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Another SWA customer is converted

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New SWA Wife

Aug 17, 2005
I don't hate Southwest anymore. A couple of years ago I wrote a column titled "I Hate Southwest Airlines" which ignited a firestorm of controversy. I received over 300 letters from that column and the one thing I learned is that people either love or hate Southwest; there is no middle ground.
In the column, I stated three major reasons I avoided Southwest at all costs:
• No advance seat assignments
• No first-class cabin
• The frequent flier program doesn't offer awards to places I like to go for vacation
I also expressed my distaste for the uber-cheery flight attendants with their sing-song routines. To be fair, I included comments by loyal Southwest customers who extolled the virtues of the carrier.
Over the last couple of years I have flown Southwest a number of times and I now have quite a different impression of the airline I loved to hate.
Southwest does not assign seats in advance because it slows the boarding process and increases the turnaround time of getting a plane back in the air.
However, Southwest has implemented an advance check-in procedure via the Internet. By checking in online the day before my flight, I have so far been able to gain entry into the coveted "A" group which boards the plane first. While most people stand in line for an hour before the flight to get a good seat, I can now sit quietly and work until the "A" group is called. Even on a crowded flight, I have always procured aisle seats by simply boarding at the end of the A line before the Bs are called. By boarding after the first 40 or 50 people at the end of the A group, I can select a row toward the rear of the plane where the window seat is already occupied and the middle is open. This maximizes my chances of the middle seat remaining open, even if the flight is very full.
Truth is, you are more likely to have an empty seat next to you on Southwest than any other major airline. Most airlines are shrinking and reducing capacity while Southwest is expanding, so its average "load factor" or the number of seats filled these days is almost 10 percentage points lower than most shrinking competitors.
Flying Southwest has also become surprisingly a little more comfortable than flying in coach on most other airlines. Southwest offers a 32-33" seat pitch (the distance between rows) on its planes, while many other airlines only give you 31" or even 30." That extra inch or two makes a big difference when I try to use my laptop in flight.
Another comfort factor is the pillow. While many airlines have removed pillows as a cost-saving effort, pillows are abundant on Southwest airplanes.
A nice surprise is Southwest now serves more food than most other major airlines. I was astounded to receive a snack box containing a bag of Cheese Nips, graham crackers, and Oreo Cookies on a recent flight between Oakland and Chicago. In addition, everyone received Southwest's signature dish: the classic bag of peanuts! When was the last time you received a snack package like that on one of the major legacy airlines without forking over $5 for the privilege of buying junk food?
Back to those flight attendants. Southwest has always been known for its cheery employees and in-flight comedy routines. Unlike many passengers, I find the in-flight vaudeville shtick offensive and intrusive. But on my recent flights, I noticed a change. While flight attendants and gate agents are as helpful and cheerful as ever, the in-flight comedy routine was almost non-existent on my flights. And the atmosphere on the airplane was very quiet and business like, which is the preferred ambiance for a curmudgeon like me.
Southwest recently reduced the permissible checked baggage allowance from 70 pounds to the 50 pounds allowed by most other airlines without an extra charge. But it still allows three pieces of checked luggage per person when most airlines only allow two.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of flying Southwest for someone on a tight budget is its change and cancellation policy. While no major airline will refund your money if you decide to change or cancel an advance purchase ticket, there are no change fees and you do not lose your money on Southwest. Just use your reservation number from an unused or canceled flight when you book your next flight and you can apply those unused funds on your next trip. You don't have to call the airline to cancel the flight, but if it makes it easier for them to resell that seat, this perk might just be around a long time.
Finally, I have to admit I have become addicted to "Ding." Southwest's new alerting service beeps and displays a little envelope icon at the bottom of my computer screen whenever Southwest initiates a fare sale. With just two clicks I can see instantly if my cities are on the list.
For those of you who are now furious with me for defecting to the other side, be assured, I am still a first-class snob and haven't totally lost my mind. Southwest still doesn't offer me the ability to upgrade. I still can't use my Southwest miles to visit Hong Kong or Italy. And I know I'm diluting my chances of gaining elite status and unlimited upgrades on another airline by diverting some of my business to Southwest.
But I have been pleasantly surprised by the original, no-frills discount-turned-major airline. I'm a lot happier flying on Southwest these days … at least when it makes good economic sense.

Send David your feedback: David Grossman is a veteran business traveler and former airline industry executive. He writes a column every other week on topics of interest and concern to business travelers. Tell him what you think of his latest column by sending him an e-mail at [email protected]. Include your name, hometown and daytime phone number, and he may use your feedback in a future column.

Saw this and thought it was nice to see that a no-frills, no nonsense airline is hitting home. And mostly (at least for this one reporter) due to a solid, unwaivering standard of customer service.

- the Whiff
Sorry, I've been out of town and just happen to run across it. Guess I should have covered a few more pages back.

My apologies.
;) yeah, don't let it happen again.
New SWA Wife said:
Sorry, I've been out of town and just happen to run across it. Guess I should have covered a few more pages back.

My apologies.
yeah, for real!!!! i read this whole thing and that's 35 minutes of my life i'll never get back!!! (i'm a slow reader...) just don't let it happen again. good lord. do a search!!!


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