I can’t decide if flying Southwest is worth it or not. It is generally not that much cheaper than Delta, especially to regional stops. The free checked bags are nice - I paid a few hundred dollars to fly myself here, I’m not putting up another $35 for my belongings to go too. But the vibe feels a little off-putting, and I am pretty sure it is their “seat yourself” policy.
We got on in the early B group for a couple flights, so we got on behind roughly 60 people. None of them sit together apparently. Each time, they filled up the first 20 or so rows by taking the aisle and window seats, and leaving the middle. They all know goddamn well that it was a full flight, and this is just going to slow everyone down, but they did it anyway. Then on our return flights, I didn’t check in until a few hours before, which means to Southwest you might as well be riding with the luggage. Sure enough, the 120 or so people had sat in 4 columns through the back of the plane, middle seats the only ones left. I understand the middle seat can be uncomfortable or whatever, but the lady in the aisle seat next to my wife had her husband sitting _i__n the aisle seat directly across from her_. Who does that? The lady had a Louis Vuitton bag. Who flies Southwest with a Louis Vuitton bag? And sits in the back of the plane?
I paid the upgrade fee for the last leg home to get on the plane first. I just wanted to sit with my wife and watch Doctor Who on my tablet. I bought a headphone splitter weeks ago. And on Delta, or whatever other airline you like, I would have known weeks ago that we were sitting together and could use it, even if we were the last people to board. Sure, I would have to lug my suitcase on with me, but you know what? Everyone does this on Southwest too. I don’t know if they aren’t aware or just pack way too much. Our last plane was delayed 15 minutes because seemingly everyone checked 2 bags, and they took their sweet time loading them up.
So there it is. The Southwest upcharge isn’t hidden with bags. It is hidden in your flight experience. It is a weird combination of party bus and muted commuter hostility that you have to pay to escape — well, not even “escape”, but “get in front of”. It works going to Vegas, but is a little bit off everywhere else.