I flew Southwest Airlines back and forth for my trip to Austin. The return flight was my first with Southwest and I wanted to review it. There are millions of people who wanted to take Southwest flights over the holiday, but haven't been able to, so I'm not trying to be disrespectful by publishing this review.

How was Southwest for me? Southwest has a lot of good policies, but my experience left a lot to be desired, between the lack of amenities and the filthy cabin.

How I booked my Southwest Airlines ticket

I used cash to book my Southwest Airlines flight. I paid a total of $118.98 for the flights.

The flight from Austin to Fort Lauderdale arrives at 7:30PM.

When you consider that Southwest Airlines has free carry-ons, two free checked bags, and no fees, flying with Southwest is a no-brainer.

I was excited that my flight would be operated by a Boeing plane. My flight was changed the day before departure to a Boeing plane.

Southwest Airlines check-in & boarding

I arrived at the airport around 90 minutes before my flight. I didn't want to check a bag at the Southwest Airlines counter. The counter was working well for those bags.

Southwest Airlines check-in counter Austin Airport

The airport was busy on the Sunday that I was there. There is a good selection of food and beverages at the airport, but there was something odd about the terminal. I can't say for sure.

Terminal at Austin Airport

The flight was to leave at 4PM and arrive at 3PM. Southwest has many flights that have the same flight number but have different stops. Southwest allows passengers to stay on the plane if they book all the way through on one of these flights.

The same flight number came from Los Angeles. There was a direct flight from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale to Washington. It is possible that no one was booked on all three segments.

The plane arrived at the airport. The registration code for my flight was N8301J.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 Austin Airport

Southwest Airlines' boarding process is unique and I wrote about it in the previous part of the series.

Southwest Airlines departure gate

I reached out to Southwest's communications team in order to take a few pictures of the cabin in order to respect the privacy of other passengers. Southwest's boarding process makes this almost impossible.

They were happy to oblige. I was in a boarding position. Out of respect for those with status and those who paid for priority boarding, I took an aisle seat in the middle of the plane, which I should have been able to get based on my boarding position.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin & seats

In a standard 3-3 configuration, Southwest Airlines has 175 seats in the Boeing-800s. The interior was updated, in the sense that it had mood lighting and modern leather seats, but it didn't feature the larger overhead bins you'll find on the latest generation737s

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin

I found legroom to be good for the economy. The seats were not tight and there was more room than on other airlines.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 legroom
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 legroom

It was nice to know that the seats had good headrests so that you could get a good night's sleep.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 legroom

There was a literature pocket on each seat.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 seatback
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 tray tables

The seats are not very well made.

  • Southwest Airlines doesn’t currently have power outlets on any planes; the airline plans to start installing these in 2023
  • Not only does Southwest lack seatback entertainment, but the airline doesn’t have personal device holders, as you’ll find on many other airlines

Southwest is stuck in its ways and seems to be the last to update its interiors with useful amenities even when it is clear that something will have long-term value.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 seats

There was an air nozzle and a reading light.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 overhead console

The overhead bins were not as big as they were a decade ago.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 overhead bins

Southwest has three rows of seats for those with low boarding positions. One row has two seats on each side, instead of three.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 exit row seating

The most popular seats are the 16A and 16F. 15B, 15C, 15D, and 15E may be appreciated by travelers who only have one other person. It is nice to not have to sit next to someone else.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 exit row seating

The forward exit row had more space than standard seats.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 exit row seating

The cabin was filthy when I boarded. The cabin on these flights doesn't seem to be cleaned in a good way. The flight attendants try toidy the cabin by crossing the seatbelts. I was amazed by how clean the cabin was. It was one of the dirtiest cabins I have ever seen.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin dirty
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin dirty
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 cabin dirty

Southwest Airlines departure from Austin

My opinion of Southwest's boarding process evolved as the process continued. People were boarding in a rush and trying to get good seats for the first fifteen minutes. That's a positive thing.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 cabin

It became a big mess after that. The flight was almost full, with 170 seats occupied. A lot of people ended up in the back of the cabin and had to walk to the front of the cabin.

The flight attendants made announcements to offer drinks to anyone willing to switch seats after parents separated from children.

It took 40 minutes even though boarding started on time. The captain said our flight time was 2hr 9min.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 wing view

The crew performed their demonstration after we pushed back. Southwest is known for having funny crews, but this one was more serious.

The plane took off from Austin at 4:30PM. The sign for seatbelts was turned off.

Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi

Southwest Airlines has a wi-fi network. The airline charges just $8 for an all-day wi-fi pass, which is reasonable, since it applies regardless of the route and whether you are taking multiple flights.

Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi portal
Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi portal

It wasn't hard to connect to the internet.

Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi portal

The use of the wi-fi was not a good one. It worked for the first 30 minutes but was very slow and almost useless. For the rest of the flight, it was completely useless.

I was under the impression that Southwest's wi-fi was reliable, so I was going to work the entire flight and not load any other entertainment.

I forgot to take my headphones with me on this trip. The college girl behind me was crying for most of the flight because her boyfriend broke up with her. That's right, oh.

Southwest Airlines food & drink selection

Southwest Airlines has a different approach to its food service. On longer flights snack boxes are offered, but there's no fresh food, and alcoholic drinks can be purchased. The menu can be found here.

Southwest Airlines drink menu
Southwest Airlines drink menu

The airline doesn't sell food beyond what's offered for free, which seems to me like a missed revenue opportunity It is nice to be able to buy a bigger snack.

Flight attendants use trays instead of beverage carts. The flight attendants are responsible for one part of the plane. They bring a tray with roughly a dozen drinks on it, after asking each person what they wanted to drink. Flight attendants use card readers at the end of the flight to charge those who purchase alcohol.

The diet coke was served with a snack mix.

Southwest Airlines drink & snack
Southwest Airlines snack mix

The crew was nice but not overly friendly. They did their jobs.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 cabin

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 lavatories

There are three lavatories on Southwest Airlines planes. The bathroom was in the back of the plane. The rest of the plane was in good shape.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 lavatory
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 lavatory soap

Southwest Airlines arrival in Fort Lauderdale

The captain turned on the seatbelt sign for 30 minutes after announcing that we were going to experience some turbulence. I can appreciate the desire to be safe rather than sorry, though I didn't end up being a singlebump.

The captain said we would be arriving in 30 minutes. The seatbelt sign was on when we began our descent. About 25 minutes behind schedule, we arrived at the gate a few minutes after we touched down.

It took 15 minutes from the time we arrived at the gate until I was able to deplane. I don't know what's going on, but people used up their sense of importance for the day during the boarding process, rather than during the deplaning process.

Bottom line

When the airline is operating reliably, I really appreciate what Southwest brings to the market, as the airline holds both ultra low cost and legacy airlines accountable with its change fee policy.

The experience of flying with Southwest left a lot to be desired, and I don't understand the carrier's lack of power outlets and personal device holders I like to know in advance where I will sit so I don't like the boarding process.

Southwest is an airline I don't plan on flying with a lot in the future, even though the airline carries more domestic passengers than any other airline. I prefer the Big Front Seat at Spirit Airlines.

Southwest is a great option for a lot of travelers. Southwest has a better product if you choose to fly economy on Frontier.

What was it like to fly Southwest?