Review: Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 (AUS-FLL)

Review: Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 (AUS-FLL)

FROM: AUS
TO: FLL
CABIN: Economy
DATE: December 2022
REVIEW RATING:
BEN SAYS: While Southwest has a unique business model, my flight left a lot to be desired, between the chaotic boarding, dirty cabin, terrible Wi-Fi, and lack of power outlets and personal device holders.
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For my recent trip to Austin, I flew Spirit Airlines on the outbound, and Southwest Airlines on the return. In this installment I wanted to review the return flight, as it was my first time in years flying with Southwest. I’m not trying to be insensitive by publishing this review right now, as I recognize that there are quite literally millions of people who wanted to take Southwest flights over the holiday, but haven’t been able to.

So, how was my Southwest experience? While I very much appreciate and respect many of Southwest’s policies (two free checked bags, free drinks and snacks, etc.), my experience left a lot to be desired, between non-functioning Wi-Fi, a filthy cabin, and the general lack of amenities.

How I booked my Southwest Airlines ticket

I booked my Southwest Airlines ticket with cash. Specifically, I paid a total of $118.98 for the following flight:

12/11 WN1827 Austin to Fort Lauderdale departing 4:00PM arriving 7:30PM

There’s no denying that this was an exceptional value, when you consider that Southwest Airlines includes free carry-ons, two free checked begs, tickets changes without fees (credits never expire), etc. For passengers without elite status who are checking bags, flying with Southwest is a no-brainer in many cases.

It’s worth noting that I was initially excited that my flight would be operated by a Boeing 737 MAX 8. However, the day before departure, my flight got swapped to a Boeing 737-800.

Southwest Airlines check-in & boarding

I arrived at Austin Airport roughly 90 minutes before departure. I wasn’t checking a bag, so I could skip the Southwest Airlines check-in counter. The counter seemed to be operating pretty smoothly, though, for those checking bags.

Southwest Airlines check-in counter Austin Airport

Austin Airport was busy on the Sunday afternoon that I was traveling. I’m not sure what exactly to make of the airport — it seemed pretty nice overall, and there’s a good selection of food & beverage outlets, yet there was something that felt odd about the terminal. I can’t quite pinpoint it, though.

Terminal at Austin Airport

My flight was scheduled to depart at 4PM, with boarding scheduled for 3:30PM. Southwest operates many “direct” flights, where a flight has the same flight number, but has a stop (or multiple stops). Unlike other airlines in the United States, Southwest lets passengers stay onboard the plane if they’re booked all the way through on one of these direct flights.

In this case, the same flight number originated in Los Angeles. The direct flight was operating all the way from Los Angeles (LAX) to Austin (AUS) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Washington (DCA). Hopefully no one was booked on all three segments. 😉 On this particular flight, there were roughly 15 people traveling from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale via Austin, who stayed on the plane.

The plane arrived at the gate shortly after 3PM. My flight was operated by a roughly 11 year old Boeing 737-800 with the registration code N8301J.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 Austin Airport

In the previous installment of this series I wrote all about Southwest Airlines’ boarding process, which is unique.

Southwest Airlines departure gate

In the interest of full disclosure, I had reached out to Southwest’s communications team in advance to ask about the possibility of pre-boarding, so I could snap a few pictures of the cabin while respecting the privacy of other passengers. Otherwise this is nearly impossible, given Southwest’s boarding process.

They kindly obliged. For what it’s worth, I was in boarding position B16. Out of respect for those with status and those who paid for priority boarding, I just took an aisle seat behind the wing, which I should have been able get based on my boarding position (some were still empty roughly halfway through the boarding process).

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin & seats

Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737-800s feature a total of 175 seats, in a standard 3-3 configuration. I’d say the interior was somewhat updated, in the sense that it had mood lighting and modern leather seats, but it didn’t feature the larger overhead bins you’ll find on the latest generation 737s.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin

On the plus side, I found legroom to be excellent for “standard” economy. Southwest allegedly has a minimum of 32″ of pitch, so the seats felt noticeably not tight (I wouldn’t say any economy seats are “spacious,” but there was definitely more room than on other airlines).

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 legroom
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 legroom

I appreciated how the seats had proper headrests with “widgets,” so that you could easily get your head pretty comfortable.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 legroom

Each seat also had a literature pocket, plus a full-size tray table.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 seatback
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 tray tables

Unfortunately other than that, the seats are pretty bare bones:

  • Southwest Airlines doesn’t currently have power outlets on any planes; the airline plans to start installing these in 2023
  • Not only does Southwest lack seatback entertainment, but the airline doesn’t have personal device holders, as you’ll find on many other airlines

I find it strange how Southwest is seemingly stuck in its ways, and seems to be the last to update its interiors with useful amenities, even when it’s clear that something will have long-term value.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 seats

Each seat had a reading light and an air nozzle.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 overhead console

The overhead bins were updated compared to the 737 bins we saw a decade ago, but weren’t as large as you’ll find on newer jets.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 overhead bins

For those with low enough boarding positions to secure an exit row, Southwest has three rows of seats around the overwing exits. There are two full sets of rows, plus one row with two seats on each side, rather than three.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 exit row seating

Seats 16A and 16F are probably among the most popular, as they feature virtually unlimited legroom. Those traveling with just one other person may appreciate 15B and 15C, as well as 15D and 15E. While these seats don’t have much extra legroom, it’s nice to not have to sit next to a stranger.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 exit row seating

Then the forward exit row (row 14) featured significantly more legroom than standard seats.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 exit row seating

One thing that stood out to me upon boarding was how filthy the cabin was. On these “direct” flights, it seems that the cabin isn’t really cleaned in any way. The flight attendants work hard to “tidy” the cabin by crossing the seatbelts, but that seemed to be it. I was amazed by how the carpet looked, and the general lack of cleaning in the cabin. This had to be one of the dirtiest cabins I’ve seen in some time (and that’s saying a lot).

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin dirty
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin dirty
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin dirty

Southwest Airlines departure from Austin

I know people have varying opinions on Southwest’s boarding process, and my opinion evolved as the process continued. For the first 15 minutes it seemed incredibly orderly and efficient, as people were boarding in a rush, clearly trying to snag good seats. That’s a good thing.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 cabin

Unfortunately after that it just became a huge mess. This flight was nearly full (170 of 175 seats were occupied). Lots of people ended up in the back of the cabin, and then had to walk toward the front of the cabin, which obviously isn’t easy.

Then you had parents separated from children, to the point that the flight attendants were making announcements to offer free drinks to anyone who was willing to switch seats.

Even though boarding started on-time, it ended up taking 40 minutes, and the door only closed at 4:10PM. At that point the captain announced our flight time of 2hr9min.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 wing view

We pushed back within minutes, at which point the crew performed their manual safety demonstration. While Southwest is known for sometimes having humorous crews, this one was definitely more “by the book.”

We ended up taking off from Austin at 4:30PM. The seatbelt sign was turned off about 20 minutes after takeoff.

Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi

Once airborne, I tried to connect to Southwest Airlines’ Wi-Fi network. The airline charges just $8 for an all-day Wi-Fi pass, which is reasonable pricing, since it applies regardless of the route and whether you’re taking multiple flights.

Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi portal
Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi portal

Connecting to the Wi-Fi was easy.

Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi portal

Unfortunately actually using the Wi-Fi was a different story. It worked for the first 30 minutes, but was extremely slow, to the point that it was almost unusable. Then for the rest of the flight it was fully unusable.

I was under the impression that Southwest’s Wi-Fi was mostly pretty reliable, so I had planned on working the entire flight, and didn’t load any other entertainment.

I had stupidly left my headphones at home on this trip (that was a mistake, as I always take them). So my inflight entertainment ended up being overhearing the college girl behind me cry for much of the flight about how her boyfriend broke up with her nine days ago. Oy.

Southwest Airlines food & drink selection

Southwest Airlines takes an interesting approach to its food & beverage service. The airline offers non-alcoholic drinks and snack mix for free (on longer flights snack boxes are offered, but there’s no fresh food), and has alcoholic drinks available for purchase. You can find the menu below.

Southwest Airlines drink menu
Southwest Airlines drink menu

Tthe airline doesn’t sell any food beyond what’s offered for free, which seems to me like a missed revenue and customer experience opportunity. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to buy either a larger snack or something fresh.

Furthermore, Southwest doesn’t use beverage carts, but rather flight attendants use trays. Each of the flight attendants is responsible for one “section” of the plane. They come around and ask each person what they’d like to drink, and then they later bring it on a tray that can hold roughly a dozen drinks. Those who purchase alcohol only get charged after the entire service is complete, as flight attendants come around with their card readers at the end of the flight.

I ordered a Diet Coke to drink, which was served with snack mix.

Southwest Airlines drink & snack
Southwest Airlines snack mix

The crew was totally fine — they weren’t rude, but they weren’t also overly friendly. They did their duties, but that’s about it.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 cabin

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 lavatories

Southwest Airlines has three lavatories on Boeing 737-800s, with one in the front and two in the back. Toward the end of the flight I visited the lavatory in the back. It was in reasonably good condition, especially given how the rest of the plane looked.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 lavatory
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 lavatory soap

Southwest Airlines arrival in Fort Lauderdale

At 6:30PM EST (nearly halfway through the flight) the captain announced that we’d be encountering some significant turbulence, so he turned on the seatbelt sign for around 30 minutes. There didn’t end up being a single bump, though I can appreciate the desire to be safe rather than sorry.

At around 7:20PM EST the captain announced we’d be landing in around 30 minutes. We began our descent a few minutes after that, at which point the seatbelt sign was turned on. We ended up touching down at 7:50PM and were at the gate a few minutes after that, about 25 minutes behind schedule.

What I found interesting was how slow the deplaning process was, as it took 15 minutes from the time we arrived at the gate until I was able to deplane in row 20. I’m not sure what was going on, but clearly people used up all their sense of urgency for the day during the boarding process, rather than during the deplaning process.

Bottom line

I really appreciate what Southwest brings to the market (well, when the airline is operating reliably), as the airline holds both ultra low cost and legacy airlines accountable with its change fee policy, two free checked bags, and more.

That being said, my experience of actually flying with Southwest left a lot to be desired — the cabin was filthy, the boarding process was chaotic, the Wi-Fi barely worked, and I don’t understand the carrier’s lack of power outlets and personal device holders. For my own purposes, I’m also not a fan of the boarding process, as I like to know in advance where I’ll sit.

So while I’m happy that Southwest exists (after all, the airline carries more domestic passengers than any other airline), it’s an airline I don’t plan on flying with much in the future. If I’m going to avoid flying with a legacy airline, personally I prefer Spirit Airlines’ Big Front Seat.

Let me emphasize, however, that I think for many travelers Southwest continues to be a great option. If your alternative is flying economy on Frontier or Spirit, then Southwest offers a meaningfully better product.

If you’ve flown Southwest, what was your experience like?

Conversations (37)
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  1. Jocelyn Guest

    Wonder if Southwest has life rafts and how many

  2. Super Bonk 3000 Guest

    WN is consistently more expensive than DL/AA/US ex-ATL. That and their weak no-alliance freq flyer program, no interlining, no seat assignments (I haven't noticed any difference in boarding times WN vs AA, e.g.) means I've been a WN nope since early 2020.

  3. Javan Guest

    My main gripe about Southwest-related articles: I wish people would quit acting like boarding a WN flight is rocket science. If your boarding group and number are called, line up. If not, literally just stay seated…

    Otherwise, this is a decent article. But I want to dissect a few things point-by-point:

    Aircraft swaps: I was also looking forward to flying a MAX recently. But I too was swapped for an -800, which, unfortunately, is at...

    My main gripe about Southwest-related articles: I wish people would quit acting like boarding a WN flight is rocket science. If your boarding group and number are called, line up. If not, literally just stay seated…

    Otherwise, this is a decent article. But I want to dissect a few things point-by-point:

    Aircraft swaps: I was also looking forward to flying a MAX recently. But I too was swapped for an -800, which, unfortunately, is at the airline’s discretion and based on routing and availability; the aircraft are set up so that a MAX and an -800 are a 1:1 swap. Only airline enthusiasts would know the difference, let alone care.

    Dirty cabins: I’ve been flying WN nearly my whole life, and I’ve never seen a cabin like that. That actually should’ve resulted in a write-up. But given the rapid growth of the airline over the last few years, I’d like to see them allow more time for a thorough clean.

    Boarding: as I’ve said, I’ve flown WN my whole life. I have family who works for the company, so they’ve funded my rather privileged childhood. However, the airline was much more regional and niche back then, not the 6th largest in the world like it is today. So while the boarding process—nearly identical to the legacies and other airlines I’ve flown over the years—is not rocket science, I would like to see them introduce assigned seating. Never have I seen any brawls occur despite the heavily-announced policy, but I personally prefer paying to choose my seat, over the ~$40 upgrade to the “A” boarding group.

    Food: too many people seem to miss the point of what separates a low-cost carrier from the rest—food service raises operating costs. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing them add even a few small packages for purchase, even if it’s only bound to flights over a certain distance/number of hours like JetBlue. A little more insider knowledge: the use of carts vs. no carts was controversial among staff around 2012 when new service concepts were being explored to introduce the -800. Further, crew manners and “jokes” during the PA, something WN was known for mostly during the Herb era, took a massive hit due to the weakened staff morale at the company (much longer story), especially if the staff who are holding the airline together are being thrown under the bus publicly at every turn. Not excusing it, but that’s the reality.

    IFE: WN needs powered seating. Full stop.

    Behind the scenes: Herb is spinning in his grave seeing what his company has become and the kinds of people that are running it. Southwest is too massive of an airline to be so behind the curve on some of the most basic requests of even *coach* passengers. However, I also need people to quit being so entitled as to expect legacy carrier offerings from low-cost airlines (wanting champagne, but paying for Coke). Unfortunately, that radiates a little from this article.

    All of that to say—and these are things I’ve learned the hard way—is that I’m generally not wanting to pigeonhole a particular airline just because of a handful of experiences or personal preferences. They’re just that: experiences and preferences. I’ve flown United domestic economy and American domestic first class, as was about as unimpressed as the author is here; now as a mid 30-something, I’m a massive snob with expensive tastes, and find that JSX runs circles around any traditional airline any day of the week. Ultimately, it’s all a matter of what you’re wanting out of your travel experience. But let’s also be realistic…

    I have every incentive to root for WN as a company, so I really want to see them upgrade everything from their management software, which caused the two recent meltdowns after years of warning, to their inflight offerings. WN rightly has a loyal following, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have something even better.

  4. Lorenzo 39 Guest

    Count me in the never WN crowd. Last time I paid for early boarding, there were 20+ thru's already on board and--count 'em--58 pre-boards. They're notorious for not updating flight information until mebbe 15 minutes before scheduled departure, so they're on-time until they're not. In weather delays, I got different answers from every gate agent I spoke with.
    And, they're NEVER the lowest cost option anymore...at MCI, frequently MUCH higher.

  5. Jorge Gonzalez Guest

    I've been a WN fan for about 10 years and I'm happy with what I get when I fly with them. I never check bags so that doesn't influence my decision but I love the boarding process. The seats are comfortable and I don't need the wifi. I use my rapid rewards points to fly and I've only paid twice for a flight. The best thing is to be able to change, cancel or rebook...

    I've been a WN fan for about 10 years and I'm happy with what I get when I fly with them. I never check bags so that doesn't influence my decision but I love the boarding process. The seats are comfortable and I don't need the wifi. I use my rapid rewards points to fly and I've only paid twice for a flight. The best thing is to be able to change, cancel or rebook flights. When i buy a ticket i continuously check the price and if the fare drops I can change to the new fare without any trouble. Who else offers that?
    Other airlines like Delta, American, and United don't offer as much legroom, seats are cramped, and they have mediocre service. I would rather take Greyhound than Spirit or Frontier. But my new favorite airline is jetBlue. But regretfully they don't have many flights out of ATL.

  6. N1120A Guest

    People need to get over the boarding process at this point. In many ways, it is quite a bit more orderly than the carriers with their groups and various lines. You are A26? You're ahead of A27 and behind A25. That simple. Take the seat you prefer. I prefer it for an airline that I don't have status on and don't want to pay for a seat on.

    It also drives revenue, as they...

    People need to get over the boarding process at this point. In many ways, it is quite a bit more orderly than the carriers with their groups and various lines. You are A26? You're ahead of A27 and behind A25. That simple. Take the seat you prefer. I prefer it for an airline that I don't have status on and don't want to pay for a seat on.

    It also drives revenue, as they sell EarlyBird check in - sometime I bet Ben would have bought if he hadn't talked to the communications team. They also encourage early check in for boarding position, even without EarlyBird, which also helps efficiency.

    I suspect the reason you don't see fresh food and bigger snacks is because Southwest self caters everything. Their catering is done by their own employees and is taken from their stocks at each airport. It is very efficient, reduces delays due to third party caterers and saves a boat load of money. I'd imagine that Southwest would have to change a ton of infrastructure to continue doing such with more substantial food offerings. Best to get something in the airport or bring your own.

    I'm a 1K MM on United and an EXP on AA. I still value WN for short flights, at least when I'm not flying my own airplanes, and that is where they are really stellar (at least when their luddite approach to internal technology doesn't get in the way). Living at an Alaska focus, I tend to lean toward them for intra California short hauls now, but WN has come to my aid plenty of times.

    1. Javan Guest

      This is the correct take. People complain about the boarding process compared to other airlines because it makes them feel better I guess? There's hardly a difference other than the lack of assigned seating...which is after you've already boarded. But as I've said on another outlet: most people also can't read maps.

  7. Frank Guest

    I find it peculiar how you are hung up about Direct Flights; it is fairly simple, all Non-Stops are Direct Flights however not all Direct Flights are Non-Stops

  8. Mike Tullier Guest

    I fly Southwest all the time. I also fly American. You have to get used to the boarding. The secret is checking in exactly 24 hours ahead on line.

    Also love that I do not have to pay anything and can watch live TV as well as great movies. I usually watch a sports game or if I have a long flight then a movie. As for the planes being dirty… I have never...

    I fly Southwest all the time. I also fly American. You have to get used to the boarding. The secret is checking in exactly 24 hours ahead on line.

    Also love that I do not have to pay anything and can watch live TV as well as great movies. I usually watch a sports game or if I have a long flight then a movie. As for the planes being dirty… I have never see a plane like the pictures and I fly weekly.

    The flight attendants are always more personable on Southwest. If you fly often you should take Southwest more you will see a huge difference. Reading your blog it is obvious you rarely have flown Southwest and I feel your review was harder because of this. I do agree that the planes need to be updated for power for laptops as well as the luggage compartments.

    I just googled and saw that Southwest is updating their planes with both. They also had a bunch of new planes a Boeing Max 7 that were supposedly coming out last year but were never approved by the Government. Thanks for your blog. I will do my American review next. ;)

  9. Jim Guest

    I fly SWA all the time
    Obviously I don't have the eye or interest in things that a travel critic has , but I AM a huge analyzer of customer service and Southwest has only rarely been below excellent for me.
    I DO look at the floor before putting my personal item under the seat - I've never seen anything close to resembling the photo you showed .
    Someone else commented close...

    I fly SWA all the time
    Obviously I don't have the eye or interest in things that a travel critic has , but I AM a huge analyzer of customer service and Southwest has only rarely been below excellent for me.
    I DO look at the floor before putting my personal item under the seat - I've never seen anything close to resembling the photo you showed .
    Someone else commented close to the following "it's hard to believe people need so much for such a short time"
    I TOTALLY AGREE
    If you are a Fortune 500 CEO or a corporate big shot who needs connectivity 24/7 , yes Southwest might fall short for you.
    If you are a normal person getting from A to B, you probably can be fine with what SWA offers

    My comment to the crew is usually "excellent as always" - and it's true at least 85 percent of the time

    I DO AGREE the off boarding is long, but that is mostly depending on the passengers

    SWA SERIOUSLY NEEDS REVAMP AND UPDATE OF tech support systems- that is a serious issue and must be rectified immediately
    But that has never effected me personally in my travels

  10. Jessie Guest

    I don’t appreciate the dirty cabin but other than that I think southwest is a good airline. Only carrier not charging for seats, free snacks and 2 free bags and I can definitely say better than spirit and frontier for sure !
    Btw all aircrafts will be updated in 2023 with newer seats, bigger overhead bins, outlets and if I remember correctly Wi-Fi

  11. Ricport Member

    I try to avoid WN like the plague. no assigned seats, chaotic boarding where you get to fight for seats like a pack of starving raccoons over a trash can, dirty planes, staff that use the PA to try out their comedy routines, no upgrades and the chance to earn FF cattle/class reward tix to exotic destinations like Amarillo and Providence. Add into that their stubborn refusal to upgrade their technology (which blew up in...

    I try to avoid WN like the plague. no assigned seats, chaotic boarding where you get to fight for seats like a pack of starving raccoons over a trash can, dirty planes, staff that use the PA to try out their comedy routines, no upgrades and the chance to earn FF cattle/class reward tix to exotic destinations like Amarillo and Providence. Add into that their stubborn refusal to upgrade their technology (which blew up in their face spectacularly these past few days) and their far-too-cosy shenanigans with FAA inspectors.

    1. Javan Guest

      This has to be one of the most ignorant, "pulling crap out of thin air" comments ever.

  12. Andy211 Guest

    I don't fly enough on any one airline to earn elite status. As a non-elite, the hubris of the legacy carriers has grated on me for years; I'm talking about basic economy, baggage fees, seat fees, and (former) change fees. WN has consistently delivered a more friendly package than AA, UA and DL for me. I've never once been prodded by WN ground staff to gate-check a carry-on; that happens often on AA even in...

    I don't fly enough on any one airline to earn elite status. As a non-elite, the hubris of the legacy carriers has grated on me for years; I'm talking about basic economy, baggage fees, seat fees, and (former) change fees. WN has consistently delivered a more friendly package than AA, UA and DL for me. I've never once been prodded by WN ground staff to gate-check a carry-on; that happens often on AA even in group 6. From my home airport, WN also connects non-stop to the most cities. I'm happy to give them my business; I fly AA, UA, or DL only when I have to.

    Southwest's Christmas meltdown was not fun to watch. I'm rooting for them to get better technology in place.

  13. seba224 Guest

    Onboard service better than on almost all european 'legacy' airlines. The only free service you receive on Lufthansa, Swiss, SAS is water. Sometimes nothing at all.

  14. Fred S Guest

    Any day of the week, I’d rather pay out of pocket for an assigned seat, Even More X, first class, etc that scrum for a seat with whomever managed to snag a boarding something something? I get the egalitarian thing might appeal to some, but I’d rather eat my own toenails.

  15. Dave Guest

    I am SAT based and have flown WN extensively from coast to coast over the past decade for business and pleasure with few problems. The frequency of flights and point-to-point network work very well for me, especially not living with a hub airport. The personnel can be mixed, and I do feel a bit less friendly lately, especially on my most recent trip in early December, but for the most part well intentioned, and occasionally...

    I am SAT based and have flown WN extensively from coast to coast over the past decade for business and pleasure with few problems. The frequency of flights and point-to-point network work very well for me, especially not living with a hub airport. The personnel can be mixed, and I do feel a bit less friendly lately, especially on my most recent trip in early December, but for the most part well intentioned, and occasionally extraordinary (particularly the SAN ground crew, in my experience). Extensive streaming entertainment and avgeek resources (flight tracking; videos; flight information) is all available on their app. Interesting connecting airports also add to avkeekness. As an aside, has anyone gotten their drink coupons lately? I have not seen them for a while.

  16. Snit Fitzpatrick Guest

    I'm from Atlanta and have lived in Houston since 1994.When Eastern and Delta had a monopoly before WN started flying out of there.I used to DRIVE to Birmingham to fly here because it was so much cheaper.Back in the late'70's/80's when I spent a lot of time traveling with a band especially in Texas it was great to fly between Texas cities for $24 or Off Peak $16.As the world has changed so has WN.I...

    I'm from Atlanta and have lived in Houston since 1994.When Eastern and Delta had a monopoly before WN started flying out of there.I used to DRIVE to Birmingham to fly here because it was so much cheaper.Back in the late'70's/80's when I spent a lot of time traveling with a band especially in Texas it was great to fly between Texas cities for $24 or Off Peak $16.As the world has changed so has WN.I still fly them out of HOU almost never with any issues.However I have had boarding hassles with them in places that may not be up to speed.I'd still rather use them out of HOU instead of driving to IAH.I'm sure all the nightmares of the last few days will cost them some customers but I'll continue to fly with them

  17. Weymar Osborne Gold

    Any reason you flew out of and into FLL despite both WN and NK flying to AUS out of MIA?

  18. GringoLoco Gold

    Flying WN and *NOT* having a Wild Turkey could lead to revocation of your AVGEEK status and/or a visit from Herb's ghost!

  19. Loren Guest

    I've flown Southwest more times than I can count over the past decade (they're VERY active here in San Diego) and that is the worst looking cabin i've ever seen. I have never seen such filth in any of their cabins.

    Traditionally their flight attendants are very friendly and engaging so I'm also a little surprised they were just meh for a change. Its good to see they're still very efficient and I've even had...

    I've flown Southwest more times than I can count over the past decade (they're VERY active here in San Diego) and that is the worst looking cabin i've ever seen. I have never seen such filth in any of their cabins.

    Traditionally their flight attendants are very friendly and engaging so I'm also a little surprised they were just meh for a change. Its good to see they're still very efficient and I've even had full drink service (complete with alcohol) on short flights from San Diego to Vegas where they got through a full (or 90% full) flight.

    Sounds like a pretty poor experience and that's really not what I've experienced in Southwest so I'm sorry for that.

  20. Jason Guest

    SW has the absolute worst WiFi service...when it is working, the connection speed is so slow nothing but an occasional email is possible.

  21. Rob Guest

    I am a regular Southwest flyer but will not sacrifice convenience or schedule to do so, and your experience largely tracks what I am used to. However, the boarding experience you describe - with "chaos" toward the end with people struggling to find seats and the plane pushing off the gate 10 minutes late - is not something I've generally observed. In my (admittedly anecdotal) experience, the boarding process seems to take less time than...

    I am a regular Southwest flyer but will not sacrifice convenience or schedule to do so, and your experience largely tracks what I am used to. However, the boarding experience you describe - with "chaos" toward the end with people struggling to find seats and the plane pushing off the gate 10 minutes late - is not something I've generally observed. In my (admittedly anecdotal) experience, the boarding process seems to take less time than on the legacy carriers. I think that something that goes into that general observation is that there is mostly room for all passengers' bags in the overhead, probably because everyone who wants to check a bag can do so at no charge. I can recall only rare instances of seeing the plane held up to check someone's bag because it wouldn't fit in the bins. That is definitely not my experience when flying other airlines, where my bag fitting in the overhead is a source of stress until I'm on board and past all of the gate lice slowly closing in on the gate as each subsequent group is called.

  22. Stuart Guest

    Like many people that have posted, I don’t mind southwest for short flights. I usually enjoy interacting with their staff as I find them friendlier than the other options in the US. All though, the one thing that did stick out in this review is how dirty that cabin is. I never enjoy sitting someone for 2 hours and 9 minutes where I can visibly see filth.

  23. JS Guest

    Say what you want to say about how efficient or inefficient Southwest Airlines is (excluding what's currently happening) - I fly Dallas to Austin and vice versa on both Southwest and AA regularly. It's funny to me how on a full B737 on either airline, the Southwest flight attendant crew can take drink orders for the entire plane and have everyone the drink of their choice on the very short 35 minute flight time. Hell,...

    Say what you want to say about how efficient or inefficient Southwest Airlines is (excluding what's currently happening) - I fly Dallas to Austin and vice versa on both Southwest and AA regularly. It's funny to me how on a full B737 on either airline, the Southwest flight attendant crew can take drink orders for the entire plane and have everyone the drink of their choice on the very short 35 minute flight time. Hell, I've even had a re-fill before on my vodka tonic! Meanwhile, on AA, for whatever reason, their flight attendant crew can't seem to manage this same task. You're lucky if you get a small bottle of water that barely wets your whistle!! This leads to me think that the "take your order and serve on a tray methodology" that Southwest uses is much more efficient than the cart/beverage service that AA offers. Or - maybe the AA flight attendants are just lazy and don't want to hustle?? I don't know? End of the day, all I can say is that I can easily get 1 - sometimes 2 cocktails on the short DAL-AUS flight when I can't get anything on the same DFW-AUS flight on AA. Hmmmmm.

    1. BradStPete Diamond

      I couldnt agree more. TPA-JAX on WN everyone gets a drink. MIA-TPA on AA...not even a smirk. Similar if not identical flight duration.

    2. Sue Mitchell Guest

      Seems funny to me people need anything in that short amount of time!!

    3. JS Guest

      @Sue - it was just a point I was making to demonstrate how typically, Southwest is more efficient (again, typically) in their operations than the legacy airlines and also to point out that their flight crews generally are much more willing to provide service to the customer - albeit a drink on a very short flight.

      Perhaps you should loosen up and try a cocktail yourself sometime?? :)

  24. grichard Guest

    Hey, this was a great nostalgia post. I remember Southwest! Weren't they an airline that used to carry a lot of domestic traffic here in the US?

    1. Jason Guest

      haha. it currently carries more domestic passengers than any other US airline, this week notwithstanding

  25. Scudder Diamond

    The terminal at AUS is lame because the whole town, while trying to ‘keep weird’, has become an oasis for lame tech bros who desperately want to be ‘cool’.

  26. Bagoly Guest

    Do you think they watch other airlines, such as Ryanair?
    Ryanair initially had no seat assignments either, but then added seat-allocation in advance; I understand less to make money out of preferred seats than because they worked out that made boarding faster overall.

  27. Syd Guest

    that's a great review.
    Never had a chance to fly Southwest and can't say that disappoints me, likely won't seek to fly them in the future either, but kinda want to book a "out of curiosity" flight (albeit a much shorter one than AUS - FLL) just to see what it's all about.

    1. Jason Guest

      (normally when they're not melting down) they're great for short hops on the west coast (think LA-SF, LA-Oakland, LA-Vegas, etc), short hops on the east coast (BWI-BOS), short Texas flights, or midwest flights. There's probably something you can try. I dont mind flying them for short flights but for long flights I probably wouldnt do it. The main exception is from DCA to Austin. They're the only nonstop from DCA (although there are nonstops from...

      (normally when they're not melting down) they're great for short hops on the west coast (think LA-SF, LA-Oakland, LA-Vegas, etc), short hops on the east coast (BWI-BOS), short Texas flights, or midwest flights. There's probably something you can try. I dont mind flying them for short flights but for long flights I probably wouldnt do it. The main exception is from DCA to Austin. They're the only nonstop from DCA (although there are nonstops from Dulles but that's a pain), and it works well. Once you know how they work they're fine and in general they deliver exactly what they promise. But in general their schedule and network doesnt work for my needs. That's more a function of where I live than just about anything else, though.

    2. Loren Guest

      FWIW I've done San Diego to Nashville/Fort Lauderdale/Chicago and they're pretty solid but its definitely where their lack of food etc can be harmful if you're not planning ahead. The entertainment remains decent (minus the lack of seatback entertainment but not that many have that). They're definitely best for short (max 150min) flights but longer hauls they're not too bad as long as you prepare. Only place I'd likely never fly with them to is...

      FWIW I've done San Diego to Nashville/Fort Lauderdale/Chicago and they're pretty solid but its definitely where their lack of food etc can be harmful if you're not planning ahead. The entertainment remains decent (minus the lack of seatback entertainment but not that many have that). They're definitely best for short (max 150min) flights but longer hauls they're not too bad as long as you prepare. Only place I'd likely never fly with them to is Hawaii - that's just a nope.

      And yeah this is definitely not the week/weekend to judge SWA since this just seems like an absolute clusterbleep. They're routinely a solid airline.

    3. Michael Guest

      It completely depends on your circumstances. My home airport is BWI, and I'm normally traveling to New England. Even if I'm not taking them up on the free checked bags (very rare that I do), Southwest or Amtrak are the travel options that make the most sense.

    4. Javan Guest

      If you do fly WN, there's a 95% percent chance it'll be the opposite of what's written in this blog.

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Bagoly Guest

Do you think they watch other airlines, such as Ryanair? Ryanair initially had no seat assignments either, but then added seat-allocation in advance; I understand less to make money out of preferred seats than because they worked out that made boarding faster overall.

2
N1120A Guest

People need to get over the boarding process at this point. In many ways, it is quite a bit more orderly than the carriers with their groups and various lines. You are A26? You're ahead of A27 and behind A25. That simple. Take the seat you prefer. I prefer it for an airline that I don't have status on and don't want to pay for a seat on. It also drives revenue, as they sell EarlyBird check in - sometime I bet Ben would have bought if he hadn't talked to the communications team. They also encourage early check in for boarding position, even without EarlyBird, which also helps efficiency. I suspect the reason you don't see fresh food and bigger snacks is because Southwest self caters everything. Their catering is done by their own employees and is taken from their stocks at each airport. It is very efficient, reduces delays due to third party caterers and saves a boat load of money. I'd imagine that Southwest would have to change a ton of infrastructure to continue doing such with more substantial food offerings. Best to get something in the airport or bring your own. I'm a 1K MM on United and an EXP on AA. I still value WN for short flights, at least when I'm not flying my own airplanes, and that is where they are really stellar (at least when their luddite approach to internal technology doesn't get in the way). Living at an Alaska focus, I tend to lean toward them for intra California short hauls now, but WN has come to my aid plenty of times.

1
Ricport Member

I try to avoid WN like the plague. no assigned seats, chaotic boarding where you get to fight for seats like a pack of starving raccoons over a trash can, dirty planes, staff that use the PA to try out their comedy routines, no upgrades and the chance to earn FF cattle/class reward tix to exotic destinations like Amarillo and Providence. Add into that their stubborn refusal to upgrade their technology (which blew up in their face spectacularly these past few days) and their far-too-cosy shenanigans with FAA inspectors.

1
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