Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Trip Report: Southwest Airlines, domestic

A Trip Report: Southwest Airlines, domestic
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

Southwest Airlines started out as a local airline in Texas, providing inexpensive fares to people to move across the big state.  They were the pioneers of the low-cost model as they use one-type of plane, make multiple stops, fly to a mix of primary and secondary airports, and have basic on-board service.  As Southwest has grown from a local to a national airline (and now international with the absorption of AirTran), some of their services had to adapt to fit their new model.  They are still committed to their low-cost model and providing good services at a low-cost, and this is why I continue to fly with them.  I have flown with Southwest many times, a lot on short-haul and some on medium-haul, and there are some aspects which are great and some which are not as great. 

My most recent experience with Southwest was on their short-haul flight from New Orleans to Atlanta, and return.  This route, and the Atlanta hub, is something Southwest inherited from their takeover of AirTran and puts Southwest in direct competition with Delta.  On this route, Southwest and Delta compare evenly in terms of ticket price.  In terms of other services, Southwest fares better on some aspects and Delta on others.

Delta has more flight options throughout the day and you can earn miles that can be redeemed through any SkyTeam partner; however, the Delta ticket only covers your seat as you have to pay for ancillary fares (checked baggage, selecting a seat).  Southwest does not have as many flights, especially direct flights, but the ticket prices includes 2 free bags + 2 carry-ons; no change fees (you just pay the fare difference, if there is one, or you receive a credit for a future flight); price adjustment if there is a sale and the price drops lower; and access to free live TV through their on-board wifi.  Delta charges a heavy change fee of $200 plus any fare difference, and sometimes the change fee is higher than the ticket price itself.  Delta also flies a variety of planes on this route, from MD-80s to Airbus A320s to Boeing 737s and to some this is a positive while to others this is a negative (because you never know what you are going to get).  As part of their low-cost model, Southwest only flies Boeing 737s, either 700 or 800, so you know what you are going to get.  Both offer complimentary drinks and usually a small snack (peanuts/pretzels on Southwest – on longer flights they also offer chips and crackers – and Biscoff cookies on Delta), and Delta has started to introduce free TV on their planes either through PTV’s or through their app.  Because of the sale fares, the additional complimentary aspects that are included in your ticket, and the low cost I have tended to travel on Southwest for this route.  

I have travelled this route many times, and the experience has been consistent.  The airline offers low prices, basic services, and good customer service.  What varies are the fares and the planes, in terms of seat comfort and seat pitch, as well as the flight timings.  I usually take the last non-stop out of New Orleans and the flight time keeps fluctuating; it hovers between 6:30 and 7:30p but changes frequently within that hour.  For this flight, my flight was scheduled to take off at 6:55pm.  With Southwest’s model, their planes operate a number of different routes so while this does provide more access, it also means more delays as if one sector is delayed then all the sectors are delayed.  On this date, our incoming flight from Dallas (Love Field) was delayed so our flight to Atlanta was delayed.  The plane landed around our original scheduled departure time, and we were asked to line up.  Southwest does not assign seats - at check-in you are assigned a Group letter and a number and you board accordingly. Once on board you can choose any open seat.  While this concept allows you to choose your seat, it is a pain to stand in line and wait and then get on board and wait again as passengers play musical chairs and assess the best seat.

Southwest does board quickly and have quick turnaround times (another aspect of their LCC model) so we pushed back from the gate at 7:35pm.  The plane on this sector was a Boeing 737-700 and was an older plane.  Southwest usually operates these planes on their short-haul sector, as the seat comfort is low and the seat pitch is tight.  The seats are fine for the short-haul but after a while they can become very uncomfortable.  Once we reach cruising altitude, the cabin crew came by to take your drink order and hand out pretzels/peanuts.  Southwest provides complimentary drinks and you can access TV through your personal device using Southwest wifi.  The flight was relatively uneventful and as soon as the drinks were passed out we were starting our decent into Atlanta.

The return flight was equally uneventful and was similar to the first leg except for one difference – the plane.  The return flight was operated by a Boeing 737-800 and it was a newer plane.  This plane had a better seat comfort and a better seat pitch.  This type of plane Southwest usually reserves for their long-haul, but the plane had come from Los Angeles to Atlanta and was now flying Atlanta to New Orleans.  The newer plane also had the Boeing Skyline interior and had a nicer, cleaner look.  Again, after the drinks were passed out it we were starting our decent into New Orleans.

Overall, Southwest Airlines provides a good, consistent customer service; usually low fares which include complimentary services; and good overall experience.  Another good thing about Southwest is given their expansion, they have not lost sight of their core beliefs which made their model successful and this will continue to make them successful in the future.    There are tradeoffs when flying with Southwest, but if you are willing to take the gamble you will have a pleasant flying experience.

1 comment:

  1. I am very happy to discover your post as it will become on top in my collection of favorite blogs to visit. airline