I’ve managed to make a connecting flight in a massive Asian airport I’d never been to before with just 20 minutes from touchdown to takeoff. Yet in my own home airport of Laguardia, where I frequently fly, I had no idea my super early arrival would mean nothing to the airline. It’s comical, really. No matter how seasoned a traveler you may be, there’s always something new to learn. Read on for tips specific to Southwest Airlines; last weekend I flew to Austin, TX with them for the first time and definitely learned a thing or two.
1) Southwest Doesn’t Do Assigned Seating
Flying Southwest can be a fun experience once you know how they operate. And this, above all else, is what makes them rather unique. I went from being the last person to board my plane at LGA, obviously stuck in a middle seat at the plane’s rear, to a coveted aisle spot in the 5th row just 72 hours later.
2) Check In…and Do It Early
Like most airlines, Southwest offers the option to check in 24-hours before your flight. Only with this airline, you should actually set an alarm to check in 24-hours early on the dot.
Why’s that? Once you check-in you’re given a boarding number and can’t board before your group’s turn (A, B or C) or your number within that group (1-60). That’s how they’re able to offer open seating. It becomes a first come, first served process.
It’s easy to check in, too. No need to fuss over your username and password. Just drop in your confirmation number and full name, then you’ll be all set.
Picking a seat isn’t too bad. I like to go with whatever window or aisle seat is closest to the front. You get off faster and get more space. Win win. As a general rule of thumb, families tend to sit towards the back so they can be together and take their time getting out. Aka the back is where the screaming children sit. And those on connecting flights sit towards the front.
3) Bring Snacks and a Credit Card
They don’t take cash on Southwest flights so if you’re looking for a mid-flight buzz, bring your credit card. The hostesses are rather funny, too, trying not to go through the typical motions monotonously. On a quick 30 minute flight from Houston to Austin, they offered drink service (most airlines wouldn’t) but announced over the loud speaker:
“Drink like you’re in college. You knew this would be a quick flight, but you ordered a drink anyway. Bottoms up!”
And later, on another flight just before takeoff they announced “Whose phone is ringing? That doesn’t sound like airplane mode.”
Snacks are sparse, at least on their shorter flights, so bring your own fuel if you get hungry. Their flights sometimes end with a song, too so be prepared to for an offbeat flying experience.
Have you guys flown Southwest and have any stories to share? Or other tips to offer?