I have been flying Southwest airlines since the company first started operating in Washington state. At that time I was going to college in Spokane, WA and often flew home to Portland, Oregon. Southwest consistently had the cheapest flights between the two cities, and I liked flying with them because I knew I'd never end up on one of those smaller planes. (Those give me the heebie-jeebies.)
I always enjoyed my flights between Portland and Spokane, and so I began regularly booking as many of my flights as I could on Southwest. I have flown Southwest flights to California, Nevada, Washington, Utah, and Idaho. I have never flown extremely long flights on the airline, but I am planning on flying from Las Vegas to Providence, Rhode Island this summer, so I'll update you all on how that goes.
One thing I have always appreciated about Southwest is how friendly the employees are. Anyone who has flown a Southwest flight has probably heard the silly antics of the flight attendants who always toss in a bit of humor with the usual, standard emergency exit information. I know some people may not appreciate this humor, but I personally figure any situation that shoves me into such a small, confined space with that many strangers can use a dash of humor. The employees (for the most part) really seem to enjoy their jobs. I have a friend who is a pilot for Southwest, and he really enjoys the company. Happy employees means happy customers, I think.
Many people may not like Southwest's seating arrangement policy. I've often heard it referred to as the "cattle call" system. You are assigned a boarding number when you check in at the gate, and you board the plane in groups of 30, according to your assigned number. This can sometimes be a bit of a "free for all," and is probably not great for people who are always running late. Although I am habitually a late person, and I find that even when I am running behind, I can usually get an aisle seat even if I'm in one of the last boarding groups. (If you like a window seat or are traveling with a group, I'd try to get there early though.)
Which brings me to the newest reason why I LOVE Southwest Airlines. My husband and I had a baby this past June, and my 4 month-old-son has already been on two Southwest flights. (And one United flight as well!) He's quite the little traveler. I really preferred flying Southwest with him, because when you check in at the gate there, they can automatically tell you if the plane is full or not. If it's not full, you're pretty much guaranteed a seat for your infant at zero cost to you! They allow parents to pre-board, and you can just pick a row and put your baby in his own window seat. This was much easier on Southwest then it was on United, where we had to wait and see if there were any open window seats with a middle seat next to them for me.
Also, when I called the Southwest 1-800 number, they were very helpful. I wanted to know which flights tended to be less full, so that I could pick one that would most likely have room for the baby to have his own seat. They were great on advising me as to which flights would probably be less crowded. On all the flight segments we traveled with the baby, we were always able to secure a seat for him, which made the traveling experience nicer (and cheaper) for us.
I also found the Southwest flight attendants to be very friendly and helpful with the parents on the flight. I was a bit nervous on his first flight that the pressure would hurt his ears--and the flight attendant gave me advice on how to help ease his pain. Luckily, my kid seems to be a flying champ and has yet to really fuss on a flight. Still, it was nice to know that the flight attendants were there to help.
Southwest has a fast, easy frequent flyer program. The program works on the basis of flights flown, rather than miles. I think this makes it much faster to earn a free flight, as most of my flights are within the western United States. I have already earned a free flight this year and am working on another. If you buy your tickets through their Internet site, they often will give you DOUBLE credit! That's how I earned my ticket so fast--I only had to fly 4 flights in a year to earn a free ticket.
I really like their web site. You can access flight, reservation, and frequent flyer information. You also can sign up for a free email service where they will send you information on their "internet specials." These can be real deals!! I have flown roundtrip from Las Vegas to Portland, OR on these for between $100-$130!!
All in all, I have been impressed with Southwest. My only negative experience happened while I was 6 months pregnant and I asked a flight attendant to lift my carry on bag into the overhead bin for me, as I was not supposed to be lifting anything due to a history of miscarriage. She kind of gave me a dirty look and said "Oh, I think someone else back there can help you." I am going to just assume that she though I was fat and lazy and not pregnant. I was quite ticked for a while about the incident, but I'm not pregnant anymore...so I'm a little less hormonal and a lot more forgiving! Besides, that one incident is an anomaly in my experience with the airlines.
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