An Ode to Southwest Airlines: Better late than never.


I am still trying to catch up editing and posting the posts I wrote while I was traveling from Honolulu to Cuenca. I am promising myself that I will not let myself get in this position again. Well, we will see how that works out.

After a week in Petaluma, I was off again. This time I was heading to Indianapolis to have a meeting aimed at taking care of the most pressing problems with my financial situation, before leaving the country.

I booked my flights for the trip well before leaving Honolulu. Using Google Flight search for the flight from Honolulu to Oakland. I attempted to book the flights between Oakland, Indianapolis, and Houston using Google flights, but while doing this, I noticed that Google listed Southwest Airlines with the notice “fares not available”. I figured that Google did this to indicate that it would be a good idea to check out the fares on the Southwest site.

It was a good thing I followed this hunch. The prices were exceptionally low; $118 for the first leg and $160 for the second. I remembered from having flown Southwest around the Gulf of Mexico as a marine surveyor that it was, in general a very pleasant airline to fly. It did not disappoint.

Of course, I am writing this on the Houston flight, so they still have a chance to let me down. I hope they don’t. (They didn’t!)

I think that the best thing about Southwest is the open seating model, which they use. On the airlines, which use assigned seating flights I have flown, people gang up on the gate, trying to shove to the front of their boarding group, or even to slip into the group ahead. With overhead bins at a premium, if you are in one of the later boarding groups you might have to gate-check a bag. The scrum of passengers always seem to be very panicked that they will have to gate-check bags. The way people are lined up in very small groups before boarding, on Southwest, makes everything very orderly.

I am not sure how Southwest does it, but it there always seems to be plenty of overhead space, even though people with cheap seats like mine, board last. Are their overhead bins bigger? Or are there fewer people on the flights, also explaining the generous leg-room. Or are the passengers who fly these flights different? I am not sure, but is nice that even when I am among the last to board, I have yet to be unable to find a space for my bag. As a minimalist traveler, my carry-on bags are the only gear I carry.

A friend of mine, who likes to tell everyone that he is four foot 36 inches tall, advised me that Southwest has the best leg room that you can get in standard coach. At five foot four, there is more than enough room for me. I have been on United flights, where my short legs were pressed up against the seat in front of me. I can’t imagine my friend folded up in one. The seats on Southwest are very comfortable, even in the fully upright position.

One way that Southwest is better, in my eyes, than Hawaiian Airlines, is that they do service from hand carried trays, so that I never feel hemmed in by those blocky service carts. This sort of service is probably not suitable for use on the larger planes, but it is nice when it is used on the smaller ones.

If I have any complaint about Southwest, it is that they don’t have the iPad clamps on the seat backs like Hawaiian air. I know, that is a very petty gripe, but that shows how good an airline it is.

I am finally getting around to posting this, over a month after it was roughed out. I remembered it because today I booked my next Southwest flight from Houston, to Mexico City in December. The only other cheap flights I could find for the route, went through Dallas Fort Worth and had such a long layover that the flight was in excess of 24 hours.

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