Flying on Southwest Airlines – Luggage Factory

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Flying on Southwest Airlines

Southwest is a great low cost carrier and there are a lot of advantages to flying with them. One of our Travel Experts chooses Southwest frequently, and she has come up with some tips and information for you to keep in mind.    Hopefully our guide will help you know what to do when booking your flight and traveling aboard their planes!  They do things differently than other carriers and it is good to have an understanding of how they function before buying a ticket. There are a couple unique things about Southwest to keep in mind.  They have no assigned seating, you’re allowed to check 2 pieces of luggage for free (as long as they meet the size and weight requirements), there is no meal service and they do not offer first or business class seats.  You can also change your ticket without paying fees (you may have to pay a difference in fare.)  Also, Southwest ONLY sells tickets via its own website, app or by phone.  You cannot purchase tickets through sites like Expedia or Orbitz, and Southwest usually does not come up in searches for lowest fares either. Southwest offers NON STOP, CONNECTING and DIRECT flights.  Nonstop means just that….nonstop.  A connecting flight means that you’ll change aircraft at some point during your trip. Direct flights mean that there will be stops, sometimes more than one, but you will not be changing planes and the entire trip will have one flight number.  It is important to know the difference between them so that you’re not surprised en route. By clicking the link for number of stops, you can find out where you’ll stop and if you’ll change planes The ability to check two bags for free something that no other US carrier offers.  Many people do not like to wait for their bags, but you should keep in mind that Southwest turns their planes VERY quickly, often within 30-40 minutes (meaning the time between one flight lands, passengers deplane, the next people board and the flight departs).  They get bags off the plane very quickly and the wait is usually short! Southwest has only 1 class of service and they do not have assigned seats.  We will get to the seating and boarding arrangements shortly.  Southwest offers 3 types of fares, though all will get you the same type of seat.  There is no food service aboard their aircraft; however, you can expect peanuts, pretzels, crackers and soft drinks for free.  They also offer cocktails, beer and wine for a fee.   (Credit card only, no cash accepted aboard.) You’re welcome to bring your own food but please remember that it’s good airplane etiquette (regardless of which carrier you fly) to be mindful of the fact that you’re in a metal tube at 35,000 feet or so and that some food smells bad!  Stick with things that do not have an odor that might offend your fellow passengers. Let’s explore the types of fares in a little more detail.  First, there’s the very low, “wanna get away” fare, then the “anytime” fare and finally “business select.”  Wanna get away fares are the lowest, and while they are not refundable, you can reuse those funds to purchase another ticket if you need to cancel.  Anytime fares are more expensive but are fully refundable to your original form of payment.  Business select fares are the most expensive but they are fully refundable, will guarantee you a boarding position between A1-A15, access to “Fly By” security lanes in some airports and a complimentary cocktail on the day of your flight.  Members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program will earn additional points if you book higher fares. Southwest.com flight selection screen As a low cost carrier, Southwest only opens bookings about 6-8 months ahead; whereas, with the larger airlines, you can book up to 330 days before your travel date.  While Southwest does not always have the lowest fares, once you add up all the extras you’ll be paying, sometimes you can score a great deal. While you’re buying your ticket, you will be offered the chance to pay for “early bird check in”.  Since Southwest does not have assigned seats, passengers board in order by letter group and number.  Unless you purchase early bird check in, you want to be at your computer (or mobile app) EXACTLY 24 hours before your flight so that you can check in and get a boarding number.  Early Bird Check in will do this automatically, 36 hours prior to your flight thus saving you time, and often getting you a better place in line. There are 3 groups, with up to 60 passengers each: A1-A60, B1-B60 and C1 though the last passenger. The better your place in line, the better chance you have of getting the seat you prefer.  If you like a window or aisle, you want to make sure that you have a good boarding position, otherwise, if you get into the C group, we’ll be “C-ing (seeing) you in the middle seat!” Once you’re at the airport, and you’ve checked in and dropped off your checked bag, you’ll proceed through security to the gate.  When your flight is ready for boarding, the agent will instruct the A group to line up in order.   Walk down the jet way, board the plane and select ANY open seat that you like.  Store your bag quickly and be seated.  Keep in mind that the first row has NO tray table so you’ll need to hold your snacks and beverages. Also, there is no under seat storage in the first row so you must place both your carry on and personal item in the overhead bin.  Exit row seats are open to anyone who is over 15 years of age, did NOT preboard and is able to open the emergency exit and follow crew member directions.   Review the safety card in the seatback pocket in front of you for more information.  If you cannot or will not be able to assist in the event of an emergency, you will be seated someplace else. Many of the aircraft in Southwest’s fleet are equipped with Wi-Fi.  While there is a nominal charge for this, you are able to watch live TV and more on your mobile device for free, based on signal strength.  This helps make the time go by, and there is even a map of your flight while it’s en route.  You can even watch movies for a small fee.  Plenty of fun things to do while you are in flight. If you are booked on a flight that makes stops, but without changing planes, you’ll wait in your seat until all the other passengers get off the plane.  Then the flight crew will count the number of “through passengers” to be sure that everyone who is continuing onto the next city is aboard.  After the count is made, you can change your seat if you wish.  If you are connecting, or you’re at your final destination, you’ll gather your items and deplane.  For connecting flights, check the monitors in the terminal for your new gate.  Otherwise, you’ll just head to baggage claim, get your checked bags and head home or your hotel. We hope that this handy guide gives you some insight into the way that Southwest operates its airline.  For additional information, visit www.southwest.com. Southwest Airlines planes-photo courtesy Meg Ryan

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