I have always been interested in Southwest Airlines and how their vision created the low cost travel industry we are so used to today. But I have not travelled with them more than a couple of times up until this past Memorial Day.
Last year I signed up for the Chase Southwest Credit Card when it briefly offered 60,000 Miles for doing so. It was a good stash to have for a rainy day which inevitably come when you travel on a regular basis.
Currently based in Texas with work, I needed to travel to San Francisco for Memorial weekend and as with every Holiday in the US cash fares were very high if you wanted to maximize the weekend. It was time to dip into the stash and try out Southwest Airlines properly. My route was a little awkward but got me there Thursday night and back Monday night for for 23,000 Points. Not cheap but when cash fares were in the $800 range I felt it was a solid redemption. My route would take me from San Antonio – Dallas, Dallas – San Francisco and then San Jose – Denver, Denver – San Antonio.
Lesson One: San Antonio – Dallas
On arrival at the airport I already knew my second flight would be delayed getting me into SFO at 2am. Far from ideal. I went to the desk to see what they could do, as I could have routed via LAS and arrived much earlier. Unfortunately as my initial flight was on time there was nothing they could do other than charge a small fortune to re-route. Good to know.
I decided to get the early bird check in they offer for $15 and get into group A. Years spent travelling Europe on Ryanair justified that expense. Southwest open check-in 24 hours before your flight and it first come first served from that point. Group A will guarantee you either a window or aisle, what else do you want.
Boarding with Southwest is really slick as far as I’m concerned, they have trained their customers well… each group slid into their allocated numbers with minimum fuss. Very different to the mayhem that ensues in Europe and with the multiple boarding groups the legacy carriers have.
Once onboard what can I say? A 737 is a 737, the upper deck was not open that day. But the crew were particular jovial and light hearted which made a lovely change from most of the crews I’ve encountered this year. 45 minutes later touch down in Dallas Love Field. Herb Kellehers base!!!
Lesson Two: Dallas to San Francisco
Not really a lesson here, when your flight is delayed have patience. It happens! Enjoy a nice relaxing beverage and have a bite to eat. Dallas was a nice terminal to do this in too, it was nice and spacious and far from busy, but I guess it was around 9pm at this point.
We were delayed due to a crew issue so it was hard for the gate agents to put a time on it. We ended up departing about an hour behind schedule. Once again the crew onboard were particularly nice even after having their nights off cancelled and the flight was quiet, so after a couple of G+Ts i settled into my lie flat bed row 26 ABC.
Lesson Three: San Jose – Denver/Phoenix
The way home also had a bit of drama, I guess luckily this time my initial flight was delayed. Weather in Denver was causing issues and the next update would be in half an hour. My 45 minute connection didn’t sound too promising.
Back to the desk, where sadly I met my first unfriendly member of the Southwest staff. Either way she re-routed me via Phoenix instead of Denver. This cancelled my early bird check-in and left me in a not so nice boarding position of C59 aka the middle. She did try and sell me a position in A1-15 for $30 a leg which I declined. Which was a good move as group B was boarding when I got there. So my fate was 6E – beside a girl who had no interest in looking out the window and left the blind down until I asked to open for the approach into PHX.
Lesson Four: Phoenix to San Antonio
It was a quick connection in Phoenix, which is a surprisingly large airport. The lesson here is always double check the screens. I got into the wrong line and tried to head to Omaha only discovering the gate change at the last minute. Luckily the SAT gate was nearby so I wouldn’t miss the flight. The gate area was empty so I hoped the flight would be. No such luck, it was packed and the people in C and D seats were making themselves look as big and angry as possible…. deep breath 22E is home for the next two hours…… but I’m home earlier than planned. Well until my Lyft driver got lost but that’s another story.
There was a bit of drama along the way for sure but all in all there is a nice vibe on Southwest, it’s laid back and fun. People chat and that’s kind of what travelling is all about or was all about at least. Let’s see if there’s any drama next month when I head back to San Francisco via Phoenix maybe I’ll see Denver this time!!!!