Forced to Fly SWA-Now What?

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by planecrashlaw, Aug 4, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. planecrashlaw
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    planecrashlaw Silver Member

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    The good news is that I am working and flying again.

    The bad news is our new CEO just designated SWA as our "must fly" airline unless AA is cheaper.

    Am I doomed to the middle seat between two beefy Clampetts on routes where AA/SWA compete?

    Seriously, if anyone has any booking strategies to help me stay on AA, I would appreciate it.

    Also, I am ORD based. Have not been to MDW in 12 years, and I am afraid. Any tips there?
     
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  2. jmrich1432
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    jmrich1432 Silver Member

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    SWA really isn't that bad, I enjoy my time with them more than certain legacy carriers and certainly more than Allegiant, AirTran, Spirit.

    Check in EXACTLY 24 hours before your flight and you will almost surely be an A. Even if you get a B as long as you're above B40-ish you shouldn't have an issue getting a window or aisle seat. If you're flying SWA weekly you will make A-list pretty quickly. To help you make it faster, get the Chase CC. Then you'll be able to skip security and almost always get an A boarding pass regardless of when you check-in. (It's not a GUARANTEE, but I have yet to get anything higher than A20s being A-list).

    You rack up points REALLY quickly with SWA, especially if you have the CC. One of the best perks is the companion pass. This allows you to deisgnate someone to travel with you for free whenever you fly SWA. It makes taking weekend trips super cheap and leaves you plenty of points for redeeming for other trips/family members/having the SO meet you somewhere.

    If you're open to SWA and you work around their differences (checking-in exactly 24 hours before, etc) it's really a great airline. I've had good and bad experiences on just about every US-based carrier (it's inevitable). It's the way they handle the REALLY bad (and how frequently it happens) that starts to make a difference.

    Good luck!
     
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  3. aitchly
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    aitchly Silver Member

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    Are these bought in advance or within a month?

    If advance, pay the $20 for EB and you don't have to mess around with 24 hour check in. Generally you will get lower than A30 and have a shot at exit row seating. The EB line starts with the first person who bought the ticket + EB, so if you buy EB later, you are behind the early folks.

    If close to travel, lobby to have business select tickets purchased, the cost will not be too much more than Anytime or Wanna Get Away, but you will have A1-A15 seating, preferred security lines and two drink coupons.
     
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  4. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    If you have control over the timing of your ticket purchases, you might try waiting a bit to see if fares and availability will change in AA's favor. You might also be able to argue for AA based on schedules and likely IROPs problems for some connections. If you can take the EL to ORD but must drive to MDW, can the cost of airport parking be part of the argument for AA out of ORD?

    Does your company have a contract with SWA and if so, does it give any benefits for the traveler, such as quicker elite status or early boarding and better line privileges?
     
  5. planecrashlaw
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    planecrashlaw Silver Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I usualy can book a month out, but am willing to book very close or far out if the SWA and AA fares generally become w/in within striking distance at some point. Those are the tricks I would like to learn.

    My biggest concerns, behind lack of FC/exit row, lack of AC access, lack of WiFi, lack of inflight entertaiment, being no status and receiving usless FF miles (my wife would divorce me if her reward for all of my time away from home was a free ticket to CLE) and everything else that does not feed my entitlement mentality (as our new CEO put it)--is the lack of priority check-in/TSA lanes and avoiding the middle seat. I see that mid-tier in their FF program will solve this, but status matches don't happen, so I will just have to suck it up. If I can do 1.5 hours in an RJ, I can do SWA-- but I wont go quietly. :mad:
     
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  6. LookingAhead

    LookingAhead Silver Member

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    What does the CEO fly? SWA or Citation?
     
  7. planecrashlaw
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    planecrashlaw Silver Member

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    He did take SWA from NYC to MDW, and when asked how long it took to get from the airport he was closest to the the SWA gateway, which I assume to be a treck, he replied "I don't know, I slept in the limo."
     
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  8. RestlessLocationSyndrome
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    RestlessLocationSyndrome Silver Member

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    Let's be honest, flying SWA really sucks when it's for work. It's just bearable when it's on your own dime.

    That being said, you can make it less painful if you check-in online exactly 24 hrs in advance. Once you get to the A-list, you'll be able to bypass the herd.

    In addition, I find that changing my perspective in regards to flying SWA for work (which I also have to do on occassion) helps me cope with flying SWA. If you look at all of your SWA points as your bank account for free domestic travel and your AA (or other) account for international travel this might help.
     
  9. travelinmike33
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    travelinmike33 Silver Member

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    Can anyone shine any light on international flight redemptions with SWA? I know that they let you redeem on other airlines if you have the CC, but not sure how that works.
     
  10. RestlessLocationSyndrome
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    RestlessLocationSyndrome Silver Member

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    I don't have my SWA CC just yet but did a few sample tests of international rewards. I tested from LAX to PVG & BKK at two different points in the future. Since SWA standard rewards are based on actual cost, I did a comparison against prices via Orbitz and included the taxes.

    For coach class fares, the redemption rate consistently averages near 105 pts/$ for TG, UA, & AA. This would put these rewards near but slightly more expensive that SWA's Anytime rewards but less than their Business Select rewards.

    For business class fares, the redemption rate fluctuated wildly anywhere from 245 or 153 pts/$ for UA, 138 pts/$ for CA, 178 pts/$ for KE. The only consistent thing that I noticed was that these redemptions were all for 1M pts or more.

    Clearly, you would expect that you won't get the same kind of value on international rewards as you would flying SWA. The coach class rewards appear to be equivalent to getting the non saver rewards on UA, AA or DL. However, the business class rewards are totally ridiculous but that is based on the fact that they tie points to the retail price of these business class seats.

    At the end of the day, as with all reward programs, you will always get more value if you save your points and use them with the carrier/hotel that you are flying/staying with.
     
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  11. PanAm
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    PanAm Silver Member

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    Nice. At least he hasn't lost his connection to the common folk!:rolleyes:

    I don't know about your routings but whenever I check WN fares they are rarely significantly cheaper and often slightly more, than the legacies. I'd keep an eye on fares and book when they're favorable for AA.

    Or keep a comparison for when you do have to fly WN and add up the extra time/cost of schlepping farther to the WN airport, lost productivity from no Wifi, incidents where you're stranded during IRROPS since WN won't shift you to another carrier, etc.

    Are there a number of you employees who would otherwise want to fly AA? Even better if you have multiple data points from several employees.

    You're ORD based - what about throwing UA into the mix? I know they're not a discount carrier but depending on the routes perhaps they'd be more competitive than AA against WN at times. I gather you're a longtime AA customer but to me any full service carrier is preferable to WN. I"m like you, my miles go for international vacations...domestic we don't burn miles as it's normally cheap enough - and we take few domestic flights (leisure) anyway. So WN's program has little value for me.
     
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  12. aitchly
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    aitchly Silver Member

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    They are getting WiFi

    But for those of us who might not be near a Gateway city, it is great for pre-positioning when you need to stay on one airline.

    Granted it is annoying to shell out $20, if you book early enough with EB, one less hassle to deal with.
     
  13. tommy777
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    tommy777 Co-founder

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    For the short hops, WN is not that bad, but for longer flights, it's absolutely brutal. Also, Midway in the AMs is an absolute madhouse. The great thing is that from Chicago, WN is rarely cheaper than AA/UA if you book tickets less than 21 days in advance.

    And from a miles perspective, if you don't have a passport, earning miles on WN is awesome. If you'd like to see the world, good luck with that :p
     
  14. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    What you wrote concerns me. You seem to have a new job and a CEO who recently set forth a policy regarding travel, specifically that his employees will fly SWA. If the CEO is using words like "not feed my entitlement mentality" I would advise you to be very careful to not seem to be resisting or going around the new airline policy. In a small firm, the CEO can view company expenses very personally as his money and you presumably don't want to risk your new job over a choice of airline, at least not without first giving it a chance. Perhaps other employees, including those long-term trusted souls, can help to eventually convince the CEO, but in the meantime it may be his way or the highway.
     
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  15. planecrashlaw
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    planecrashlaw Silver Member

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    I appreciate the advice and believe me, I have the same concerns. I'm laying low here, as are the most senior officers I report to who, universally, do not see increased productivity via WiFi, the room/ability to work onboard and in the AC, less time in line and IRROPS assistance as an "entitlement," even though some comfort and convience is in the mix. We view it as a necessity in order to do our jobs, and at best "perks," if you will, after all the BS that goes along with flying 75K a year "for the man." I agree that after a period of time, the "penny wise and pound foolsih" decision will be revisited.

    I'm with worldwide company who is no small player, BTW. I guess that it was a bit of a shock to all of us as, throughout my entire professional life, everyone knew that SWA was out there, but no large or small company I have worked for has even considered SWA as being a real business airline, so it was always a battle between AA and UA on fares; if they were equal than you were good to go. I guess it was just the unspoken reality that they were not to be considered, even by the corporate travel agents/departments that we used (from 1990,and until last week, in the present case). That's certainly been the case in my 22 years and 2MM with AA.

    I was not at the meeting, and the "me" in the entitlment statement was generic--never met the guy. But I would not have gotten as far as I have without knowing how, and most importantly when, to bend the rules. ;)
     
  16. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    It sounds like no one is happy and everyone is walking on eggshells over this. I think you said earlier that it was a sudden surprise proclamation. You have my sympathies.

    I've been lucky in that I've always had a lot of control over my travel, which makes sense as it comes from my budget so I have no incentive whatsoever to spend wastefully but I appreciate the opportunity and trust to use my best judgment at times.

    Once a long time ago, I discovered that my employer's contracted and recommended (but not required) travel agent with an on site office was doing something that I thought wasn't ethical. I had asked for help booking a trip and the choices came back from my secretary as all inconvenient connecting flights on a particular carrier (US) when I knew that other airlines served the route with even some nonstops. I had a fit and made a fuss about asking just when it became unannounced policy that we were required always to fly US. It turned out that the travel agency had a contract for discount tickets on US but they weren't passing the discount on to us, but rather just pocketing it (IIRC 2% of all fares on US tickets they wrote). Wow! At that point the employer further got nervous that if there were a crash and we had been forced to take that particular airline, there could be a liability issue.
     
  17. ahow628
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    ahow628 Silver Member

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    It has been awhile since I few SWA, so correct me if I'm wrong, but Southwest doesn't charge a change fee. If you want to cancel your flight, you get to keep the full credit for the trip (credit for future purchases, not a refund). You can also rebook for a cheaper fare and keep the credit as well.

    This may be helpful if you buy the SWA flight because it is inexpensive, but then keep an eye on AA in case they have a fare drop. Then you can just use your SWA credit on a later flight when AA isn't cheaper. Best of both worlds, in my opinion.
     
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  18. jmrich1432
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    jmrich1432 Silver Member

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    This is still accurate. In fact I used it yesterday to get on the 4:35 pm flight home instead of the 7:20 pm flight (especially grea because when I landed I had several messages from SWA about the 7:20 flight being delayed!). I've used this benefit many times when projects change, finish early, need to be extended. It's nice to get home a few hours early or be able to change your flight to a different day, week, or cancel it.

    I have same-day change benefits being GM with DL and these are beneficial, but not quite to the extent I've used the SWA change rules.

    Might not be a big enough reason for some people to fly them, but I've found it to be very useful!
     
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  19. MSPeconomist
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    I suspect that this strategy isn't going to be useful very often as plane fares tend to rise rather than fall as the travel date approaches. The chances of finding a AA fare later which is lower than the SWA fare purchased now would seem to be significantly lower than the odds of the AA fare being lower than a SWA fare purchased at the same time. Of course, it's worth trying to recheck the AA fare, but I wouldn't be very optimistic.
     
  20. bez7
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    bez7 Gold Member

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    Once the cheaper 'Wanna get away' fares are gone SWA is very similarly priced to legacy carriers. I've found DL flights for cheaper, at times.

    Don't discount the Southwest experience completely. You still need a way to get from here to there and, while there are distinct disadvantages to flying them, it's still a decent experience. I've had more bad experiences on DL than on Southwest. I just wish Southwest still had the lounge seats...

    And my brother had a unique traveling method on Southwest. He'd look for the scroungiest looking guy sitting alone in a row and then would sit there, leaving an empty seat between him and they guy. No one in their right minds wanted to sit middle seat next to the guy so my brother most always had an empty seat next to him.
     
  21. RestlessLocationSyndrome
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    RestlessLocationSyndrome Silver Member

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    Classic SWA seat strategy. Instead of utilizing the scroungy factor, I go with the size factor. I don't think anyone wants to sit between a very large individual and myself with my shoulders. Of course, this occasionally backfires when the flight is completely full.... and you get another huge guy sitting in the middle seat. :eek:
     
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