The Friendly Skies

Everyone in America Loves Southwest Airlines

The Texas-based airline carrier beat out all others when it comes to value, friendliness and flexibility.

By Katharine Shilcutt June 20, 2016

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Southwest offers five non-stop flights per day to Vegas.

With the United-Continental merger still a sore spot in many Houstonians' minds and the increasingly awful antics of the company United has now become (our favorite Bloomberg Business cover of all time recently featured a mock airplane safety card and the headline "United Airlines' Quest to Be Less Awful"), it's become clear that the airline all Texans should be rooting for is Southwest.

The Dallas-born-and-bred Southwest Airlines recently swept the rankings in an Airfarewatchdog survey that showed, among other things, Texans aren't the only ones in love with the Love Field-based carrier. Southwest beat out every other airline in the survey when it came to questions of value, friendliness and more.

Nearly a third of all 11,000 survey respondents named Southwest their favorite airline, ahead of Delta (19 percent), American (12 percent), and JetBlue (11 percent), while another third voted Southwest as having the best frequent flier program. And almost half of those surveyed said Southwest has the friendliest flight attendants (a well-known fact), with less than 15 percent voting for No. 2, Delta.

As the Huffington Post pointed out today, there's a reason—actually, several—so many travelers love Southwest. Not only is the airline one of the few to offer free flight changes (you only pay the difference between the two fares, if any), it's also the only major U.S. airline that allows fliers to check two bags for free. They'll even refund you for fare drops. We, of course, would also point to Southwest's free packets of honey-roasted peanuts and its baby-smooth leather seats with decent leg room as small but important luxuries.

Other interesting tidbits gleaned from the survey: Nearly 60 percent of all respondents named "cabin cleanliness" and "flight attendant politeness" as important considerations when booking a flight, while 42 percent of travelers report their greatest fear is their seatmate being sick during the flight. Also, a majority of travelers—68 percent—believe domestic airfare is overpriced and unfair, despite statistics to the contrary.

"Adjusted for inflation, airfares are actually lower than they were twenty or even ten years ago, on average," writes Airfarewatchdog founder and president George Hobica. "And keep in mind that the product is safer than it's ever been, which means that the value of airfare today—if people value safety—is higher than it's ever been. Twenty years ago, you could fly coast-to-coast for $200 round-trip (RT). Today, you can still fly for $200 when there's a sale. We've even seen NYC to LA for $158 RT this year."

In related news: Southwest's current summer travel sale has one-way tickets starting at $64, if you want to investigate Airfarewatchdog's survey results for yourself.

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