Southwest for business travel pros and cons

For the last few years, I have felt that for domestic travel, Southwest offers the best rewards program. How many points you get depends on the price southwest shamuof your ticket, and for business travelers especially that works out well. Awards require fewer points than other airlines, and are based on how far you’re traveling. And don’t forget about the fantastic Companion Pass. I traveled Southwest almost exclusively for the first half of 2013, and found it perfectly fine.

However, the last half of 2013 and most of 2014 I have flown American. During that time they expanded their Main Cabin Extra seating and wifi to virtually their entire domestic fleet. So last month when I had to fly Southwest, it seemed….less awesome. In fact, it was downright painful for some segments. The thing is, I want to love Southwest for business travel because it’s been really good for our family travel. But I’m finding it harder and harder to justify—it feels like a big sacrifice when I fly it for work. Here are some thoughts.

Southwest for business travel: Pros

  • Good rewards program, including lower points for redemption and Companion Pass
  • Status is relatively easy to attain
  • Free checked bags. This is a bonus because most business travelers carry-on, and if non-business travelers check their bag there is less competition for overhead bin space.

Southwest for business travel: Cons

  • No consistent wifi
  • No first class or any section with more room like Main Cabin Extra. This is a big one for me, because I feel like when the person in front of me reclines there is literally no room for my laptop, so I can’t work.
  • The boarding process (omg. The boarding process)
  • No food for purchase. While I recommend bringing snacks on every trip, if you don’t have any and you don’t have time to grab something, you are in for a very hungry flight. The ironic thing is that Southwest stopped providing food years ago so they could keep their prices low, but now their prices on average are higher than the legacy carriers.
  • Planes don’t have plugs. While a few Southwest planes have car-charger plugs, most of the planes I’ve flown recently don’t, and none of them have actual three-prong plugs.

In a nutshell, I think Southwest has a great awards program and is perfectly fine for family travel. But without consistent wifi and power ports, plus no sections with extra room, it is very difficult to be productive on a flight when traveling for work.

Readers, do you like Southwest for business travel? Any pros or cons to add to my list?

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Comments

  1. Oops… I left my reply as a comment on your Facebook. I use Southwest Exclusively for business for the following reasons.

    A. I only travel domestically for business.
    B. Their flexible cancel/change policy… As a corporate trainer my classes get changed or cancelled from time to time. They offer the best flexible ticket program as far as I am concerned.
    C. My company won’t pay for seat upgrades or Wi-Fi. My air time is “me” time when I grab the latest best seller or play whatever addictive game I have on my iPad that week.
    D. I live near Chicago which is a major hub. Their pricing is competitive here and they offer nonstops to all my top work destinations.

  2. Southwest is my go-to airline for family travel, but I agree it is a mixed bag for business travel.

    Southwest is truly awesome for business travel when flying up and down the West Coast on short hops (particularly any of the SF Bay Area airports to/from the LA area airports). Not a big deal if you don’t have consistent WiFi, a power outlet, or extra legroom for an hour or two. It is so much more convenient than other airlines because of its frequency of flights and the sheer number of those airports it serves, allowing you to avoid local road traffic in both busy metro areas.

    But for cross-country business travel, I prefer other airlines. The extra legroom, chance for an upgrade, and buy on board food can all be nice. Not to mention you often have to make a stop or connection on Southwest when going a substantial distance.

  3. I would say the boarding process is a pro. Southwest can board a plane in 10-15 minutes, where it takes a legacy 30-45.

  4. Leisure travel and if you don’t care about status and primarily fly domestic short hops, then it’s a good option.

    But for anything else, I do not consider Southwest. The free checked bags is not an issue if you get at least some kind of status with of the legacy carriers. Flexible tickets same thing although difficult with legacy carriers. This might be the biggest advantage Southwest has, but for anything else…not really.

  5. I use Southwest almost exclusively for both personal and business. There are several reasons, but it wasn’t always that way. I grew up in GA and then lived in a different city where Delta was the most affordable and reliable carrier. I have status with Delta, and I (for the most part) have been happy with them. BUT then I moved to Nashville, TN, and everything changed. So for the following reasons, here is why I go with SWA for both personal and business travel.

    -my travel frequency: I travel a lot but not enough to achieve status with multiple carriers in a year. If I am going with SWA, I need to stick to that to achieve status. Plus I love A-List perks, especially priority boarding. (For the record, I hate that elite benefits don’t extent to travel companions like SkyMiles benefits do.)
    -flexibility: My travel plans change frequently, and SWA accommodates that well without costing my business extra.
    -reliability/direct flights: SWA offers direct flights everywhere I travel frequently, while Delta and most other carriers require a connection. When I do fly Delta from BNA, I frequently get caught in ATC holds on the tarmac when there is congestion in ATL. I don’t have the time or patience for that stress. I can depend on SWA, and rarely experience delays of longer than 30 mins. The longest delay I ever experienced was 4 hours, and SWA gave the entire plan travel vouchers. Delta would never do that.
    -affordability: Typically, SWA is the lowest cost in Nashville for most routes I fly.

    The main drawback is the boarding process. I enjoy getting guaranteed preferred seats on Delta, but I am willing to trade some of the Delta elite perks for a fun flying experience thanks to great staff, a great rewards program, reliability, etc.

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