It’s safe to say that Southwest Airlines is nothing if not unique. Between the unassigned seating and free checked bags, it certainly operates very differently from legacy carriers like United and Delta. Personally, I’ve flown Southwest for most of my trips in the past two and a half years, and this year alone, I have a southwest flight almost every month. And here is why Southwest has become my favorite airline.
The Companion Pass
Ah, the famous companion pass. It is no doubt the best reward Southwest has to offer. While getting to 110,000 points in a year is not easy, I find it to be the easiest “airline status” to earn. I could write a whole article about the companion pass, but the bottom line is, it’s relatively easy to earn and amazing to use.
Southwest’s companion pass allows you to fly a companion for just taxes and fees (usually only $5.60), with no limits. At this point, I must have flown over a dozen flights with my partner only paying $5.60. The best part is, the companion pass works with reward bookings too. This is an especially great feature because the 110,000 points you need to earn a companion pass does not get taken away once you earn it. You can still use those points to book flights! When I fly domestically with my partner, I routinely pay $22.40 for two round trip flights. I truly cannot think of a more rewarding travel perk, and this brings me to my next point.
Easy to Use Reward Points
Reward points redemption can only be used on flights, and the points needed for a flight is based on the cash fare. There are definitely pros and cons to this model.
Many travel hacking blogs are quick to point out that this model does not usually allow for sweet spots because points always correlate to cash fares. However, with no blackout dates and Southwest’s frequent sales (literally almost every Tuesday through Thursday), if you buy your tickets about three weeks in advance, you will almost always get good value. For example, you can see easily find flights between northern and southern California for under 3000 points. And again, no blackout dates! If you also have a companion pass, the redemption value is probably hard to beat (at least in economy).
Flexibility to change or cancel a trip is really important to me, mostly due to me always being paranoid that I won’t be able to take time off of my full time job for that trip on sale that I must book NOW. Southwest makes changing and canceling tickets a breeze. Yes, you do get a travel voucher instead of cash, and yes, you do have to pay the difference in fare if applicable. However, without a change fee that can go up to $200 on some airlines per person per flight (yikes), I’ve never felt ripped off when I had to change a flight. In fact, most of the time, I would check my planned flights once in a while and discover a reduction in fares. In which case, I could get the difference refunded. Since I often book on points, the extra points go straight back into my account. Amazing.
Free Checked Bags
As a rule, I never check any bags when traveling anymore. I like to pack light and have my things with me at all times. Most of the time, the only bag I bring even fits under the seat. But I do love this Southwest perk for one simple reason. While I don’t like to bring a lot with me, there are plenty of travelers who do. With free checked bags, more people tend to check their bags compared to airlines that charge for them, which makes boarding a lot faster and overhead bin space plentiful. This also helps with fights leaving on time.
This is another one that is somewhat controversial. While many low cost carriers and even legacy airlines nowadays like to charge for seat selection, Southwest does without seat selection entirely. As someone who almost never pays for any kind of seat upgrades, I love the way unassigned seating works with Southwest. The only thing I have to do to get a good seat is to make sure to set a reminder to check in exactly 24 hours before take off. We have frequently been able to get into the coveted A boarding group and get some sweet extra legroom in the first or exit rows all without paying for Early Bird boarding. This is virtually impossible to do without paying extra on most other airlines.
Another thing I like about Southwest’s seating policy is the way boarding works. I have flown on many other airlines, but I have never had a better boarding experience than I’ve had on Southwest. The assigned boarding group and number along with clear signage of where everyone needs to go make boarding a very orderly event. This is in sharp contrast to the mess of “line” I often see crowding in front of the gate when I fly on other carriers.
Southwest is very much known for its friendly (and often extremely cool) staff. Unfortunately, I have not witnessed a flight attendant rapping firsthand, but I can confidently say that I have always had a good experience interacting with Southwest employees. For many, flying is just a means of getting from point A to point B, but a friendly smile during a long journey can really go a long way.
There is probably a lot more that I can say about how much I love Southwest. And no, I am not in any way affiliated with them. While this unique airline has some quirks that can take some getting used to, I will always choose Southwest if they fly the route I need. Some of the things I mentioned here are pretty amazing on its own (companion pass, no change fee), it’s really the combination of all of the above that keeps me coming back for more every single time.