I will be very honest with you guys, I am not a fan of Southwest, as opposed to Jeremy who is a diehard Southwest Fan. But after more than 5 years since my last experience on the LUV carrier, a great sale brought me back to give them another try. I was heading back to Florida for a few months again to skip the normally frigid winters of Chicago and spend more time with my family as I continued to work from home in Fort Lauderdale - one of Southwest’s main hubs.
Founded in 1967 by Herb Keller in Texas, Southwest was one of the pioneers of the low cost carrier concept. It has since grown from Dallas-Love Field to over 700 aircraft and 4,000 daily flights and one of the main domestic carriers in the US. Southwest famously operates an all Boeing 737 fleet which helps keep cost down and pilots trained across the whole fleet while also focusing on their famous LUV hospitality.
When booking any flight I always check my way through carriers not sold on third party platforms such as Google Flights, and while I find my fares that way, I always recommend purchasing directly with the carrier. This time I found that Southwest had a great deal on their ‘Wanna Get Away’ fares to Fort Lauderdale and decided to give it a shot. I booked directly on the Southwest website and after taxes and fees, my total came out to $45 one way. I netted a total of 90 points at 2x points per dollar spent on travel with my Chase Sapphire Preferred.
I always love driving up to Midway, it is so integrated into the city itself that you almost don’t notice you’re pulling up to the airport itself. The departure level was pretty bare on this Saturday afternoon, and having checked in online I was able to walk directly to the new TSA connector bridge to the concourse. This was a point of pride as I work at the firm responsible for this sleek and modern addition, but perhaps equally as exciting was trying some new scanning technology in which nothing comes out of your bag and expedites the TSA process!
Inside the terminal almost everything was closed and some things roped off, it felt very surreal to see a space that I’m used to being packed, be absolutely desolate. I walked directly to my gate as I ate and drank at home in preparation of not removing my mask at all until I was in my car in Florida. With social distancing markers abound, I relaxed at my gate and waited for my flight.
So boarding is perhaps my biggest pet peeve with Southwest, personally I am not a fan of the choose your own seat feature, even if I don’t love the seat I get I like knowing exactly where I’m going and not having to think about it. But because I knew this I had checked in on the hour for my flight and got boarding spot A35, meaning I was one of the first to get on.
Soon enough around 30 minutes before departure boarding began, noting that Southwest was no longer leaving the middle seats empty, the gate agent announced to skip seats as the flight was only around half full with 75 people on board. As always families with small children were invited to board as to get seats together and then followed by the standard order of pre-boarding groups - Southwest is currently boarding in groups of 10. I was around the first 10 people to get on the flight after and chose a seat I hadn’t seen on other flights before - due to it being in front of an emergency exit it had no seat in front and got a window!
Seat & Cabin
The seat I chose seat 16A, which I found to be pretty unique as I had endless leg room and a whole row to myself, a big win-win for me! However due to the lack of said front seat, the tray table stows in the armrest, this causes a narrower seat and for the armrest to be static. Now I am a bigger guy, so while I fit fine, it didn’t leave a whole lot of room wiggle around, but the fact that I could stretch my legs made up for it.
The cabin was relatively clean and in the old Southwest interior with the brown and blue seats; however, the seats were very comfortable so it was no issue for me. The cabin was a bit dated though it did proudly display the new heart logo in the back, this didn’t mean it was poorly maintained, everything was still up to par with a newer plane, just older colors and materials. It did feel clean which is always a plus now and Southwest has a strict cleaning regiment now from electrostatic disinfectant to cleaning every tray table prior to every flight.
Food & Beverage
Soon after take off we reached cruising altitude and a snack service began. Due to COVID, snacks are only served on flights over 250 miles, so smaller trips will have no service. Service is also slimmed down from normal offerings to just water and a single snack option, in this case pretzels. While I took the pretzels to take home and try, I declined the beverage so as to not remove my mask. This was the only service run during the flight and the normal pre landing trash run was also performed. As for the pretzels, what can I say, they were salty and crunchy! Can’t ask for more, definitely can make you very thirsty so keep that in mind with the limited drink service and mask removal.
Amenities & Service
Let's start with the good: service was very friendly, while I did not get a unique moment like Jeremy did one of his flights, everyone on board was nothing but kind. Secondly, Southwest offers free messaging and entertainment including destination guides straight to your phone on the Southwest app, make sure to download that pre-flight! They do also offer full day wifi passes for $8, a fantastic deal especially if you’re connecting on multiple flights. You do also get a free personal item, carry-on, and their famous 2 checked bags.
Now for the bad: which due to the free messaging above, I was able to text Jeremy all about! The main issue I had was with people visibly disobeying the mask requirement onboard and no one seemingly addressing it. At one point someone even spoke to a flight attendant directly with no mask and was not told to put one on! I found it pretty shocking but know this isn’t the normal situation on any carrier, including Southwest. We also had a second incident with someone refusing to understand that they block crew seats in the front and that they couldn’t sit there. After a few minutes of arguments the gentleman settled and walked back to another open row; however, he also was not wearing a mask properly and neither were a few others who actively moved around the cabin with their masks off or half on.
After a quick 2.5 hour flight, we began descending over the suburbs of Fort Lauderdale which is where I grew up. I happened to live under the landing path so there is nothing like seeing your childhood home and all your grade schools from the window as you prepare to land. In moments, and ahead of schedule, we touched down at FLL and I was home yet again for a few months. We did have a short issue with the gate at the terminal and so de-boarding was delayed as people bottled up in the aisle. But soon enough we were off the plane and into the humidity that reminds me I’ve arrived to my local swamp I love dearly.
Southwest is a good airline, it has a massive following and I can see why. It is a pioneer in its field and always delivers a consistently good product. I would always recommend them due to the above! However, for me personally, I don’t seek them out and normally find them a bit pricier than other options especially if you don’t partake in all the perks (i.e. 2 checked bags), and are comfortable flying Basic Economy elsewhere.
I will say regardless of that ALWAYS check their website when booking, you never know what deals you may find such as the one I did for this flight and my next trip on them on their new Phoenix to Chicago-O’Hare route - a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever say.