6 June 2012

Southwest Airlines - No Frills with a Smile

No Frills airlines aren't really known for providing a service with a smile or a relaxed approach to boarding. Southwest Airlines Flight 1751 showed me that at least one No Frills airline can take the time to provide friendly and proactive service on their flights, well the four flights I had the opportunity to experience. Now back to the beginning of my Southwest Airlines experience, flying in-direct from Newark to Las Vegas via Phoenix. Whilst my friends Tom and Paolo flew with Delta Air Lines, would my Southwest Airlines experience champion theirs?


I must admit it was quite strange to be at Newark Airport as a passenger as my Industrial Placement takes up most of my time at the airport. Never-the-less holidays were here, after clearing the security check-point I could finally be on my holidays. Bound for Phoenix with my Las Vegas 'The Hangover' experience about to begin my Southwest jet boarded in a manner that was both organised yet crazy. As I've had the pleasure of travelling with Ryanair, I was pleasantly surprised not to see passengers running to the boarding gate after the first announcement to wrestle for a seat. As I work for a airline the usual questions from passengers like 'Is this the boarding gate for this flight' I did the unthinkable by making the same mistake, to then later find out that on US domestic flights I.D doesn't have to be checked, how interesting.


Southwest Airlines amazed me by not charging for their non-alcoholic drinks and snacks, well when I'm on my holidays soft drinks are simply a mixer, please. I was embarking on my very first holiday since starting my Industrial Placement and I wanted my flying experience to be as good as my holiday time! Our crew passed through the cabin shortly after take-off with their quirky clipboard and debit/credit card machines to take drinks orders, no trolley dollies on-board this Arizona bound flight. Due to the light load of passengers on this flight I made myself comfortable lounging in my very own row. Beverly, one of the lovely crew members fulfilled my request that was a Gin and Tonic, only $4 dollars as the tonic was free, what a bargain! As I neared the end of my first holiday drink I requested another Gin and Tonic brandishing my debit card to be told "Honey, don't worry about it" free drinks for Joe .. Yes Boy!!


Budget airlines are becoming the hybrid of short-haul travel, cutting down on the services that were once complimentary and in most cases expected. I have had the opportunity to travel with the likes of Bmibaby, Ryanair and also Easyjet. These British and Irish 'Low Cost' airlines drive down the cost of a ticket by charging for checked baggage and pushing the sales of on-board products such as; phone cards, snacks and even electronic cigarettes to keep the craving at bay. Personally, I believe that the cabin crew on-board all of my Southwest Airlines flights didn't push the sale of any product compared to the likes of their British and Irish cousins. In some kind of strange way I love a good budget airline as their approach to selling extra products rival other airlines, maybe the cabin crew working for these airlines have specific sales targets to meet or even exceed? Selling to keep their job? It's madness whatever It may actually turn out to be. Southwest Airlines cabin crew have a smile on their faces at all times, well they did on my flights!


Looking back at the time when I booked my Southwest Airlines flight it was a very rushed decision, I wanted to fly from Newark direct with United Airline but my budget would  not allow their ridiculous prices, so I know that Southwest choice via Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport was meant to be! I also looked at Delta to fly with Tom and Paolo but their flight times via Memphis were crazy and their return flight landed into New York La Guardia Airport so I didn't fancy mixing a long overnight flight with public transport across New York City! All of my Southwest Airlines flights pushed back and arrived bang on-time, which worked great because I was pretty worse for ware on the return leg from Phoenix to Newark, let's just say I almost missed that flight!  


No meal service for Southwest Airlines, that's just not the way this airline does things. Southwest Airlines like to mix things up by offering snack packs, mind you I was starved so the crew slipped me a few extra treats. My special pre-Vegas cocktails kept coming throughout the flights, adding that my friends were on a different flight amazingly made the crew take care of me more. Later on the second flight of the day to Sin City, the drinks kept coming due to my friends being delayed and me moving for a unwell passenger .. a win! win! situation. Might I add our flight service manager looked some what like Dolly Parton with her country talk and bouffant hair style, comedy was served up in place of a hot air-plane meal. Southwest, an airline that serves every beverage with a smile, rivaling their long lost Irish cousin Ryanair. Shush! I never said that!


If transiting through airports panics you then don't worry for Southwest Airlines usually operate their flights within one area of their respective terminals across their network. I for one found it really easy to find my connection flights gate and to even find the time to grab a Pizza Hut and a Coke for my Newark morning flight had got pretty boozy! I usually travel with Delta Air Lines domestically within the United States so I've had the pleasure of transiting through the monster that is Atlanta Airport so I know to keep my cool and look for the correct gate, who knows you might see the connection gate from your incoming aircraft like I did whilst my New Orleans Delta flight taxed to its gate in Atlanta, so I just remembered the gate and made my way their as fast as I could! Southwest Airlines are awesome, so I know I'll be choosing them again in the near future! 


Until next time my dear Southwest, I have every confidence that I will be boarding another fun-packed flight.Come on, Let's Fly Southwest AirlinesJoseph Harrison 

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