Battle of the Airlines: Why I think Southwest Airlines is the best

Sep 10, 2019

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Editor’s note: It’s no surprise that TPG writers and editors have favorite airlines. So we decided to do a battle that covers the top four U.S. carriers. Check out the Sept. 9 episode of the “Miles Away” podcast to hear us defend our airlines. And click on the links below to read which airlines we chose and why.

Further reading: Podcast: TPG staffers debate their favorite airlines

Further reading: Battle of the Airlines: Why I think American Airlines is the best

Further reading: Battle of the Airlines: Why I think Delta Air Lines is the best

Further reading: Battle of the Airlines: Why I think United Airlines is the best


Our airline battle continues. Next up, TPG Credit Cards Editor Benét J. Wilson makes the case for Southwest Airlines, after taking years of abuse for her love of her favorite carrier.

Related: TPG Special Report: The 2019 List of Best and Worst U.S. Airlines


You
You’ll now be able fly from Reno to Dallas on Southwest Airlines. (Image courtesy of Southwest Airlines.)

The crazy boarding. The absence of assigned seats. No business class or lounges. The wisecracking flight attendants. The cattle call. I’ve heard it all, people, and I don’t care — Southwest is my favorite airline, hands down. I need an airline that gets me from Point A to Point B at a good fare, on time and safely — and Southwest does that. Call me crazy, but I also want to fly on an airline that makes me feel that they really appreciate my business. Southwest does that too. And then there are these four magic words — two free checked bags.

Although the airline’s on-time performance isn’t what it used to be in the 1990s when it was winning all those triple-crown awards for on-time performance, best baggage handling and fewest customer complaints, 80% of its flights still arrived on time as of March 2019, according to the latest U.S. Department of Transportation statistics.

Southwest offers Wi-Fi at a very reasonable $8 a day. Its Wi-Fi is much more reliable than it used to be. Bring your device of choice — smartphone, tablet or laptop — to watch live and recorded television along with the latest movies — all for free. I use my frequent Southwest flights to catch up on all the movies I’ve missed.

I cannot remember the last time I flew with a crew that wasn’t courteous and fun — plus, I like those attempts at humor, no matter how bad they are. Can you imagine United flight attendants doing that?

Flexibility

I don’t check bags unless I’m traveling with my teenage daughter (who made Southwest A-List status at the tender age of 16 months), but it’s nice that I don’t have to worry about adding $60 in bag fees on top of my very reasonable airfares. I sometimes need to make changes on my flights and I can do it easily online without worrying about paying those pesky change fees (although there is sometimes a fare difference). If I have to cancel a flight, I receive a credit and I have one year to rebook — again, with no pesky fees.

Flight Options

I’m based in Baltimore, and Southwest has plenty of flights to all the places I go, including nonstops to San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Antonio, Boston and Atlanta. I’ve also taken advantage of the carrier’s international flights to the Bahamas, Havana, Puerto Vallarta and Montego Bay.

Because I have A-List status, I’m allowed to stand by on flights earlier or later the same day if seats are available. That has saved me money, since Southwest Airlines does charge the fare difference if you want to get on another same-day flight. Even if I make a change and lose my prized A boarding pass, I don’t have to worry about receiving the dreaded C boarding pass, since my A List status allows me to board right after the A boarding group. There are usually still plenty of aisle seats and overhead bins, which is a big plus.

And thanks to the 35,000+ tier qualifying points I’ve already earned in 2019, I already have A-List status for 2020. That means I won’t have to repeat last year’s December mileage runs for my status in 2019.

Charge Your Way to Status

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

When I had my Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier credit card, I used it to charge all my flights, along with the airline’s hotel and car-rental partners. I signed up for the Southwest shopping plug-in and joined the dining program to further build up my Rapid Rewards points. I also looked forward to earning my 6,000 annual bonus Rapid Rewards points.

If I were to ever go back to a Southwest credit card, I would definitely switch to the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority credit card, since, thanks to a $75 annual credit, its annual fee is actually lower than the Premier card. Plus it comes with better perks, including 7,500 points every card anniversary, four upgraded boarding passes a year and a 20% statement credit on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi purchased with the card.

Related: Best Credit Cards for Southwest Flyers

Frequent Flyer Downsides

While Rapid Rewards has good seat availability (if a seat is open, it’s yours) and simple redemption options, it will cost you if you want to use your points to book flights outside of Southwest’s route network, since it doesn’t belong to an airline alliance, nor does it have any carrier partners. But I don’t recommend using your points except on Southwest, where you get much better value for your points, currently at 1.5 cents per point, according to current TPG valuations.

I wish Southwest’s Wi-Fi were a little more robust. I also wish that its fleet of Boeing 737s had outlets to charge electronics so I wouldn’t have to carry my heavy-duty brick charger to keep my iPad and iPhone charged on longer flights. But in the end, there’s far more for me to like that not with Southwest Airlines.

Featured photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images 

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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