6 Ways Southwest Stands Out From Other Airlines
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Ever since Southwest Airlines began servicing commuters in Texas, it's now become one of the largest airlines in the skies. There are many reasons why Southwest has continued to grow it's network internationally, with sweet perks like the Companion Pass, fun flights and excellent customer service — both on the ground and in the air — that keep passengers coming back for more. Here are six ways this carrier really stands out from the pack.
1. The Crew Actually Seems to Enjoy Your Company
More often than not, we board planes without much excitement — we're lucky to even get a "welcome aboard" from the crew. Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, has consistently been defying the odds, with its consistently friendly crew and positive passenger experiences that often result in viral videos. David Holmes, for instance, took the internet by storm back in 2009 when he became known as "The Rapping Flight Attendant." Let's be honest — once the flight crew begins making safety announcements, many of us, especially if we travel a lot and have heard this 100 times, start to tune out. But on this evening flight to Oklahoma City, Holmes wanted to make sure his passengers were still in the upright position and paying attention, in a fun, entertaining way. Check out the video below to see how he made the safety speech his own.
On another trip, flight attendant Zach Haumesser surprised his passengers with an especially upbeat arrival announcement, as seen in the video below, where he paid tribute to "Looney Tunes," by reciting landing information in the voices of Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and other lovable characters as the plane approached Chicago.
2. It's a Choose-Your-Own-Seat Adventure Every Time
One of the most unique aspects of the Southwest experience is its boarding process — checking in 24-hours ahead so you have the best chance of snagging the perfect seat is crucial. Aside from the emergency row or bulkhead rows, there really are no preferred seats — and there is no first-class cabin — just row upon row of the carrier's signature blue leather economy seats.
You do have the option of upgrading to an "EarlyBird Check-In," which costs an additional $15 and guarantees you an earlier boarding position by automatically checking you in. The majority of people boarding the plane will be placed anywhere in groups A15-A60, B1-B60 or C1-C60. So, how will you know which group you're in? It's all based on how long before the flight you check in, starting 24-hours prior to departure. The old adage about the early bird getting the worm has never been more appropriate.
Be sure to set a reminder on your phone to check-in exactly when the Southwest booking portal allows you to. If you're cutting it close and it looks like it's going to be a full flight, you always have the option to upgrade to an earlier boarding position at the gate, so you won't necessarily be stuck with the dreaded middle seat.
3. Bags Fly Free — Even in Today's Industry
Southwest is the last airline that offers not one, but two free checked bags per passenger, an obvious dig at all the other airlines that currently charge for checking a bag. Although most airlines offer co-branded credit cards that offer free bags, some, such as Spirit Airlines will try to charge you as much as $100 per bag, depending on whether you pay for it online (from $35), at the check-in desk (from $55) or at the gate (from $100).
4. You'll Never be Charged for a Change of Plans
In recent years, airlines have made a killing from charging cancellation fees, but not Southwest. Even if you book a flight in the lowest-tier fare-class, "Wanna Get Away," you'll never pay extra to make a last-minute change or if you need to cancel your trip altogether. Worst-case scenario, just call up the airline and let the agent know you'd like to alter your reservation — in my experience, the entire process usually takes about five minutes.
If you've booked your flight with cash, you'll receive a Southwest LUV Voucher, which must be redeemed on a future flight with the carrier. Although it's not exactly a cash-back deal, it's still a good option, especially considering other airlines charge upwards of $200 just to cancel your reservation. On the other hand, if you've booked an award flight, your Southwest Rapid Rewards points will be deposited straight back into your account. There's also a possibility that fares may decrease between the time you book and the day you depart, but don't worry, Southwest has your back. Just call and request a fare adjustment to the current fare price and you'll receive either a Southwest LUV Voucher or have some points be deposited back into your account (depending on the initial payment method you used).
5. You Can Watch Live and On-Demand TV — For Free
Southwest has always taken pride in consistently offering free live and on-demand TV on its flights. Although no Southwest aircraft are equipped with in-flight entertainment units — not even its newer 737 MAX planes — you can quickly and easily connect to Wi-Fi and browse through hundreds of entertainment options from your own devices. Recently, carriers like Delta, United Airlines, and American Airlines have started to offer free entertainment options on flights, but it's worth noting that Southwest was among the first to do so. Wi-Fi is also available for purchase on Southwest, with prices starting at $8 per device per day and $5 per movie per device.
6. Fantastic Rapid Rewards Perks
Most airlines' award tickets have fixed prices, or else go by a distance-based award chart or region-based award chart. Southwest's Rapid Rewards award tickets, on the other hand, correspond to the going cash rate — if you notice a flash sale, you can bet the award redemption will be pretty great, but if the cash price of the ticket is high, the award points needed are likely to be high as well.
Earning elite status can be very rewarding, and while many US carriers offer unique benefits to those pledging their allegiance to one airline, Southwest makes sure its elite flyers know they're getting noticed with its Companion Pass. While earning this perk isn't easy — since you'll be required to fly at least 100 qualifying segments or earn 110,000 qualifying points — there is an exception. By signing up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening your account, you'll earn 40,000 qualifying points, which will help get you get closer to the requirement, while giving you access to other benefits as well.
By earning this level of status, you can take advantage of the Companion Pass perk an unlimited number of times year-round. You'll also have the option to change your companion up to three times per year, making this one of the best benefits of any airline loyalty program around.
What has your experience with Southwest Airlines been like so far? Tell us about it, below.