05 February 2014

USA Today articles about airline fees and Southwest’s new flights from Dallas Love Field

USA Today recently published a couple of articles readers might find of interest.  The focus is on Southwest Airlines.

First up is the piece about fees charged by U.S. domestic carriers for services such as checked baggage, ticket changes, call-center reservations, and so on.  Certainly not to my surprise, Southwest Airlines is the only carrier that does not resort to relentless nickle-and-diming for services which were free not so long ago.

While bag and ticket change fees get the most attention, I think it's important that Southwest does not tack on an extra fee in order to make reservations and pay for tickets over the phone with a reservations sales agent.  (Call center agents cannot book internet-only fares, however.)  And a further benefit that accompanies that, is that as far as I know Southwest does not have out-of-the-U.S. call centers, so you do not have to struggle to understand agents with impenetrable accents.

Why would you want to book over the phone when you can book online?

Complex multi-city itineraries are complicated to complete online.  Also when you are making asymmetrical travel arrangements for different people with overlapping but not identical itineraries, it's easier to have a pro do it.  (Example: you are traveling round-trip from Sacramento to Chicago leaving 10 June returning 17 June but your partner is returning on 20 June.)

At one time Southwest was something of a regional carrier, but that is long past.  They serve the entire country and contrary to what some people say, they do have hubs (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Chicago Midway, Baltimore, Denver, and others with smaller operations).  If you are planning a trip that you know runs a high risk of having to be changed or canceled, you should strongly consider using Southwest even if the service isn't as good as on another carrier.  Why?  With the three big network carriers (American/US Airways, United, and Delta) all charging $200 to make changes to a nonrefundable domestic ticket, you will lose big time if you need to cancel or alter plans.
With Southwest on the other hand, you can cancel without penalty and apply the full value of the old ticket toward purchase of a new one.  You would only have to pay the difference in fare.  And you could handle the transaction with an easy-to-understand Southwest Airlines reservations agent.

The second article from USA Today is purely about Southwest and how in October and November it will be adding flights from Dallas Love Field to many cities.

For those not familiar with the subject, Love Field was the original airport for Dallas, but supplanted in the early 1970s by DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth).  A law called the Wright Act, sharply limited flights out of Love Field to only intra-Texas and neighboring states.  It made sense at the time, because the new DFW (less convenient to Dallas than Love Field) needed to grow its business.  However over the years it became anachronistic as DFW cemented its hold on travelers in north Texas, and as the area surrounding DFW became populous and a business hub itself.  (The story is quite similar to the opening of Washington Dulles Airport in 1962, and its relationship to Reagan National Airport.)

So the Wright Act will pass into history and Dallas Love Field will get a lot of new nonstop flights on Southwest to points much further on the map than Austin or Albuquerque.  For now only LAX, Orange County and San Diego in California are included in the expansion (on 2 November) but my guess is that Oakland will probably not be far behind.  And who knows, maybe even Sacramento one fine day?

Dallas Love Field will instantly become a mini-hub for Southwest connecting the West with the Midwest, East, and Southeast, and at an airport a fraction the size of other hub airports.

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