PHOTO: Southwest plane (Photo courtesy Southwest Airlines)
Last week I flew up to San Francisco from Los Angeles for a one-day meeting and flew with Southwest Airlines. Despite my best efforts to have a smooth flight, Los Angeles traffic is what hampered my airport experience in the beginning, but Southwest Airlines went the extra mile to make the flight a good one.
Southwest makes it easy to fly out of LAX.
Maybe it’s luck of the draw, but being located within terminal 1 at LAX is definitely an advantage for Southwest in a day and age where discounted air travel isn’t hard to find. Another win is that the terminal is small and easily navigable. One draw back, though, is lack of space — even when it’s not crowded, it feels like it is.
Check-in was a breeze, thankfully. I arrived at the airport for my 7:45 p.m. flight just as it was about to board (not something I recommend) but because Southwest participates in TSA Pre-Check and provides mobile boarding passes, breezing through security was easy and fast. I was at the gate in minutes.
Onboard Experience (8/10)
Another attribute of Southwest is the congenial atmosphere between staff and passengers. It seems somewhat facilitated by the boarding procedure since, if you are not one of the first passengers on the plane, you are basically forced to communicate with someone else in order to negotiate a seat. I didn’t hear anyone say “no” and several people ended up starting conversations that lasted for most of the 50-minute flight.
Southwest also seems to have mastered an understated understanding of what passengers need. Our flight left a little bit late and there were some grumbles from a few people. However, the drinks came fast and there were free snacks and no one was charged for a cocktail — suffice it to say, the complaining was put to bed for the remainder of the flight due to efficient, friendly service from the crew, who were calm, relaxed and friendly — an attitude that kept transferred back on to the passengers who remained upbeat.
The planes are Boeing 737s and I will admit, they are pretty old, but they are still comfortable and provide plenty of leg room — something to appreciate on an old school plane. One of the biggest drawbacks — even on a short flight — is the lack of power in the seat, so make sure you charge up your devices before you get onboard.
The return flight from SFO to LAX was a similar, if not identical, plane and the only difference in service was that we actually left early from SFO — which meant that everyone was happy but the drinks weren’t free.
Convenience wins with this flight. While the planes are older, there’s plenty of space. The flights generally run on time and the upbeat Southwest attitude makes for a relaxing experience overall on this short jaunt.