Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
Alert: a new player has entered the game. At long last, Southwest Airlines is flying to Hawaii. It’s a major milestone for the airline, which has had its eyes on the Hawaii prize for a years. So when the first flight departed Oakland for Honolulu on March 17th, the airline threw a BIG party to celebrate.
There were hula dancers, live musicians, cakes, speeches, and (of course) TONS of Hawaiian shirts. Passengers on the flight — who mostly seemed to be Southwest employees and die-hard fans — got luggage tags and flower leis before taking to the skies. And we got to head out onto the airfield to see the flight off. Read on! We have so many photos, you’ll feel like you were there with us.
Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
What’s next for Southwest Airlines? – Original Photo: Stephen M. Keller for Southwest Airlines
In 2016, I wrote a piece titled Nine Reasons Why I Think Southwest is the Best. For me, those nine reasons stand, even today. I still fly Southwest enough to renew my A-List elite flyer status annually. They are still my first choice when booking travel. There was a time not long ago that I would go out of my way to fly Southwest, and the overwhelming majority of my 20-30 trips a year were with the LUV airline. However, I would be remiss not to recognize that my mix of airlines flown is increasingly more diverse.
The airline’s piece of my overall business has been shrinking. This is a trend that I’ve been cognizant of on the periphery for a few years now. It is something I have long ignored because so much of what makes me an AvGeek is tied to my love, study, and ridership of Southwest. Many of my best aviation memories are linked to the airline. In December of 2017, I finished my most recent academic pursuit and received an M.A. in Organizational Leadership. My academic team and I frequently joked I minored in “Southwest Airlines” because so many of my projects focused on the company, their culture, and leadership philosophy. All of this, plus gobs of friends who are Southwest employees, I honestly feel as if I’m an honorary part of the family.
Here’s the tough question: If Southwest is always my first choice when picking a flight, why am I riding the other guys with more frequency? I have given this a lot of thought and I don’t think that this trend is because Southwest is doing anything particularly wrong. Rather, I think the competition has, in some cases, become way more competitive.
I have long kept a wishlist for the airline. Perhaps the implementation of a few of these would help the airline pull ahead of the competition where, in my mind, they have historically always been. Without further ado, my wishlist, presented in David Letterman-reverse countdown style.
Southwest’s A-List Same-day standby perk: Will I get a seat on an early flight home? – Photo: JL Johnson | AirlineReporter
In late 2016, Southwest Airlines announced an additional perk for their elite A-List and A-List Preferred flyers. While other airlines were busy devaluing their own programs, Southwest was, in what has become very “Southwest” bucking the trend and enriching their own. At the time the stipulations were that A-List members could fly standby on any same-day flight between the same city pair. The perk came with a major limitation, however. The earlier flight had to be within two hours of the confirmed flight. This proved to be a major limitation for me with my home airport being in Kansas City, Missouri. I wasn’t alone in being unable to make much use of the perk. Many elite flyers based in the mid-sized cities Southwest dominates expressed dissatisfaction.
E-mail to Southwest elite flyers announcing a favorable revision to the A-List Same-Day Standby perk
In a surprise revision, just six months later the airline announced the two-hour restriction would be lifted. In doing so, Southwest opened the opportunity for a more equitable exploration of the benefit while also signaling that they take customer feedback seriously. This update was big news for the business flyers (self-included!) the airline has increasingly built its business reliance on.
Now, to find an opportunity to use the new benefit…
My kiddos aboard an Airbus A320, thanks to a gracious Delta first officer
Knowing you’re in good hands is more than an insurance company slogan, it is a daily practice for the talented men and women who fly millions of people safely around the globe on a daily basis. So instead of complaining about the legroom or snack selections on board, please take a minute and and thank your pilots (hey, don’t forget the flight attendants too).
Less than 24 hours after the engine explosion that killed one person on Southwest Airlines flight 1380, I boarded an airplane with my two children for an international flight back home. The kiddos (11 and 8) heard a little news about the incident, but I intentionally did not give them all the details so they wouldn’t get worried as we had two flights with a combined eight hours in the air that day.
As soon as we boarded, the first officer immediately said hello to my kids and quickly offered them a look up front. The kids were game and their AvGeek dad was more than willing to check out the flight deck of the Delta Air Lines A320 that would be safely getting us back to the USA. That kind gesture took away any nervousness I had about flying that day.
Being the former TV news reporter, it’s habit to ask him lots of questions – which planes he’s flown, Airbus or Boeing, and what one is his favorite. The thing that stuck out about the chat was his mentioning flying a KC-10 refueling tanker for the Air Force.
Flying out of Tampa… a nice view in November!
For Thanksgiving I flew from Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) to Tampa (TPA) to visit my dad. Since he was letting me use some of his Southwest Airlines miles (thanks dad!) I ended up flying them to visit. Although I am a big fan of the company and people of Southwest, when it comes to flying them they aren’t my first choice. The big reason is that there aren’t many places they fly to non-stop from Seattle (also no seat assignments, no power plugs, and no buy-on-board food). With my trip to Tampa I was lucky to only have only one stop – at Chicago’s Midway (MDW) – both times. I say lucky since I have had to do that trip multiples times with two stops, which is not fun at all.
File photo of the new interior – Photo: Southwest
Since this was a personal trip, I had no plan to do a story, but the last leg did me in. My final flight from MDW to SEA was on a Boeing 737-800. I was excited because this would be my first Southwest 737-800 flight — it also had the new Meridian seats from B/E Aerospace. However, I wasn’t quite sure if that was a bonus or a downfall. I have read (even here on AR) about the seats and have heard mostly bad things. But after four hours flying back home, I have come to a few conclusions.