We flew Southwest Airlines on our recent trip to Las Vegas. As this is our first visit to the US and Southwest Airlines being a domestic US airline, naturally it was our first experience with Southwest Airlines.
It is also our last.
I don’t know if it’s just because I’m not accustomed to this whole flying domestically thing. In Singapore, there are no domestic flights, because well, 2 minutes after takeoff and you’ll be out of the country. Yeah, if you didn’t know before, that’s how small Singapore is.
In Japan, domestic flights are always the same standard as international flights. I didn’t even know there were such marked differences between domestic and international flights until I came to the US!
Or perhaps I’m just spoiled rotten by the airlines I’ve been flying, and set that as the standard for flying.
But wow, seriously, it’s such an eyeopening experience flying Southwest.
No assigned seats
This one boggles minds the most. Isn’t it easier to pre-assign seats to passengers than have passengers take their own sweet time picking their favorite seats?
Instead, you are assigned a boarding group in the order you checked in. So the earlier you check in (online), the better your group placement.
When it’s time to board they will get you to line up according to your boarding group.
First it’s A, from numbers 1 through 60.
After they clear the A group, next is B 1-60.
I didn’t know about this boarding group nonsense beforehand, and guess what boarding group we got?
On our flight, the last person was C 30. FML.
Fu was extremely unhappy about this, because he was sandwiched between 2 other large (maybe hairy and smelly too) males. It’s definitely a first whereby we didn’t get to sit with the person we’re traveling with! And not like we’re a big group of 20 people… it’s only 2 of us!!!
On our flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas, we didn’t get to sit together either -_-
On our way to the airport for our flight back to Austin, I received an email that said there will be flight delays.
This was a totally new thing to me. In my ENTIRE life of flying, I have never, ever encountered any flight delays. Sheer luck? Really, now.
We hurried to the airport and the staff at the counter confirmed our fears. The flight delay would cause us to miss our connecting flight back to Austin.
The worst part?
There were no more flights to Austin that day.
She said we could opt to take the flight the next day. We asked for options and she told us another passenger chose to fly into another airport instead and do a 2-hr drive back.
To add insult to injury, whether we stay in Vegas for another night, or rent a car to drive back, any and all expenses are ours to bear.
Fu’s dad was on the flight to Japan the very same day the Tohoku Earthquake occurred. At the stopover, Cathay Pacific not only put all passengers up at a hotel overnight, but they also gave passengers the option to continue with their flight or to fly back to Singapore. FOR FREE.
Did Cathay Pacific cause the earthquake? No. Was it due to nature, forces outside their control? Yes. Yet they still sucked it up and did their best for their passengers.
In the end, after waiting at the chaotic airport for 4 hours, we flew into San Antonio instead, shelled out USD 140 to rent a car and almost 2 hours back to Austin.
For the record, it’s not as if these Southwest Airline tickets were cheap. We paid USD 440 (~SGD 550) PER PERSON.
Apparently domestic airlines in the US are like that. They don’t have to compensate in event of delays. Also, delays seem to be a rather common thing here. It feels like there might be some kind of link between these two…
Lack of information
In all the time we were waiting at the airport, we were never given any information about the delay. Not what’s causing it, where it’s originating from, nothing! The weather at Las Vegas was perfectly fine, so it was particularly frustrating that the information was not forthcoming.
The only “information” we got was the continuous revision of our departure time (being postponed, obviously).
The staff at the counter was one of the least helpful service staff I’ve ever encountered. Beyond telling us what the other passenger did, it was utterly pointless asking her anything else.
When we asked if there were alternative airports we could fly to to make a connection back to Austin, or if there were other airports near Austin, she literally said “I don’t know. You tell me.”
WTF then I need you there for what. I might as well do it myself!
I had to google on the spot for information as she just stood there, looking at us. Not knowledgeable never mind. Still so bloody unhelpful and heck-care. So ridiculous!
I think we looked pretty pissed by the time we were done so she did just one little nice thing for us. She wrote “XT” on our air tickets, which I think stands for “extra time” and means we get to board right after the A group is done, before the B group gets to board! Hmm. Can we just bring our own black marker and write it on our own tickets next time? Oh wait, I forgot we’re never traveling Southwest again.
The crew on the aircraft was also very… should I say… casual?
One of the surprising things was that air stewards were dressed in polo tees and khaki SHORTS! It seems so weird!
Also, if anyone recalls, this is the airline with the Youtube-famous air stewardess:
The crew on our flight were also quite humorous. To be honest, I found them quite funny, but it’s definitely radically different from the professional service I’m used to.
If you’re looking for two seats side by side, good luck with that. You should just take one of the middle seats we saved for you.
We are approaching landing [and] have to come around to collect your cups. If you’re enjoying your beverage, stop enjoying it and start drinking it.
I saw their logo behind the counter and thought to myself “Wah, what kind of logo is that? Looks like some charity organization more than an airline…”
A while later, Fu said “Look at their logo! Even their logo also ugly. What’s the heart there for? They also don’t have heart in what they do.”
I think when you don’t like something, you will nitpick at the most trivial things lol.
The only merit
I think Southwest Airlines has just ONE redeeming quality: First and second checked bags are free.
I just found out earlier that typically there are fees (about USD 20-25) for any checked baggage on domestic flights! Zomg. Everything also want money!
This was an awful experience. Something that far negates the merits of humorous crew or free checked baggage.
Perhaps it’s “typical” domestic travel in the US, and it’s unfortunate Southwest Airlines has to bear the brunt of our negative experience, but I really dread flying from the US now.
I finally understand why people say rave about Singapore Airlines and like it so much (although I don’t. They’ve always been snobbish to me). My favorite airline is still ANA! JAL, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways are close behind. I can’t wait to have normal flights again. No more of these ridiculous, stressful flying! :C
A domestic airline ticket price in Australia do not include your seat fare. When you pay for your ticket at the end of the day, you have to pay an extra $5 to get your seat..nice right?hehe
Seriously??? I did not know that! What then are you paying for exactly in the ticket price?!
Really boggles the mind…
ticket price is so that you can board the plane? =p
Seats fares near the exit are more expensive because they are SPECIAL with EXTRA LEG room= $15 please!
Somehow it sounds like you’re paying the $5 to get a specific seat as opposed to *a* seat.
It’s the case for seats here. Certain seats cost extra, and the exit seats are usually the most expensive of them all.
I’m sorry to reply to this post so long after you wrote it, but I remember reading this and being fascinated by your experience with Southwest. The sentence that stood out the most for me was the following : “Isn’t it easier to pre-assign seats to passengers than have passengers take their own sweet time picking their favorite seats?”
Recently, I saw this Vox video about the quickest ways to board planes and thought I would share it. It would appear that there may be a legitimate rationale behind why the airline boards planes this way.
This doesn’t explain all the other things you experienced with Southwest, but perhaps adds some clarity to one aspect of your experience.
That video was definitely interesting! Thanks for taking to comment, T. G.!
I can easily see why you might have found your Southwest Airlines experience different from what you are used to, and disappointing.
I fly twice a week, and I have chosen to fly Southwest exclusively. I find their uncomplicated approach keeps things simple–no baggage fees, no change fees. They have removed every impediment they can. Unlike most airlines, they don’t make it necessary to exit out of nag screen after nag screen trying to get you to upgrade some aspect of the fare before you can leave their site.
Their frequent flyer program is wonderful. We have reached the companion pass level, which means one of us flies ffor free when we fly together, even if we are using points for the fare.
On a relatively short (for the US) domestic flight, I fail to see the mystique of reserved seats. This is not the opening night of the opera, it is a bus. Southwest fliers are mostly familiar with the process, and they make embarkation and disembarkation process remarkably swift. There are things you can do, like purchasing Early Bird ticketing or confirming the flight as soon as it is twenty-four hours before takeoff, to make it more likely to get the seat you want.
I hope you will give Southwest another try. It is not Singapore Airlines by any means, but for a simple, no-frills relatively inexpensive way to get around the country, I don’t think it can be beaten.