Considered one of the smaller and cheaper domestic carriers, Southwest serves mostly short lines (1-2 hours), although the do have many east coast destinations (map).
For a low fare (beat $48 from San Jose to San Diego), SW offers the bare minimum: flight, sans food, movies and even assigned seating. That's right folks: you don't get to pre-book you window seat at the exit row. Boarding a SW flight is a unique experience: you're assigned a letter (A-C) and a number (1-31), stand in line and board in numerical order. Seat wherever you like. Pay an extra $15 and be guaranteed to board amongst the first 10 (and get one free alcoholic beverage).
They also don't have a regular "frequent fliers" club. Instead, you get between 1-1.5 point for each segment you fly with them (based on distance and fare). Get to 16 points and receive a free flight (unlimited by dates and distance - hear that Continental?). Start your account online and get 2 free points to start you up.
But one of the strangest (and to me, likable) aspects of flying with SW, is the irreverent and fun attitude of the air and ground crew. Every once in a while they start singing a Southwest appreciation song (I hope they don't have to, as part of their job), or tell a joke.
Here are a couple of pearl that stuck with me:
- "Welcome to Las Vegas. Have a nice day. Be nice to one another and don't forget to call your mother".
- "If your final destination is not San Diego - it is now".
- "As my boyf... er, the captain just told you, please keep your seat belts fastened".
- "Please don't stand up. If you bang your head, I'll have a ton of paperwork to fill".
Bottom line: recommended.