Why I choose Southwest every time

I think it’s safe to say that I am TPG’s resident Southwest Airlines fangirl.

I grew up flying Southwest exclusively, so I spent my early travel years assuming that free checked bags, a high-stakes check-in process and choosing a seat away from the screaming baby were all part of the universal flying experience.

Color me shocked when I eventually learned these experiences were unique to flying Southwest — and many people avoided the airline in favor of elite status, potential seat upgrades and airport lounge access with their preferred airline of choice.

Some of my fellow TPGers felt confident I would abandon my Southwest loyalty once I experienced my first business-class upgrade on another airline. But to their bewilderment, flying other airlines has only solidified my love for Southwest. As it turns out, I value the ability to move seats more than the option to select more “elevated” snacks like chocolate quinoa (whatever that is).

It’s not just nostalgia that keeps me coming back to Southwest Airlines. In a time when so many are abandoning or switching their airline loyalty, here are the reasons you’ll still find me flying Southwest — and why you may want to join me.

(If you happen to agree with me about Southwest being a top choice, know that three of the personal Southwest cobranded cards are offering elevated welcome bonuses of 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months from account opening, but only until Dec. 11.)

Now, let’s jump into it.

Great values

Southwest is often viewed as a budget airline, and for good reason. There are several ways that flying Southwest can save you money when you travel.


Generally, I find Southwest’s prices are pretty good. I use its low-fare calendar to see costs in cash or points and choose travel dates with the best available deals when I can.

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But where it really comes through with low prices is during its regular sales. Every few weeks, I get an email alerting me that Southwest is offering low fares — sometimes as low as $39 to $59 one-way.

These sales are a great time to book new travel and check the price of any existing bookings. Southwest makes it easy to rebook the same flight to take advantage of a lower price, a perk that often saves me thousands of points when rebooking flights.

Related: How to rebook a Southwest flight when the fare changes

Companion Pass

Probably the most valuable offering from Southwest Airlines is its Companion Pass, which allows you to bring a companion with you for free (plus taxes and fees) on unlimited flights for at least a full calendar year.

Since I usually travel solo, this particular perk hasn’t saved me much money. However, I’ve watched my parents easily save thousands of dollars in travel with their Compansion Passes over the years.

And Southwest cobranded credit cards make earning a Companion Pass attainable for many people. That’s a massive perk — especially considering that most other airlines tout a single companion ticket as a valuable perk on their cobranded cards.

Related: How to earn and use the Southwest Companion Pass

Free checked bags

Many of us are proudly carry-on-only travelers, but we all have times when we really need or want to check a bag.

The cost of checking bags varies among airlines, but you’re generally charged at least $30 for a first bag and $40 for a second one if you don’t have a credit card or status with the airline that allows you to skip these fees.


Meanwhile, Southwest allows each passenger to check their first two bags for no additional cost. This means that a family of four could check up to eight bags before incurring any fees — saving them hundreds of dollars on top of any money they saved by booking their trip during a Southwest sale.

Related: Why I always check a bag when I fly

No change or cancellation fees

Often, budget airlines advertise good flight deals only to tack on extra fees later, but you won’t find this to be the case with Southwest Airlines.

One of the best things about Southwest is that it doesn’t charge extra fees when you need to make a change after booking your trip. If you cancel your flight, you’ll receive a points refund or flight credit right back into your Rapid Rewards account.

If you need to change, you can rebook for no additional cost other than the fare difference or take advantage of free same-day standby.

Related: How to change or cancel a Southwest Airlines flight


For those of us who find travel planning overwhelming, Southwest’s booking simplicity is a huge perk. There are no partner airlines to navigate, no difference in seat types or amount of baggage allowed with different fare types.

Simple earning and redeeming

Beyond the traditional method of earning points through flying Southwest, it’s easy to rack up Rapid Rewards points through credit card spending. You can use a cobranded Southwest credit card to earn Rapid Rewards points directly, or you can use a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points and then transfer those points to your Rapid Rewards account.


Southwest doesn’t partner with other airlines or belong to an airline alliance, so the Rapid Rewards program is especially good for beginners and those who suffer from points analysis paralysis.

Simply earn your points and then use them to book your flight. Southwest determines a ticket’s point value by its cash value at a rate of around 1.5 cents per point, so you can feel great knowing you’ve gotten a good value without spending hours learning how to finagle the best redemption.

If you want to maximize your points, look for the lowest-fare tickets. Similar to other airlines, Southwest tends to offer better deals on less convenient routes, like early or late flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Still, I’ve been able to snag some killer deals on convenient nonstop routes by booking (or re-pricing) during Southwest’s periodic sales.

Related: Your complete guide to Southwest Rapid Rewards

More nonstop options

Southwest uses more of a point-to-point route network than a traditional hub-and-spoke model; this allows the airline to offer more nonstop and more efficient route options than many airlines. Since I don’t live near a true hub for any airline, I especially appreciate that I don’t have to waste time flying past my home airport to get to a hub before I can get home.


Southwest perks are pretty evenly doled out to passengers. Everyone gets the same first-come, first-served seating choice, as well as the same free checked bags and the same inflight snack options. Aside from a few differences in fare type, there aren’t many decisions to make when booking a ticket with Southwest.

If you want to skip to the front of the boarding line and increase your chances of getting a good seat, you can pay for the privilege. For example, passengers can purchase upgraded boarding to snag one of the first 15 boarding positions. You can also purchase EarlyBird Check-In, but those are options available to everyone and not part of some complicated hierarchy of passengers.

Additionally, Southwest has four different fare types: Business Select, Anytime, Wanna Get Away Plus and Wanna Get Away. Business Select is the most expensive option and includes perks like an automatic A1-A15 boarding position and free inflight Wi-Fi. Still, these options are available (and usually relatively affordable) to everyone — no million-mile status required.

Related: How to snag the best seats on Southwest Airlines

Credit card lineup

Southwest offers multiple ways to earn Rapid Rewards points through credit card spending. The Southwest cobranded credit card lineup includes three personal and two business cards, and you can also choose to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your Rapid Rewards account.

As a points and miles enthusiast and Southwest devotee, I’ve had several Southwest credit cards over the years.

I started with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, the lowest-tier personal card with just a $69 annual fee. It comes with limited perks, but it was perfect when I was learning to navigate credit card rewards.


Recently, I got the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and am currently working to earn my welcome bonus. I love that it has a reasonable $99 annual fee and comes with 6,000 bonus anniversary points as well as two free EarlyBird Check-Ins each year.

When I’m paying for dining or general travel, however, I reach for my Chase Sapphire Reserve.

It earns an elevated 3 points per dollar on these purchases, which I can transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Southwest Rapid Rewards or any of Chase’s 13 other hotel and airline partners. Note, however, that you won’t get to count these points toward Companion Pass qualification — you’ll want to spend on a cobranded card if that’s your goal.

Regardless of your priorities, it’s easy to rack up Rapid Rewards through everyday credit card spending with this range of options.

Related: The best Southwest Airlines credit cards


No one thing is perfect for everyone, and there are certainly people who won’t find Southwest Airlines as lovable or right for their needs as I do.

Primarily domestic routes

Southwest primarily flies domestic routes, although it also flies to some (mostly tropical) international destinations. I fly more domestic than international routes, so Southwest generally has routes to the destinations I need. However, someone who regularly flies internationally will find Southwest’s routes insufficient.

Limited elite perks

If you’re someone who relishes the perks you get from your airline’s elite status program, prepare to be disappointed by Southwest.


Southwest doesn’t offer a variety of seat types, so you won’t find a first-class cabin or even a premium economy option. This means there’s no hope of getting a seat upgrade when you fly Southwest. That said, the earlier you get on, the better your odds of snagging the virtually “infinite legroom” seat in the exit row, so at least there’s that.

Related: What is Southwest Airlines elite status worth?

Open seating

Speaking of seats, I view the open seating policy on Southwest as a benefit. It gives me the flexibility to choose a seat away from crying babies and bachelorette parties. However, the check-in and boarding process can be stressful for those accustomed to selecting their preferred seat ahead of time.

If you want to secure an early boarding spot, you can pay for EarlyBird Check-In ($15 or more per one-way flight), which checks you in automatically 24 hours before your flight; further, an upgraded boarding position ($30 or more per segment) places you in the first 15 boarding spots.

Since saving money is one of my priorities when I travel, I tend to skip these and instead set an alarm to remind me to check in exactly 24 hours before my Southwest flight.

While there are no guarantees, this generally gets me a good enough boarding position to snag my preferred aisle seat; I don’t bother paying for EarlyBird Check-In or an upgraded boarding unless I won’t be able to check in on time before a long flight. It only took one late check-in and a middle seat on a cross-country flight to convince me that paying for this one luxury could be worth it.

It is also worth noting, however, that flying solo makes it easier to find a good seat. Large parties will have more limited options to sit together if they don’t manage to get a boarding group number toward the front of the process.

Related: How to get seats together on Southwest Airlines

Bottom line

When I’m flying internationally, I’m airline agnostic: I’ll fly whichever airline is cheapest or book the ticket I can most easily cover with my stash of points and miles.

But when I’m flying somewhere Southwest Airlines can take me, you can bet I will choose it. With good deals, nonstop options, free checked bags and open seating, you’ll find me flying Southwest every chance I get.

Related reading:

Apply here: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Apply here: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Apply here: Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

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