Topic of the Week: What You Would Like to See From Southwest


I’ve written this week about how Southwest needs to figure out what it wants to be, but let’s turn the tables. What do you think Southwest needs to do to make you a customer? Is it perfect as is? If not, what needs to change?

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78 comments on “Topic of the Week: What You Would Like to See From Southwest

  1. Pre-Assigned seats and at least an attempt at some business class seating – See JetBlue Mint, without those, they will never get my business travel. I flew Airtran for years as an alternative to Delta domestic flying when I lived in Atlanta – it’s too bad the merger with Southwest wasn’t the other way around.

    1. I agree. My company pays for my travel (which I do weekly). First Class, assigned seats, and lounge access all help make the experience tolerable. Until WN provides those services, I won’t be flying them.

        1. Overplayed Louis C.K. video aside, it’s not wrong to choose airlines with amenities that make the miracle of flight more comfortable in this day and age.

  2. As a leisure flyer who never gets outside of coach…

    Pre-assigned seating, definitely. I won’t pay extra for it, but I’d be happy to give up the option for a 2nd checked bag in return for getting a pre-assigned seat and avoiding the cattle call or the 24-hour-ahead mad dash online, which I don’t do. Essentially, until WN offers pre-assigned seating, I’m resigned to a middle seat on WN.

    Also, whatever it takes to attract more business travelers. Not to sound elitist about it, but the quality of fellow travelers on Southwest leaves something to be desired vs that for traditional airlines. You could have 2 weekday flights running the same routes at the same times, with the only difference being, say, WN vs Delta, and you’ll see a lot more “never flown befores”, obnoxious kids, and so on on the WN flight. I don’t expect to be surrounded by millionaires in coach on any carrier, but I would like to be surrounded by more people on WN who don’t look like they just stepped out of a trailer park or a Kmart toy section.

    1. I’m totally with you (on the first paragraph, anyway). I’d happily only get one free bag if there was assigned seating. In-seat power would be nice, too, but not a requirement.

      Re-reading my post, it sounds like what I really want is for JetBlue to serve the Midwest.

    2. @Kilroy if you think WN pax are out of a trailer park, you haven’t seen Spirit or Frontier. Or the most extreme case I would think is Allegiant. It does also vary heavily by destination, and on the opposite end of trailer park, you get spoiled brats who talk too loud and expect too much (esp. SoCal flights)

      Honestly I don’t know what the fuss is about unassigned seating on WN. I always get a window no matter when I check in, even with B60 type boarding passes. Yes its usually toward the last few rows, but I’m never really in a rush anyway.

      1. I’m with you there I use to fly a lot and I really like the idea of NO assigned seating and a second bag. at least the airing gives u the option to check two without paying for it (with the notion of paying for it from your ticket) hey but that’s me. no I don’t live in a trailer either :-)

  3. My company’s travel website doesn’t include WN when I search flights. If I wanted to go on WN, I’d have to book it on their website and this submit a reimbursement form to my company. This process takes MUCH longer. So, I think if they’d be able to get their flights on more company travel websites, they might be able to do much better. Well, at least in my case.

  4. Just No. Cue all the armchair CEOs suggesting they need power, IFE, assigned seats, first class, 787s, Hawaii, Canada, Iceland, trained monkeys and girls in HotPants.

    Southwest is the #1 domestic carrier. They have not gone bankrupt. They have not spun off a Song a Ted or a Rouge just to come back crashing down.

    They have the best ticket exchange and refund policy, no change fees.

    They fight against unfair competition and win. They set LUV free, and built an international terminal at HOU.

    Southwest knows what it’s doing, and a thread of people claiming they need first, assigned seats, lounges and all the crap Delta , Alaska, United have is useless. Fly Southwest for what it is, and what is has.

    What makes Southwest successful is that it is different, and it offers a different product.

    1. Yet Southwest has slowly been morphing into a legacy carrier. They haven’t given up a lot of the things that make them unique, sure, but they’re realizing that in order to continue to grow and stay profitable some things are going to have to change. Their history of success will only take them so far when costs continue to rise and profit margins erode.

    2. I’m curious what unfair battle Southwest has gotten into recently? The seem to be the FAA’s love child.

    3. I don’t get they fight against competition and win bit. Southwest has made a tactical retreat in many markets because of Alaska, they just won’t say that they have.

      You know what I’d like from Southwest? Some humility. The “underdog”, “we’re the best”, “everyone else sucks and is over priced” line gets annoying, and becomes less and less true.

    4. Pretty sure if i want to jump on an earlier flight with WN it will cost me between 50-150 dollars. No Change Fee is a lark.

      1. they charge the difference in the costs of the flight. If you are switching to an earlier flight too soon to departure ie day or week of yes you will pay extra. But if you had a ticket of equivalent cost already then no you don’t pay a dime extra.

        1. That often only is valuable if you have already paid the highest possible fare. It’s not that they are letting you switch for free if the same fare class is available which is what United allows (or if any confirmed seat is available which is what Alaska allows). They charge the difference between the discounted fare you paid, and the current fare, which if you are changing on the day of the flight is the walk-up no-advance-purchase fare. They have no same day standby.

    5. Absolutely right! How can anyone complain about not getting first class seats when your bags are free and there is no ticket exchange fee! Southwest is the best!

  5. I don’t think they should ever add first class, but an economy plus section, like jetBlue and Frontier have would be nice, and worth paying a little extra for. I’d think they could do it without assigned seating, although it would probably require flight attendants to check the tickets of people sitting in that section.

    Otherwise, I’m happy with how Southwest is. Wish they’d add a few more flights out of Dulles, but that is purely selfish on my part

  6. I already fly WN a fair bit, but here’s what I’d like to see:

    1) They really need to reconsider in-seat power, especially since they are flying longer and longer routes these days. The free live TV is a terrific perk, but one whose utility is diminished substantially by lack of power.
    2) Expanded buy-on-board food offerings. One of the biggest problems flying Southwest for me (at least until the Wright restrictions lapse) is the issue of being on the plane all the way through lunch hour and beyond and not being able to get off to grab something, assuming I’m on one of those multi-hop “no plane change” routes out of DAL. The option to pay $8 for a crappy sandwich would be much appreciated. Maybe they could make it free for A-list/Business Select or something.
    3) I’m going to go contrary to most opinions here and say they should keep the open seating. Folks, if you don’t want a middle seat, all you have to do is pay $12.50 each way for Early Bird. That’s less than most “preferred seat” fees on other airlines. And don’t forget that if you fly enough to be an A-lister, you already get priority boarding ahead of everyone else. But I wouldn’t mind seeing the introduction of an Economy Plus-type offering – say, the first two rows with an extra 6 inches of pitch for an additional fee.

    Otherwise, I agree with Jeremy – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  7. They really need to get rid of the Evolve seats. They are terrible. I used to fly Southwest all the time, but now I avoid them whenever possible. By the end of a 2 hour flight in these seats, I am miserable. They are just not comfortable. The old seats were great by comparison.

    1. I strongly agree with rae8. I long made it a point to fly Southwest whenever possible because I appreciate and want to support its ticket change policy. Because of the Evolve seats, however, I am compelled to avoid Southwest on any flight longer than 90 minutes (unless the flight is on one of their aircraft that does not have those seats). That is because the Evolve seats are truly awful to sit in longer than that, even for me, a person with no back, joint or other health problems,

  8. They would need to run some flights out of DFW for me – DAL is a extra 20-25 minute drive from the west side of the Metroplex (without traffic). I’m not holding out much hope for this though…

    1. Not happening anytime soon, if ever. I’m pretty sure the compromise that ended the Wright restrictions would require WN to move out of DAL entirely if they started up service at DFW. That’s why Virgin America had to pull out of DFW entirely when they were awarded their gates at DAL.

  9. Club lounges in their major hubs. I’m a ‘get to the airport early’ guy, and having a quiet + comfortable + connected place to sit and work, along with snacks and drinks really makes my business travel experience much more enjoyable.

  10. I would fly them more than I do if they actually offered competitive prices where I fly. Usually I’m flying around the west coast (Alaska is almost always cheaper) or transcon (Delta or United is cheaper and significantly faster) and even if I factor in 1 checked bag, Southwest has just become too expensive, not to mention uncomfortable seats. Although I definitely see the value in no change fees and no checked bag fees, I almost never need them to begin with.
    One other thing is that even if they were cheaper, I wouldn’t fly them from the west to east coast because they don’t fly redeyes, which probably isn’t great for fleet utilization anyways.

  11. The hot pants and white go go boots they started with and the “only” Texas beer or board policy! They changed the industry making the aisle seat more popular than the window seat! Seriously, I would like to see seat assignment, business class seats, interline agreements including mileage rewards, meals on flights over two hours, and lower fares than AA. AA beats their fares routinely in Texas!

  12. Get rid of EVOLVE seats and delete the additional row in the back of the planes. Give back the leg room they once had which was better than any other airline out there. I get excited to fly an old 300 series that doesn’t have the new crappy EVOLVE seats. You don’t need a business class if you return it back to the old seating.

  13. 1. Pull all political connections to get DART rail actually to Love Field (DAL); now, only somewhat near.
    2. Pull all political connections to permit international flights from DAL.

  14. How about getting back to basics? “Lowish” fares with a predictable and on time product? They need to be like the Target of airlines. Not the lowest prices like a Wal Mart, but an airline which offers a good combination of value and quality.

    Like others have said, their pricing as of late is really off base. BOI to OAK is typically outrageous. To visit family, I can use SMF, OAK, or SJC. AS, with some advance planning, can be had for $250 RT to SMF. WN to OAK though rarely drops below $350 RT.

  15. Having flown SW from the time it only had 3 birds and gave out 5ths of booze, I am excited about its future.
    Once you get to know how to work their system, as opposed to just bitching about it, you will find them a friendly, efficient operation. My only objection is the new seats…OK in a -800 where there is leg room but lousy in a -700. Between flights and using the credit card I rack up a lot of points as well as the Companion Pass for my wife…how do you beat that?

    1. If your customers have to learn “how to work [your] system” then you need to do a better job of educating them. Or perhaps you should just realize those people aren’t your customers.

  16. What NOT to do. Starting up more routes than you can handle. Flying routes with 10 or something stops, at some of which, with little or any notice, you have to get off the plane and switch to another aircraft. Not operating on-time. Even thinking of using regional aircraft as an alternative to the 737. Going to a legacy-like hub and spoke system. No! No! No!

    To me, Soutwest is the most important airline in the business today. Certainly, far from perfect, but without Southwest, the legacies would be walking all over us customers even more, if that’s possible, than than do today.

    So I ask, somewhat selfishly, watch out, don’t overdo it. I want to see you around for as long as possible.

  17. They definitely should NOT do the me too, and become another AA, UA, DL. I fly them primarily because of the no change fee policy. But my first choice is always WN domestically, the fares on someone else have to be significantly less to move me over. I rue the day I have to fly one of the other majors.

  18. 1. Assigned seats
    2. First class or premium economy offering
    3. Codeshare/interline agreements with international carrier

  19. Interline. I fly about 12 times a year and I cant remember the last time I flew between two airports that were both served by WN. I don’t mind changing airlines as long as its on the same ticket. As it is WN is never an option for me.

  20. Simple – cheaper fares. When Southwest came to town I was excited but the fares have never been lower than the legacy carrier. ALSO, I have to connect through MDW or DEN to get anywhere while a direct flight on is often cheaper. Sorry, not going to get me that way.

  21. I’ve only flown SouthWest once, a long time ago, and it was OK. I just don’t like waiting in line or, more accurately, waiting in the middle or back of a line. I’ve been a UA flyer for many years simple because they go where I want/have to go. If SouthWest flew out of Monterey, I would certainly jump on board and give them all my business rather than to United. It just doesn’t make sense to me to drive 60 miles to SJC or 90 some miles to SFO to fly SouthWest.

  22. Until the mandatory peanuts go away, I will never (again) be on WN. You can’t even ask the people around you to not eat them! You can laugh about severe peanut allergies, but they are not funny once a medical diversion is required. I’m an AS MVP and WN is very rarely cheaper for the routes I fly, so, meh.

      1. What fees? As Alaska MVP, everyone on my itinerary gets two checked bags free and preferred coach (assigned by our choice) seating. They even pay me $25 if my checked bags take more than 20 minutes to reach baggage claim (it’s happened once in three years).

    1. Southwest will decline to serve peanuts if you call them in advance. They’ll also let you get on board early and clean off your seat. I did this last week for my son.

      1. Sadly, this didn’t work out for me flying from San Jose to Seattle. Called in advance, but flight attendants insisted on serving peanuts anyway and told me to stop asking nearby pax to not eat peanuts. I had a severe reaction and used two Epi-pens on the flight. It was… awesome. Never again.

        1. JuliaZ-You should know by now to call to find out if peanuts will be served and to avoid such flights.

  23. More direct flights from my hometown and more consistent availability of low fares — but who doesn’t want that from ANY airline?

    I think Southwest has done a good job of adapting to changing times, they (generally) run a good operation and they take care of their people — both customers and employees. They’re still different and try to make the passenger’s experience a good one, which is appealing to this traveler.

  24. Yes, the employees do their best to provide a friendly and pleasant experience. I believe their business model of having the employees own either stock or stock options has a lot to do with it.
    I have had unfortunate experiences on other airlines with employee attitude. I would especially point out US Scareways whose employees treat the customer like the enemy. Somehow I find it hard to believe they can always ‘have a bad day’.

  25. As a 48-weeks-per-year “commuter” between Sarasota and Baltimore, it was devastating for me when Sarasota (SRQ) was one of the first AirTran cities cut out by Southwest. I now have to fly in and out of Tampa (TPA) which is an hour away, and that distance also precludes my wife dropping me off and picking me up every week at the airport. I now have to drive the hour each way ($1.25 toll) as well as leave a car in long-term parking for 4 days every week. I no longer get the AirTran business class upgrades, and Southwest’s change in their Rewards Program resulted in my losing the Companion Pass that I had for many years, as well as getting only 1 rewards flight for every 11-12 flights as opposed to the every 8 that it was with the old system. And this is all not to mention to whopping 50% or so fare increase (which I pay out of my own pocket), and the horrid flight delays over the past year that Cranky Flier has so eloquently explained, and is FAR from being fixed as of this writing … yesterday’s flight, BWI-TPA, at 3:15 was delayed for “mechanical issues” first before it left Raleigh-Durham for over an hour and then a 2nd “mechanical issue” on the same plane for another hour at BWI before it left!

    All that being said, the no change fee is HUGE for me … if that goes I am done. And assuming that Southwest will not be returning to SRQ just for me personally, the main things I would like to see are (1) a return to their on-time departure statistics of yesteryear, and (2) some sort of fare “deal” for very frequent flyers (a round trip every 1-2 weeks) of the same route(s). There are lots of us! We would gladly book all our weekly flights for 6 months in advance and 1 reasonable fare.

    Thank you Cranky Flyer for allowing us to vent, and for all the valuable “insider” information you provide to us.

  26. I’ll summarize in three letters S-Y-R. One of the most conveniently located airports in the Northeast, a large catchment area with over 3 million people. They should have landed in SYR years ago.

  27. WN should stop calling themselves a Low Cost Carrier. They are no longer an LCC and should either cut fares to qualify for the title or else start acting like the Legacy Carrier they’ve become. As for what I’d like to see from them, assigned seating would be great. I’d gladly give up the second free bag for that privilege.

  28. I like Southwest as it is. It and Jet Blue are my go-to airlines, to no small degree because of their policies on carry-on luggage. Those who want Southwest to be like other airlines should fly those other airlines. Of course, you’ll have to pay all those fees the other airlines have; but, hey you can’t have everything. One other thing. if being at the beginning of Southwest’s A Group were important, I’d buy their Business Select tickets,

  29. I’d like to see a return to what I would refer to as ‘Southwest Traditional Values’.. Low fares,
    frequent, On-time service, and first come first serve seating, regardless of fare. Those are the attributes that built the airline in the first place.

  30. SWA is currently focused on US & Canadian customers – most of the forms only accept US-style postal and contact data making it difficult for foreigners to use SWA. For example if one wants to get the newsletter, one has to provide a preferred departure airport. Visiting from Europe, I do not have a preferred departure airport in the US but may need the information for planning my trip.

    I have flown with SWA several times when in the US and have only the best memories – but they make it really difficult to spend my money with them…

  31. I wish Atlanta was more important to them, so they would stop dropping the old Airtran routes. If Delta has 6 flights a day to SEA, surely SW could keep a few of them. I’m sure Atlanta was just a little something extra with the purchase, and certainly not a major goal from the purchase. With their entrance, fares have certainly risen from ATL, and if the price is the same, I’ll fly Delta.

  32. #1 Assigned seats. I hate the WN boarding process

    The rest are nice to haves. Same day standby for an earlier flight. First Class. Power. Fares showing up on OTAs for comparisons.

  33. Reading some of this and with my last comment, I wish Southwest’s fanboys would lay off a little. It got old long ago. Southwest offers a unique product, you like it, others don’t. I’m in no hurry to fly them because I like assigned seats, and I don’t want to get on an airplane any sooner than I have to.

    (FWIW, I’m a huge Apple fanboy, and while I’ll give CF a playful hard time for his Android phone and micro-laptop, that in good fun.)

    I’m reminded of a discussion on wikipedia on Southwest’s Accidents and Incidents and the contortions folks went through to make WN look good, including this now edited line “Southwest Airlines has never had a non-passenger induced passenger fatality.”

    The discussion was interesting over there: (I’m Cliffb on Wikipedia.)

  34. Change nothing, Continue to under promise and over deliver. Caving to the demands of business travelers who want legacy carrier comforts is not part of their model or DNA. They offer excellent value for price just the way they are, and especially if you work all the angles. What other carrier offers an easy to earn Companion Pass and offers a 30-40% implied rebate on full fare tickets to everyone? Double that during 2x promos.

  35. I don’t understand why people expect free electricity everywhere they go. Just about any late-model phone, tablet or ultralight computer (MacBook Air) will outlive even the longest Southwest nonstop.

    And with the cozy Evolve seating, you really don’t want a bunch of powerport boxes taking up space under the seat.

    1. It’ll outlive the longest Southwest non-stop if it has a reasonable charge before you get on the plane. Sometimes there isn’t that time to charge the phone, especially if its an evening flight after a long day.

      1. Or, you know, people just enjoyed a few hours off from their computer? Reading a book or kindle won’t kill anyone. The only time I think in-seat power is necessary is ultra long haul, and maybe transcon first.

        1. I’m glad you are not my mother or my father and don’t get to decide things for me. While you may not value power, and it’s fine to say that, you don’t get to decide how others spend their time. I don’t always have time to charge before I’m on board, and I’d like power at the seats, so that I don’t have to plan, nor worry about dimming my screen.

  36. Southwest is the most overrated airline I have ever seen. Their fares are far from the lowest. The recent fiasco at Midway was the first time I think I have ever seen negative press about them. They are far from the perfect PR spin they have created. Their employees aren’t happy, even though they are the highest paid—go figure that one out. I agree completely with the statements about the caliber of people on board. I avoid them like the plague.

  37. Big upfront seats on the cheap like Spirit does. Some lounges, even if simple, would be nice. Also a better west coast connection from the midwest. I hate all the touch and go routing to get to the bay area. Did I mention that the airport in Vegas has slots that never seem to pay off :)

  38. Ok, I get that IFE has never been and never will be WN’s “thang” but really… If they expect to get more business traffic, or expect folks to shell out cas for streaming movies or live tv, AC power ports are ABSOLUTELY required

  39. As a traveler, when I lived in Chicago, Southwest was my first choice. Midway is so much easier to negotiate. I have zero issues with the seating process. The early bird seating is well worth it. The Rapid Rewards program is the easiest path to a free ticket, which is why my credit card is Rapid Rewards. Consistently friendly staff are a rare treat.

    As a travel agent it is another story. They have cut or not expanded staff at the call centers. I never had to wait until recently. Having native availability only in Sabre is not good if you use another GDS as I do. Hopefully with Amadeus taking over the automation they will be easier to book.

  40. My wish list to get me to fly Southwest again:
    Nonstop flights, Oakland or San Francisco to Orlando, Pittsburgh or Philadelphia
    Cut out the feeble attempts at humor and stop trying to use humor when the airline is late. It rings as hollow under those circumstances
    Improve your dreadful baggage handling that delayed many flights in the past
    Upgrade amenities to the level found on Jet Blue

  41. I was a loyal WN flyer for a few years, for all the reasons that the Southwest fans have named – and a few that WN seem to have left behind. Their fare structure and rebooking policies used to be the simplest in the industry, and RapidRewards lived up to its name (also very simple, with a short timeline to a free RT flight). I had switched from legacies (UA and AS) because WN offered lower fares where and when I needed to travel, and they didn’t advertise a product that they failed to deliver (are you listening, United?). At first, I hated open seating and the queue at the gate, but EarlyBird was terrific: I always ended up in the A group and often scored a seat in an emergency exit row. Unlike the legacies, WN’s aircraft offered reasonably good seat pitch for a taller guy. Finally, WN’s service was reliable and fairly enjoyable: Late flights were rare, on-board service was friendly and relaxed, and even when I had multiple stops and/or connections, I seldom spent longer traveling than I would have by traveling with the competition.

    I don’t fly w/WN at all any more and likely won’t in the future. I live in Monterey (MRY), and the 75-minute drive to San José (SJC) is hardly worth the expense or hassle of flying with WN any more. Traveling to the Northwest with WN is no longer convenient, with most routings now through LAS (Southwest might want to look at a map – Las Vegas isn’t really on the way to Boise or Spokane from California). WN’s fares are nearly always higher than those of AS (who now also require me to connect a lot, but whose flight frequency minimizes the hassle). WN is hardly a low-fare airline. And now, RapidRewards is far more complicated than it used to be. Might as well join a legacy FF program, as far as I’m concerned. One last thing: That gaudy yellow in the new Southwest livery? What ARE they thinking???!!!

  42. I fly every week from DEN to MKE for business and just changed from Frontier to Southwest. It just became too demeaning to fly Frontier anymore now that they are rapidly devolving into the Walmart of the skies. The last straw was the carry-on Nazi’s at the gate who have recently begun a zero-tolerance policy for sizing bags. Weekly business travelers don’t need yet another gauntlet to run at the airport.

    Southwest is a subtle improvement, though I seem to recall more seat room when I flew Southwest last year. I don’t need business class, but an essential economy plus/stretch section is my number one request for legroom and laptop use.

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