Despite most of my premium travel over the last few years, I’ve flown Southwest Airlines a lot in my life. Having grown up on Long Island, New York, Southwest was the perennial option for flying out of Long Island Islip’s MacArthur Airport. I remember the old days of standing in line to get a colored numbered plastic boarding card (it was most often brown for some reason), and then queuing up. I also remember the face to face seats at the exit rows. Those were fun and awkward at the same time.
In college, I would make the trip from Northeast, DC up to Baltimore-Washington Airport to fly home, or most other places, because back then, other than the occasional Independence Air (anyone remember that?), Southwest was actually pretty cheap.
Now I fly Southwest less often, usually opting for American Airlines, but I still fly Southwest on routes that make sense, like to Orlando, Jacksonville, and to Key West back when they flew that route. The reason being frequency of flights and nonstop flights. In fact, on my latest trip to Florida, I chose the middle seat in both directions. Neither flight was completely full, but I made the calculated decision that sitting in the first 4 rows, while less comfortable, would mean I would be able to disembark more quickly.
Observations about the experience
For the flight down, my wife and I were both in the second half of C group. I actually chose to use a backpack, rather than a carry-on, for fear of having to gate check a bag.
So of course, boarding, I expected the worst. But, would you believe, that there was still overhead space over row 4, as I boarded with C38? I was pretty surprised too.
The gentleman next to me had already made himself comfortable by the time I arrived, but was happy to let me in. He was kind of innovative, too. He had a double carbiner, which he had an empty bag hanging from. Over the course of the 2 hour flight, he used it as a garbage bag for himself and others. He was generous to accept neighbors trash, which was a nice gesture. He also sang out loud to his music, but he was nice, so it wasn’t a big deal.
On the window, I had a guy watching the free Dish Network TV that Southwest offers, on his iPad. The headphones never came off.
The flight down, there was no issue with the arm rests. Usually, sitting in the middle seat, you get options to both arm rests, or so general convention goes.
The flight home was different, I had a sleeper on the window, who had the arm rest most of the time, the aisle seat occupant was more standard, with the half use of the arm rest. The positive of the sleeper, however, was that he left the window shade open.
All that said, Is there still such a convention of arm rest use? I just don’t know anymore.
I joked on Twitter that flying Southwest helps me stay in touch with the people.
In reality though, if you have no status and fly a few times a year on routes that Southwest flies, they do seem like the best option. You get peanuts, pretzels, a beverage, streaming TV, and the option the pay for wifi. Heck, if you like to check bags, that’s free too!
The big caveat about Southwest though, is that they just aren’t always cheaper anymore. Their method of distribution–aka how they market and sell their flights–means that you must separately check Southwest prices vs checking Kayak to see how all compare, which does add a step. That step sometimes means they can demand a higher fare (for those folks that don’t bother checking other airlines).
But at the end of the day, Southwest isn’t a bad choice to fly, at least for sub- 2 hour nonstop flights.
What do you think? Is Southwest better than flying domestic economy on the legacy carriers?