Thursday, July 11, 2013

Finally... I will give Southwest another chance.

It has been nearly 15 years since my last flight on southwest. I can still remember the anxiety, traveling with my family, hoping we would manage to get seats together knowing we checked in at the airport. By the time we made it on board  the only rows left with more than 1 seat were in the very back of the plane. Luckily it was only a 2 hour flight, but I can still remember being overly uncomfortable and hoping never to have that experience again. 

I generally pack light, or fly airlines that I have a co-branded credit card that covers the first bag. I certainly don't mind paying $35 for main cabin select on Virgin America flights either. However, on this occasion  a perfect storm of circumstances made Southwest the best option by long enough that I could not refuse. 

For months I have been planning a trip to Asia, flying First class on Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific. In order to start the journey, we need to get from SFO to LAX, a flight that takes just over an hour and has numerous carriers flying many times a day. In the end though, Southwest beat out the competitors for the following reasons.  

1. Flexibility: Up until the last minute I was waiting for an earlier flight to open up on JAL so that we could have a few extra days on the ground in Japan. United, Virgin, American, and Delta all had hefty change fees that would have cost more to change than the ~$69 the tickets would cost on Southwest. Knowing that we might have to change our dates, southwest offered the simplest option of being able to bank the value of the original flights and apply it towards a different fare. 

2. Baggage: Our flights on JAL and Cathay both offer cover 3 checked bags, and our trip is 2+ weeks long. Its likely that we will have at least two bags per person that we need to get down to LAX before we continue on. Even with a free bag via credit card or main cabin select upgrade, we would still have to put down at least $25 per person for our additional bags. Knowing we can freely check 2 bags per person on Southwest, this made the choice even easier. 

3. Schedule: We still have to work all day before we pack up and head to the airport. The last Virgin and American flights leave at around 8pm, cutting it a little close, and the United Redeye was already twice the price. We found that Southwest had a perfect 10pm departure that would get us down and into our airport hotel before midnight. 

In the end, the choice was easy. For an extra $25 I paid for our early-bird checkin, which should guarantee us in the first boarding group and a decent seat. I hope that this flight will help change my mind about flying southwest.