America’s pioneer no-frills carrier Southwest flew its first flight in 1970 following a three year long legal battle against legacy carriers. From its first flights the airline was characterised by sexy female flight attendants dressed like Las Vegas call-girls. While the airline has moved away from the pole-dancer look it has stretched its discount credentials to the limits and provides the inspiration for others to copy worldwide. Throughout the airline’s history it has been restricted by legal regulations but has grown rapidly by acquisition of competitors. Today the airline is the largest in the US by passenger numbers and during 2011 it will commence international services once it integrates its latest purchase; airTran. The airline courts controversy for free publicity and attracts customers by humour. During the 9/11 downturn Southwest remained profitably while its competitors filed for Bankruptcy protection. The airline is characterised by original thinking and was an early pioneer of internet booking and fuel price hedging. The airline keeps costs down by operating a single type of aircraft throughout its fleet; Boeing 737’s.
Southwest’s low paid staff are generally younger and occasionally can be quite humorous. The airline encourages crew to ‘deviate from the script’ and are characterised by their sociability. Hungry passengers need to buy something from the on-board menu. The airline sells a limited selection of junk food snacks, soft drinks and alcohol at regular prices. While the average size of an American arse has got larger, seat sizes ‘seem’ to have shrunk, but actually the airline seats are generally an inch or so more spacious. There is no electronic entertainment onboard. Other than the playful crew, on-board service is crap.
Until 2011 Southwest was a US domestic airline. Within the States their network is comprehensive and they are developing a limited network to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Mercifully the airline provides a maximum number of point to point services without hubbing.
Southwest is cheap and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. They are always competitive and typically present the best value on almost any domestic leg. The savings you make on fares you can use for on-board catering.
Southwest’s catering is quite simply appalling. If you want any you pay, but everyone knows that. Their coffee is weak and watery and the ‘dining’ choices are simply a range of typical junk food snacks, nuts, chocolates and cookies. They sell all the main soft drinks and many alcoholic beverages. Basically their catering is what you’d find in a vending machine.
Amusing staff, complaining passengers and the airlines Spirit magazine is pretty much all the entertainment you’ll get. They have recently introduced InAirtainment which essentially means you can access your iPod/iPad during the flight. Longer flights can be very boring so bring a book or Sudoku.
The airline promotes internet check-in and has a free seating policy. Basically passengers sit wherever they like so the first ones get the best seats. Surprisingly the system works quite well and it certainly speeds up the boarding process. Split couples basically have themselves to blame for arriving at the gate late, and are told this by typically unsympathetic staff. Point to point flights reduce the chance of bags missing flights, so Southwest have fewer baggage dramas than the so-called ‘full service’ carriers like Delta and American Airlines.
Southwest prides itself on being a single class airline and has no plans of changing this, however they do offer a Business Select ticket fare. Passengers shouldn’t get excited about this as essentially the difference is merely a free drink, priority boarding and chance to alter flights without a fee. As for premium lounges at American airports; they are essentially crowded cafes so if you want to experience what a Lounge would be like, just find a bar and pretend you’re in United’s Red Carpet lounge. There honestly is little difference.
Southwest’s passengers get what they pay for. They get a seat, use of the toilets, a chance to buy nuts or snacks from the trolley and a generous 2 bag allowance.
Frequent flyer schemes are essentially a way of tying passengers to one airline. They psychologically influence passengers but the reality remains points are basically worthless and a lot of travel needs to be taken to earn a ‘free’ flight. Southwest is open about this and its Rapid Rewards loyalty scheme is built into the price structure of the airlines more expensive tickets only. Cheap tickets earn no points. As Southwest is not partnered to other airlines a membership of Rapid Rewards is of limited value.
Southwest’s management team is innovative and genuinely industry leading. They’re leading the industry in a race to the bottom. Cutting wages, cutting services and cutting corners are all part of the Southwest agenda and few can match them at this game. The airline promotes itself as playful, but this is basically a gimmicky sideshow to distract passengers from the low quality of service the airline provides.
In 2008 US Congress examined a document detailing 117 safety violations tolerated by Southwest. It resulted in the grounding of 44 aircraft and a hefty fine. The airline typically outsources its aircraft maintenance to the cheapest service provider and in 2009 a Federal Aviation Administration investigation revealed 10% of Southwest’s fleet had improper parts installed. Improper parts are a major cause of aircraft accidents. Clearly Southwest’s cost cutting stretches to maintenance of their fleet with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Southwest is the Wal-Mart of aviation in the US. Bargain basement prices with service to match.
Home | Activities | Aeroflot | Aerolineas | AeroMexico | AirAsia | Air Austral | Air Berlin | Air Canada | Aircalin | Air China | Air Europa | Air France | Air India | Air Koryo | Air Malta | Air Mauritius | Air NZ | Air Tahiti Nui | Alaska Airlines | Air Vanuatu | Air Zimbabwe | Alliance Airlines | Alitalia | American Airlines | ANA | Ariana | Asiana | Austrian | Avianca | Bangkok Airways | British Airways | Cathay Pacific | Car Rentals | Cebu Pacific | China Airlines | China Eastern | China Southern | Cubana | Delta | Dragonair | easyJet | EgyptAir | El Al | Emirates | Etihad | EVA Air | Fiji Airways | Finnair | Flights | flydubai | Frontier | Garuda | Gulf Air | Hainan Airlines | Hawaiian | HK Express | Hotels | Iberia | Icelandair | Insurance | Iran Air | Iraqi Airways | JAL | Jet Airways | jetBlue | Jetstar | Kenya Airways | KLM | Korean Air | Myanmar Airways | Myanmar National | Norwegian | LATAM | Lufthansa | Malaysia | Maps | Nok Air | Olympic Air | OneWorld | Our Airline | PIA Pakistan | Philippine Airlines | Qantas | Qatar | Rex | Royal Jordanian | Ryanair | S7 | SAS | Saudi Arabian | Scoot | Sichuan Airlines | Silk Air | Singapore Airlines | Shanghai Airlines | Shenzhen Airlines | SkyTeam | Skywards | South African Airways | Southwest | Spirit | Star Alliance | | Swiss | TACA | Thai Airways | Tigerair | Transport | Travel Tips | Turkish | United | VietJetAir | Vietnam | Virgin America | Virgin Atlantic | Virgin Australia | WestJet | Xiamen Air |