Why Southwest Will Remain the Best of the Budget Airlines

Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines made headlines this week after announcing plans for a $2.9 billion merger that would create the fifth-largest carrier in the US

However, travelers should know that Southwest Airlines remains the undisputed low-cost carrier king.

While not everyone may agree on the Dallas, Texas-based budget carrier—after all, airlines are quite polarizing these days—you’d be hard-pressed to prove that Southwest isn’t giving today’s travelers the most bang for their buck.

The most common squabbles passengers often have with Southwest is the lack of first-class and no assigned seats. But I’m here to argue that the latter is a benefit and not a disadvantage.

The crowded and confused gate areas can get old, sure, but so long as customers check-in at the start of their 24-hour window or purchase EarlyBird Check-In they’ll be able to board at the same time as their travel companions and sit together for the duration of the flight. I like to think of it as freedom rather than chaos.

That brings us to the many perks of flying Southwest, perhaps none more famous than the carrier’s Bags Fly Free policy, which eliminates headaches like last-minute fees at the counter and standing around at the baggage carousel upon arrival assuming you’ve managed to fit your belongings into a carry-on bag and personal item.

Southwest’s complimentary in-flight entertainment is also a welcome feature, especially on longer flights. Just sync your laptop, tablet or smartphone up to the Southwest Wi-Fi and you can watch the latest movies, shows and even live TV. This is a big benefit for sports fans like myself. Passengers can also listen to music and purchase inflight internet for a reasonable $8.

The in-flight experience is also enhanced by some of the kindest and uniquely fun flight attendants in the industry who routinely go out of their way to assist or comfort passengers, based on my experience.

Then there are the low fares and frequent sales allowing customers to capitalize on one-way flights from under $40 in some cases. Flying midweek or on a Saturday between Southwest’s operating bases in places like Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orlando and Phoenix can save travelers even more money without sacrificing any of the aforementioned benefits.

It’s also worth mentioning that Southwest was at the forefront of not charging customers change fees long before airlines began dropping those charges at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Frontier-Spirit merger is aimed to shake up the industry but, for now, when it comes to the battle of America’s budget carriers, Southwest remains a leg up on the competition.

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