This was first time to ever fly with Southwest. I booked it back in November for a $70 (£50) which was a pretty good deal by US standards. Unlike other US carriers, Southwest (ironically despite its designation as a low-cost carrier) allows passengers to check in up to two bags at no extra charge.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Since I stayed at the suburbs, in order to save money to get to the airport, I had to wake up at about 05.00. I packed everything up and my cousin drove me to the railway station. Since my big bag was not completely full, I initially placed my hand luggage there to avoid inconvenience on public transport though the big bag was heavy. The train departed on time. The conductors only accepted cash on board and the trip took more than a half-hour. Afterwards I had to walk a few more minutes to the bus station and wait 20 minutes for a bus to Midway. It was on the bus that I discovered that my flight would be delayed by at least an hour, which was fine.
The bus stopped at a transport centre right next to the airport. I found a trolley and used it all the way to the gate.
TIP: Southwest is the dominant carrier at Midway airport. It is closer to city centre than O'Hare, thus the airport with cheaper flights isn't necessarily further from the city centre. But I would recommend departing out of Midway airport if passengers are staying at the city centre and O'Hare if passengers were staying at the northern and western suburbs. In addition, unlike O'Hare, passengers using Midway airport don't have to pay an additional $5 (£3.50) supplement if they decide to use the L (underground train) to get there.
CHECK-IN, SECURITY, AND PRE-BOARDING
At the airport, kiosks were provided for those who checked in online for passengers to tag their bags. The interface was quite intuitive. I printed my bag tag and took my hold baggage to a member of staff for further processing.
Security was fairly straightforward. Unlike other airports, Midway permits passengers to take baggage trolleys past security but all the bags nonetheless had to go through the usual x-ray screening.
My gate was a bit far from the main hall that contained the restaurants and stores. Airside-wise, Midway airport is a fairly standard US airport complete with jetbridges and stores. It however lacks a VIP lounge especially since Southwest does not offer first or business class.
Unlike other carriers, Southwest passengers don't get assigned seats. Instead, they get assigned a boarding position and they choose their seat as they enter the aircraft. This means that those with a better boarding position have a wider selection of seats. I was thinking about upgrading for but upon realising that it would set me back $40 (£29), I just decided to stick with what I had.
TIP: Passengers who check in early have a better chance of snagging a better boarding position. Try to check in immediately after online check-in opens.
Since there was still some time remaining, I decided to buy some popcorn snacks from a nearby store. I also took the opportunity to also purchase postcards and write to some friends back home. Needless to say I was able to queue up in plenty of time. I didn't bother to buy breakfast as my cousin gave me a heavy bite to eat on the way out.
Even if I had a 'lousy' boarding position, I was able to snag a place in the front row. It was only later that I found out that a disadvantage of sitting in front is the lack of a tray table. But I sat between a father-and-son pair who were also on their way to Boston. We had a good chat. I noticed he enjoyed solving crosswords and I mentioned to him that I also liked to do some of it. He gave me a page or two of a crossword puzzle to solve. In addition, the Southwest magazine which passengers could take home also featured two crossword puzzles.
As for the flight, it was pretty uneventful apart from the delay and occasional turbulence. I had some of the popcorn I purchased on the ground and the flight attendants provided some complimentary snacks. They took our orders first then later served them. Passengers could also get second servings if they wanted.
As for IFE, it was provided through the WiFi network. I just had to access the plane's WiFi network and no additional apps were needed. I used my phone to access the moving map and the iPad for the content. They had DirecTV channels which along with the crossword puzzles kept me occupied. In particular, I was able to watch NBC, CNN and FX programmes. WiFi internet access was also available but it would cost me extra so for that time, I decided not to use it.
We were about to descend and the WiFi IFE was still active. It allowed me to continue watching programmes I was tuned in to. We were ultimately on the ground a little after half past twelve.
Southwest Airlines gates are at a remote part of Logan Airport's Terminal A. It meant a somehow long walk and an underground passage. After retrieving my bag, I got on a Silver Line bus that would take me to Boston South station where I would put my big bag for the rest of the day since I had stuff to do and my Airbnb was an expensive ride away from the centre. Logan Airport is an airport that had quite a bit to offer. But one of its best aspects compared to its counterparts elsewhere is its proximity to the city centre. It is no more a half-hour ride away from South Station.
TIP: If you get on a Silver Line bus at Logan Airport, you effectively get a free ride on Boston's T (underground metro). You don't need a Charlie card or Charlie ticket for that. Transfers at South Station to the Red Line are also for free. You won't be entitled to the same though by using the blue line shuttle. Just don't exit the fare gates before your final destination.
These are rated from 1 to 10 with ten being the best score. This covers aspects of the flight experience that Southwest and its ground agents are responsible for. [*]Boarding Process (7/10): Southwest's boarding system takes a bit of getting used to. The downside of the carrier's system is it could cause bottlenecks since passengers boarding later will be taking more time to choose which seat to get. [*]Food (8/10): Nothing really fancy. But I appreciate that we can have second or third servings. [*]Cabin Crew (9/10): The flight crew was quite attentive and did things efficiently. [*]Punctuality (6/10): The flight departed late. But it wasn't completely a bad thing as it caused less panic for me. [*]In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity (8.5/10): Complimentary Live TV on a passenger's device without the need for additional apps was quite impressive. Though they could take a page out of Jet Blue's playbook and offer a form of complimentary internet. In addition, Southwest should also consider the installation of power outlets, even if they start with just USB ports.
Buy on board9.0
Chicago - MDW
Boston - BOS
In my book, low cost carriers such as Southwest ironically have better service than legacy carriers. And for the most part, offer more amenities despite their low price. I would certainly consider flying with them again whenever it is possible. Without a doubt, Southwest epitomises value for money in the US airline industry.
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