Just last week, I used my non-reving abilities to meet up with family vacationing in Los Angeles. I planned on flying stand-by both to and from LAX, however, stuff happens. On the morning of my departure, I went to LAX to stand-by for the 10am to St. Louis, knowing there was a minuscule chance that I was going to end up on that flight. Of course, as the title hints at, I would not be flying American Airlines back home. For some reason, every single flight out of any west coast airport was overbooked. Not just on American, even revenue flights on Delta and United were hard to find. So, I called home, admitted defeat, and used RapidRewards Points to get myself home.
Just to give the reader a heads up, I really dislike Southwest and everything they say they're about. It's complete and utter bull, especially that "Transfarency" crap. I'm going to say something that many of you Southwesters will find shocking; Southwest is almost never the cheapest option. They claim to be a low-cost carrier, however, on the day I bought my rewards ticket, Delta, American, and Southwest were all selling the space they had left. Here are the fares all included one to two stops; American (LAX-DFW-STL) $459 o/w, Delta (LAX-SLC-MSP-STL) $499 o/w, United (LAX-SFO-DEN-STL) $450, Southwest (LAX-PHX-MDW-STL) $479. United was selling the cheapest ticket to St. Louis, followed by American, and then Southwest. That's just one reason I've never liked Southwest. A few other problems I have with Southwest; their crew is simply obnoxious, the planes are full of first-time flyers, it's bare-bones coach only. Though there were revenue tickets available, I still used RapidRewards points so I guess I can't complain because I still had options. That aside, let's begin.
Southwest FL#WN2962 and Southwest FL#WN3396
Departure/Arrival: Los Angeles/Denver, Denver/St. Louis
Departure/Arrival Time: Scheduled 4:20PM/7:18PM (On-Time), 8:15PM/11:45PM (10mins late)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737-500
Class of Service: Coach
Seat(s): 16A, 11A
Because service is bare-bones and there's little to go on about, I've decided to make this report a little different. I've broken it into three parts; Booking+Advice, At the Airport, and On-Board.
I never fly Southwest and not opt for Business Select. One reason is that I always find out that I'm flying Southwest with little notice so, I'd likely end up in Group B or C which would be disastrous. The second reason is that if I'm going to be stuck on a plane with absolutely no service or unique on-board offerings, I want the best seat on the plane. So far I've always sat in the exit row missing a seat in-front of it. This is typically rows 16(A) on the -800, 12(A) on the -700, 12(A) on the -300, and 11(A) on the -500. I recommend these seats before any other seat then I'd go for an aisle or window in either exit row, and finally I'd try for an aisle towards the front of the plane.
Business Select also gives you drink coupons for each flight good on the day of travel only. Unfortunately, these don't help me any so I usually just hand these out to a seat mate or someone in the airport that seems like they need a pick-me-up or does something good samaritan-like for another passenger.
At the Airport
Los Angeles International was a mess at all three terminals I ended up visiting on my day of departure. Terminals 4 and 1 were wall to wall people while the TBIT dealt with computer glitches at the majority of the gates. When I went to Terminal 1 to check-in for my Southwest flight, I wasn't surprised to see a line out the door. Luckily, I was able to take advantage of the "Fly-By-Lane" which is reserved for A-List members and Business Select passengers. I was, however, surprised to find out that I was the only one in the "Fly-By-Lane" at the time. Traffic from the general ticketing line was stopped for a moment to bring me up to get checked in. This caused a bit of a snafu among a family that happened to be next in line. I had the unique opportunity to stand-by while a young mother and her senior mother stood beside me as they shouted in the agent's face. Good times. Within a minute I was checked in and ready to go and the ticketing line drama ceased.
Southwest, unlike most other low-cost carriers, allows passengers with a Known Traveler Number to use the TSAPre lane. This is one time that I really benefited from TSAPre as the general security lines seemed to go on forever with little progress being made in the three or so minutes I stood in the TSAPre lane.
Next, it was onto airside at Terminal 1. I really don't want to go into my experience because it was one of the worst airside experiences I've ever had in my life. I will save the rant for another time so here's just a preview of Terminal 1 as it stands right now. There are three gates as you enter the terminal that were recently renovated. There you'll find newer seats with power outlets in abundance. Every other gate area looks like something out of the 70s or 80s with outlets almost non-existent. In addition to the ancient airside, there is a single restaurant, a candy store, a Hudson news, and a Brookstone for a terminal that sees millions of passengers annually. If your travels take you to LAX's Terminal 1 make sure and spend as little time as humanly possible.
I had Group A with boarding place numbers 3 and 5 however on my first flight to Denver I boarded first while on my flight to St. Louis I boarded fourth. I managed to score my prized double legroom seat both flights. I attempted to get some pictures of the cabin upon boarding however was yelled at by a flight attendant who thought I would hold up boarding which was odd because at the time, there wasn't a single passenger up in the aisle behind or in-front of me.
I quickly took my seat and really, that was about it. I sat next to some interesting folks both flights and ate peanuts and sipped on a Coke. There was no buy-on-board options, Wi-Fi was available on only one of my flights, and my phone died due to the lack of on-board power outlets. The crew seemed to be welcoming to every passenger except me. Finally, the second flight was delayed due to a disorderly passenger who suffered from extreme mental disabilities. I felt terrible for the family until I witnessed the mother yelling at her disabled child because she didn't want to have to give up their seats. The whole situation was very uncomfortable and the crew did a poor job at handling such a sensitive issue.
To conclude, I don't like Southwest. I dislike their overly obnoxious yet cold crew members, bare-bones--high fare business model, and the experience I had in every airport along the way. The only positive part of this trip was that Southwest's redemption rates are unbelievably low compared to other airlines and there aren't any award booking fees with Southwest. So, yes, I did get home just a few minutes late and at a great price so, it wasn't a complete failure by any means.
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