Southwest Airlines sets the standard

Air travel is a blessing and a curse, the blessings are easy to see, it has enabled us to travel the world freely and affordably. But sadly the curses are not as easy to see until you’re in the middle of every trip we take.  From bad seat assignments to poor service all the way to the inevitable lost bag. Air travel is like playing high stakes russian roulette, the rewards are undeniable, but the downsides often make you not want to play.

Most airlines in America have consistently struggled to turn a consistent profit, The business is hard to execute and operates on low margins due to the saturated competition in the market.  However, one airline has managed to continually grow and stay in the black year after year. Southwest airlines is one of the few companies in the industry that is making a profit year in and year out.  From their advertising to how they board their planes, all the way to the friendly staff, Southwest is a bright star in a crowded and ugly industry.

Transparent costs are one of the main reasons why people continue to go back to southwest consistently.  The customer loyalty is clear for many reasons, but the biggest is likely a combination of the priority of nonstop flight offerings to most major airports in the U.S. as well as their points program being so clear and easy to understand (and redeem).  Most other airlines struggle with clarity and honesty when it comes to the cost of their flights. The forever known slogan of southwest became “Bags fly free”, as important as this was to their marketing strategy in the past it seems odd they don’t continue to push it given that nearly every airline in the world now charges per bag you check. This message may already be baked into the customers consideration, but nonetheless a huge advantage for them moving forward.

If you had to pick one thing that fundamentally defines and separates Southwest from the majority of airlines in the world it isn’t hard to choose it.  Southwest does not have assigned seating, which means that as a flyer you don’t get to choose ahead of time what type of seat you want or where you want it.  For many people this just isn’t something they are comfortable with, they want to know where they will be sitting and have the assurance that they have a specific seat for the flight.  But for everyone else the 24 hour clock is always set before their flight so they can check-in to try to get the lowest number possible for boarding purposes. First on first choice, so if you are last to board on a full flight you are likely getting a middle seat in the back of the aircraft. 

If you are ok with the “cattle call” boarding and with the simple no frills style, Southwest should be on your list of top airline choices.  The upsides significantly outweigh the down, and in a time when air travel has become more and more a pain in the rear, Southwest manages to take a least some of the sting away with cheap flights and solid service.