I often get questions about airlines and even more so travel credit cards, these discussions started long before I started blogging. While for me the real answer comes down to what you as an individual traveler need, for me the answer is Southwest. My list of places to go may span the entire globe, but most of my travel focuses on California and the Western United States.
I feel in love with Southwest once I moved 500 miles from my family. They were in Southern California and I was in Northern. While it isn’t horribly far, the drive can take away a lot of good family time, and I quickly found if I was heading down for less than four days it wasn’t really worth it. Thankfully, if you time it right on Southwest I can get to home and back for less than $100.
Dominate flights in California and the Western U.S.
They have more flights and more options in this region of the country. Plus the airlines that can compete on prices elsewhere do not fly as heavily out West. It is also airport specific, but they dominate the flights out of my home base in Sacramento.
Often have the best sales and best rates
I haven’t found a flight that I’ve actually taken that has been more than $25 cheaper than the Southwest alternative in years. Those couple bucks aren’t worth it for me because of the points I make up for it. With that from time to time, you’ll find sales, especially cross country, that might be cheaper rates. Although, if you time is right you can fly California to New York for as low as $240 on Southwest.
Better customer service
You would think it is the opposite, but as much as Southwest focuses on efficiency and speed, their staff is always the nicest. While I can’t quantify this one if I am approaching staff with questions or concern, the Southwest staff has always been more helpful and friendly than other airlines I’ve dealt with. Although maybe I just get lucky with the staff I talk to.
No bag fees
I understand the bag fees, but that doesn’t mean I want to pay them. I try and carry on most times, but whether it is a long trip, I’m bringing a bunch of stuff back with me, or it’s the winter and I need a giant coat, I love being able to check a bag without worrying about the cost. Plus I sometimes check my bag just so I don’t have to carry one around the airports. I love having nothing much more than my purse and a book to drag through the airport.
Even before I signed up for the credit card I would get free drink coupons and free in-flight movies in the mail. Now that I have the credit card I get more than I actually use. It is a little plus I really enjoy.
Caribbean & Mexico flights
While you’ll get more about international flights in the Cons, they do now fly to Mexico and a variety of destinations in the Caribbean. This is how we flew to Puerto Rico, entirely on points. Made the vacation at least a $1000 cheaper for the two of us. Plus, they recently added flights to Costa Rica.
Their credit card rocks
You have to already want to fly Southwest, but if it is the right fit for you then their credit card is ideal. When you sign up you start with 40,000 points (don’t sign up for less) which can get you from California to the Caribbean and you’ll still have 10,000 to 15,000 points left over. Since I’ve gotten my credit card I have paid for one flight, excluding some work trips. It also makes a trip to Seattle cost the same as a trip to Monterey since I remove the cost of the flight. If you’re interested in getting a Southwest Card here is a link to the 40,000 point offer (Disclosure: it also gives me extra points).
If you are looking for luxury then Southwest might not before you. The seats are simple and leg room isn’t expansive. There isn’t a business or first class option. You won’t be fed a meal, although I like their snacks better than most airlines.
No red-eye flights
For being someone on the West Coast, it is amazing if you can get across the country without losing a most of your day between travel time and the time changes. Southwest does not offer red-eyes, which means you lose time in your location. This is the only time I’ve booked flights with other airlines over the last year, and I normally book Southwest on the way home anyways.
There is a limit in what you can to do internationally. It is great to see them expanding, but when I am planning my big trip for the year they may not be the right choice. An example is for Bali later this year I’m going to have to pay out of pocket and not get the points on my main airline. This is a smaller trade off for me, but for some people can be a deal breaker.
What it really comes down to is doing your best to stick to one airline & earning points. And if you aren’t already earning points on a travel credit card, find the right fit for you. Make sure those dollars you are spending anyway are working for you.
Southwest gives me the best bang for my buck as both an airline and a credit card. Take a look and see if it is the right fit for you. If not let me know which airline you’ve found the best fit.