Here’s one major reason why I don’t fly Southwest.

I’m out at LAX airport today on a crazy routing to Europe. This morning, I flew in from JFK on an American A321T in Business Class, and I have several hours to kill before departing for my afternoon flight to London.

Considering I’ve been sitting on a plane for 6 hours this morning, I decided to walk around the airport. Towards the end of my walk, I came upon the Southwest ticketing counters and it was an absolute mad-house.


The line was a mile long, and it was full of leisure travelers trying to check bags and print boarding passes. As I heard from one agent I passed by, the wait to see the counter was over an hour long. That’s ridiculous.

Take, for example, my British Airways ticketing counter.


Sure, there’s a bit of a line, but it’s nothing like the Southwest line. Further, elite members of oneworld have access to First and Business class check-in counters, reducing wait times even more.

So, that brings me to one of the reasons I don’t fly Southwest – the lines. Sure, one could say you can’t compare British Airways with Southwest, and in most aspects, I’d agree. But in walking around LAX, you could replicate the BA counters with any other domestic airline – American, US Airways, United, Delta, etc. Certainly, the elite lines in all of these compared nothing to the mass chaos of the Southwest counters.

So, maybe perhaps the Southwest fare is cheaper, and yes, there are no bag fees…but I value my time, and it would frustrate me to no end to arrive at the airport, only to have to wait in a line to check my bag. This is why I value elite status, and why I believe the legacy carriers will always have the upper hand.

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If I can avoid flying Southwest, I will.

What do you think?



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  1. mike says

    In the words of a Lt. commander I used to work with.

    “I wouldn’t wait in that line to see the statue of liberty leap the grand canyon “

  2. says

    Not really fair to compare the general SW line with domestic elite lines. Southwest has a separate line for Alist and busienss select customers. Much faster. They also usually have self service kiosks that speed things up. But yes I agree that the lines are terrible during high travel periods. That is why I never check bags.

    I attribute the lines to how they schedule flights. Go to SFO and look at United lines. It is worse.

  3. Ryan says

    What do I think? I think you’re making apples to oranges comparisons and haven’t made your case at all, for several reasons:

    – Comparing mostly to BA that operates a fraction of the flights that WN does at that airport (percentage of departures is about 0.8% for BA vice 11% for WN).
    – Comparing general check-in to elite check-in. As noted above, WN offers elite check-in for A-list and Business Select, which are comparable.
    – Using one instance, at one point in time, at one airport, to conclude that flying WN is a waste of time. I’ve flown WN at a dozen or so airports (not LAX) and the lines don’t differ meaningfully from other comparable operators at those airports. Bring some decent data across airports and dates/times and I’d take more stock in your argument.
    – Using LAX, which itself is extremely busy, to prove your point.
    – Sure, there will be an abundance of leisure travelers – it’s a Saturday; the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Many of those folks will need to check a bag or two.
    – You state that you value your time, yet are taking the very, very long way to arrive at your destination in Europe for MR purposes. Obviously you don’t value your time that much.
    – Do you typically check a bag? If not, why would the ticket counter wait time matter to you.

    I’m elite on two airlines (DL GM and UA 1P) and still also fly WN sometimes. I’d be a fool not to use various tools in my travel “toolbox” when one happens to be the best fit for a given situation.
    I hate to ask, given the thing arguments you provided in this post – but what other reasons do you have for not flying WN?

    • Tom says

      Since “befuddles” is a strong term, I’ll drop two reasons why people fly Southwest:
      1. No baggage fees, as blogger mentioned. Can save $50+ per reservation
      2. No change or cancellation fees. Can save $100+ per reservation.

      This makes SW unique.

    • Ryan says

      So your individual experience pricing some small number of routes at certain times, means that they’re never cheaper for any of the other millions of people who fly them? Interesting logic. I guess it never occurred to you that WN can be, and is, a better price for people other than yourself. Or are you suggesting millions of people pay a higher price than necessary for no reason?

      IME sometimes they are cheaper, sometimes not. Airline ticket pricing is dynamic and variable, one cannot extrapolate a few experiences to nationwide pricing on hundreds of flights 365 days a year.

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