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Travelers who stick to a preferred airline can get access to special benefits and a more convenient experience at the airport and in the sky. But with so many domestic airlines vying for your loyalty, it can be difficult to know which carrier to choose.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Southwest Airlines is the second-largest domestic airline by market share (17.9%), with as many as 54 million passengers in 2020.
Why fly Southwest Airlines? Here's what makes Southwest Airlines different, based on the type of traveler you are.
Though the airline doesn't offer premium cabins or lounge access — much-loved perks for business travelers — the airline's network size is one reason why business travelers might choose to fly Southwest.
» Learn more: The guide to Southwest's Business Select fares
Several domestic flight options
Business professionals who are looking for reliable coast-to-coast routes can find many direct and connecting domestic flights through Southwest.
Southwest passengers can book flights among the carrier’s 103 U.S. destinations. Depending on where you need to go in the country, you’ll likely find a Southwest flight to get you there.
The airline also offers flights to 10 other countries, like the Dominican Republic (PUJ), Aruba (AUA) and Mexico (several airports) for international business travelers.
» Learn more: A guide to Southwest flights to the Caribbean
Travelers with little ones might consider flying Southwest for the cost-saving potential and the general kid-friendliness of the airline.
Families who travel often by air can earn a Southwest Companion Pass to help shave airfare costs. You can earn a Companion Pass either by flying on 100 qualifying one-way flights or by accumulating 125,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year.
A Companion Pass covers the base airfare for one designated person to fly with you. This isn’t a one-time pass, either. Companion Passes are available to use for the remainder of the year you earned the pass, and the following calendar year. Keep in mind you will still have to cover the applicable taxes and fees for your companion’s fare.
One member of the family can rack up enough flights or points to cover a spouse, child or anyone else, cutting travel costs toward future family vacations, holiday gatherings and family reunions. Plus, you can change your designated companion up to three times a year if needed.
» Learn more: Which Southwest Airlines credit card should I choose?
Complimentary entertainment is one of the reasons to fly Southwest Airlines — especially for families with restless companions. All movies, TV series and live TV channels that Southwest flights offer are accessible for free on your own mobile device.
The airline placed third in our analysis of the best airlines for onboard entertainment. Uniquely, the airline doesn't require a special app to access their offering; travelers just need to connect their device to the inflight Wi-Fi.
Southwest passengers also have access to in-flight texting on iMessage and WhatsApp for free. This perk might be particularly appealing for parents communicating with family and friends at their destination, or for teens to stay connected with friends while on the flight.
» Learn more: Why I love Southwest Airlines
No assigned seating and Family Boarding
One thing that makes Southwest Airlines different from other airlines is its boarding process. What's more, there’s no assigned seating. When you check-in for your flight, Southwest assigns you a lettered boarding group and a position, and passengers board the aircraft alphabetically, by group.
Although it might sound more difficult for families to stay seated together on Southwest flights, the airline makes it easier for families to board earlier. Adults with a child 6 years old or younger can take advantage of Family Boarding, which automatically boards after Group A and before Group B, regardless of your assigned boarding position.
This family-friendly seating process can make it easier for families to find side-by-side seating, particularly on full flights.
» Learn more: How to hack Southwest's boarding groups
Thrifty travelers have long gravitated to Southwest for its flexibility and reasonable prices.
Low-cost air fares
Travelers who are on a budget will appreciate Southwest Airlines’ fare affordability. NerdWallet compared Southwest flights vs. its largest domestic airline competitors — American, Delta, and United — and the data found that Southwest’s Wanna Get Away fares were generally lower priced than main cabin fares across all of its competitors.
Wanna Get Away fares are Southwest’s lowest fare tier. However, despite its lower cost, Wanna Get Away passengers still receive all of the perks of flying with Southwest, like free entertainment and up to two checked bags for free.
No change fees
Southwest, compared to other airlines, makes it easy to make changes to your flight with minimal stress. Fee-averse travelers can modify their travel plans without worrying about an extra fee.
Southwest Airlines is all about making fees (or a lack thereof, in this case) transparent and simple. Its passengers are welcome to change their minds about existing bookings for any reason without incurring additional charges.
If the flight you’ve changed to costs more, you’ll have to pay the difference. However, if you changed your flight to one with a lower fare, you’ll get refunded the difference based on your ticket type. Wanna Get Away ticket holders will receive a credit for a future flight, whereas travelers with Business Select or Anytime Fares can get a cash refund to the original form of payment.
» Learn more: Which airlines have the best and worst fees?
If you ask, 'Why fly Southwest Airlines?' ...
Southwest Airlines is an affordable option that provides reliability and flexibility for those who appreciate a straightforward and low-key travel experience. Plus, Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Program offers additional benefits — like no blackout dates and points that never expire — which makes it easier for loyal passengers to keep coming back.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card