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Flying the friendly skies with Southwest Airlines

Two checked bags “fly free.”

Web deals for mid-week flights start at $59 one way.

Easy check-in and boarding process allows you to choose your seat – if you check in early enough.

And, your flight attendants may just rap, sing or tell you a joke.

As a regular Southwest Airlines customer, it’s no surprise to me that the airline ranked highly for its friendly cabin-crew and no fees for two checked bags on a recent consumer report.

When traveling within the United States, Southwest is often my go-to airline. Here are some reasons why you might want to consider it for your next flight.

Low cost for the flexible traveler

My most traveled route is between Baltimore, which has one of three major airports in the Washington, D.C., area, and Detroit. On my most recent trip over Memorial Day weekend, my airfare totaled $150. In February, I flew between my two homes for only $120 round-trip!

How do I book such affordable flights?

  • Book online:  By booking online — without a travel agent or by phone — you can save up to $50, the Huffington Post reported. On Southwest’s website, there are web-only price offerings – sometimes significantly lower than the other flights.
  • Be flexible: Usually, I have flexibility in my schedule to fly on weekdays, which is cheaper than flying Friday through Sunday. By flying out Thursday night and returning Monday morning before work, I save money and get three full days of vacation. I also have shaved off dollars by flying early in the morning or on the last flight out. Also, if you can afford time (and money) to reschedule your flight, you might consider booking Southwest’s “Wanna Get Away” ticket option. The Wanna Get Away tickets are not refundable, but the funds are reusable — and they can run more than $100 less than “Anytime” tickets.
  • Book early: Whether you need time to save vacation funds or your work schedule is likely to change before your trip, booking early can be difficult to do. But, whenever you can, booking months in advance can save you upwards of $100, depending on the destination and time of year.
  • Shop sales: Southwest emails promotion codes for discounted tickets to its customers. The airline also alerts customers to limited-time offers on specific flights via its mobile app. It was through a Southwest “Click ‘n Save” email that I discovered I could travel round-trip for $59 each way to go to Detroit for Valentine’s Day weekend.
  • Fly direct: You might think that the inconvenience of a layover and changing planes would make your ticket less expensive, but I’ve found that is often not the case with Southwest flights. Of course, it is sometimes unavoidable, especially if you are locked into flying on a particular date or at a specific time.

No baggage fees

On Southwest, each passenger is allowed to check two bags for free. Plus, you still get to take a carry-on bag and a personal item. For longer trips or during the cold winter months — when you may be packing bulky items, such as coats and boots — you don’t have to stress about cramming it all into one bag to avoid an extra fee.

An airline with a sense of humor

After a three-hour, weather-related delay for an already late flight, pretty much everyone — passengers and crew — was tired by the time our plane from Chicago landed. In true Southwest fashion, our flight attendants kept the mood light even thanking us for our patience and welcoming us to “Baltimore-Washington International Airport, which is neither in Baltimore nor Washington.” On an earlier leg of that same trip, a flight attendant asked that we stow our purses and “manbags” before take-off. Once we landed in Chicago, she also recommended the best places to eat at Midway for those of us with layovers. I’ve heard flight attendants wish moms a happy Mother’s Day in May and lead the passengers in a round of “Happy Birthday” for another passenger on board. I’ve been sung the safety requirements, and there’s even a Southwest flight attendant who rapped the pre-flight instructions. You might remember him from this viral video.

(Leg) room for improvement

My only complaints about Southwest align with the customers surveyed  in the consumer report. Sometimes, generally when flying later in the day or during very busy travel times (i.e. late December), the cabins are not clean. Conditions have never been unbearable, but I have found a baby’s bottle with some questionable dried liquid in the seat pouch attached to the chair ahead of me. Also, I do feel more boxed in on Southwest than some other airlines, such as Delta. However, when I flew back from Las Vegas in October, I was on a new plane with very spacious seats. That new model had plenty of leg room, and the wider seats made the four hour flight much more comfortable. The good news is that these more spacious planes exist. The bad news is you likely won’t be on one.

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