took 2 RT and 3/4 flights were delayed. Some by 10 minutes, others by 30+. They were waiting for connecting flights to come in. The last flights seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to on time departure.

    Next time I’ll aim for the 2nd to last flights instead of the last if I’m going from regional airport to regional airport.

    • @reeder: My flight was also delayed about 15 minutes due to the inbound being late. And that backed up the continuation out of Vegas to Tampa for the folks continuing onward. I’d have to agree that delays would get worse as the day progresses given the short turn-around times Southwest pads into their schedules.

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