After a long break (15 years or so), I have flown on a bunch of flights all recently domestically within the USA and I discovered Southwest. Looking at the perks they offer such as picking your own seats and two free checked bags, what I don't understand is why doesn't everyone fly Southwest.

So my question is what is it that other American airlines such as American or United offer that Southwest doesn't? The only thing I can think of is that other airlines have many more destinations including international. Do they have extra legroom in the economy classes without having to pay extra? Are there more menu choices? Do they just have a lot more flights allowing flexibility in time? Insight from seasoned flyers is solicited.

Just to clarify, I am not looking to spark a debate or start a discussion. I am only curious about (objective) travel perks other airlines offer compared with Southwest.

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    Welcome to the site. It may be worth looking at the help center on how to format a question, as parts of this come across subjective and polling. What one question are you looking to answer? If there's a single factor another airline has that SOuthwest doesn't, would that be enough? Or even just a route that SW doesn't do?
    – Mark Mayo
    Dec 16, 2013 at 1:50
  • I am not trying to poll or start a discussion with subjective opinions. I have modified the question. If it is still inappropriate please feel free to edit it or let me know. :-) Dec 16, 2013 at 2:02
  • It's not showing any modifications?
    – Mark Mayo
    Dec 16, 2013 at 2:03
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    A little quick, I am modifying it now. Dec 16, 2013 at 2:04
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    I think the common wisdom is that for a large part of the customer base, the decision is very price-conscious. Shave 10 dollars off the price and many people will fly with you, no matter what perks you do or don't offer. Legacy carriers therefore often (need to) match low-cost carriers' prices on a given route, see The Southwest Effect and don't need (nor would be able to rely on) perks to attract customers.
    – Relaxed
    Dec 16, 2013 at 2:59

4 Answers 4


Everyone has different preferences, and obviously Southwest has its advantages (e.g. free bags) but here are some reasons one might prefer other airlines:

  1. FF programs based on miles instead of segments are preferable if one flies longhaul routes.
  2. Longhaul routes are unlikely to be nonstop/nonconnection on Southwest.
  3. Assigned seating (no having to stand in line at the gate).
  4. Possibility of upgrades, especially if one attains status.
  5. Possibility of international award flights.
  6. Possibility of award flights in F.
  7. Lounge access.
  8. Southwest isn't a low cost carrier anymore.
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    Exactly the type of answer I was looking for. Thanks! Dec 22, 2013 at 10:07
  • SWA's program is based on one ways (connecting doesn't give you an advantage) rather than segs+miles. All other airlines qualify on segments or miles. Also: SWA doesn't fly everywhere.
    – monksy
    Apr 22, 2014 at 2:26
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    Just to update, Southwest's current rewards program (as of 2014) is based on neither miles nor segments, but on dollars spent. Depending on the type of ticket purchased, you get 6-12 points per dollar of airfare spent. May 25, 2014 at 18:49
  • @NateEldredge Correct. Actually, it's been that way since well before when this question was asked. Delta is in the process of switching to a similar system for 2015.
    – reirab
    Sep 12, 2014 at 15:50

Well for one, in October this year, Southwest ranked LAST in on-time arrivals. Certainly that's a reason for many - lots of people I know don't fly Tiger in Australia for this reason.

But often the primary reason is loyalty and frequent flyer programs. If I have a major alliance membership - Star Alliance, OneWorld, for example, I like to look for airlines in that alliance for points. Those with points or status will look to use their points on similar airlines. Sure, Southwest has Rapid Rewards, but is not a member of a major airline alliance.

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    downvoter care to explain?
    – Mark Mayo
    Dec 16, 2013 at 2:54
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    @markmayo some people just LOVE the downvote: data.stackexchange.com/travel%20answers/query/153885/…
    – user141
    Dec 16, 2013 at 6:23
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    For what it's worth, that particular month was probably an aberration (likely due to weather.) Southwest is typically more punctual than many of the other U.S. carriers, at least in my personal experience. This article has the rankings for the first 3 months of 2015 and has Southwest at #5, ahead of all of the other major airlines except Delta.
    – reirab
    Feb 15, 2016 at 21:34

Two things you mention in your question are free checked bags and seat selection. However, you can get those too on traditional carriers for not too much effort.

On the free checked bags front, most of the carriers seem to offer a credit card that includes the first checked bag for free. With all the main frequent flier programs, higher status tiers include checked bags too. So, for someone who flies with a carrier a fair bit (enough to either get status or want their credit card), the checked bags thing is already covered.

On the assigned seating front, again that's something that status will normally get you. Depending on your frequent traveller status, it may be available from booking, or maybe only some time later, and may or may not cover "premium" seats (with more leg room). However, again, if you fly quite a bit with one airline / one alliance, you can easily get that covered.

So, for those who care about those things, Southwest offering them may make a difference to an occasional flier, but more frequent fliers are likely to already have them on their preferred airline. If you look at the passenger numbers of carriers like Ryanair and Wizzair, some customers are happy to do without either to save a few quid, so for those people offering them may not make much difference either way.

As with many things like this, you first need to work out what things do and don't matter to you personally, only then can you work out which airline / program / hotel / etc is likely to be the best fit for you. The best fit for me is very different to the best fit for my sister, which is different again to the best fit for my parents, and that's just one family! There are rarely simple globally applicable answers to this sort of thing...


A person may fly on an airline other than Southwest because their company has a contract with another carrier(s). For the contract's requirements, Southwest is not the 'best' carrier; Southwest may not even be interested in bidding on the contract.

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