Five Reasons Why Southwest Airlines Is the Best For Families

After we moved back to the U.S., I pretty much stopped flying for work. In turn, I lost my coveted Premier 1K elite status with United. Now that I have no elite status, I understand what it’s like to fly as a non-corporate traveler: no early boarding, no free baggage, no upgrades, nada.

When I was a top-tier elite on United, I never would have dreamed of riding “the flying bus” (what I used to consider Southwest) anywhere. When I lost my United status, Southwest started to look appealing again for the following reasons:

  • Instant 1:1 point transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 2 free checked bags per person
  • No fees for changes to awards
  • Points are refunded right away if you cancel your trip
  • You can redeem points for any flight at any time vice limited award availability with other carriers (makes it much easier for families of 4 or 5 to fly for free)

Once I finally booked and flew Southwest again for the first time in years, I figured out a few other family-friendly benefits that I will explain in more detail:

  • Fewer points required
  • Earlier boarding for families with children under 4
  • Free entertainment on your own device
  • LOTS of FREE snacks
  • More legroom that most other carriers with same size aircraft

1. Fewer Points Required

I also realized that Southwest Rapid Rewards redemptions are tied to ticket prices. If Southwest runs a fare sale, then it costs less points to redeem for a flight. Take for example Southwest’s service to/from Aruba. When they started flying to Houston, prices were very cheap. I was able to redeem points for a one-way Aruba – San Antonio (via Houston) for only 12,100 points : a 5,400 point savings over United, American and Delta!

More recently, I was able to snag a one-way San Antonio – New York La Guardia for only 7,200 points : a 5,300 point savings over United, American and Delta! These savings can potentially make the point saving threshold much lower for families. Just beware that when fares are high, it can cost a lot more points than other legacy carriers to redeem for a flight.

2. Earlier Boarding for Families with Children Under 4

Southwest does their boarding differently by not pre-assigning seats. It’s called “Open Seating” where everyone picks their own seat once on board (something Joy really hates). As long as you check in online 24 hours prior, you will likely get a seat at the end of the A Group or beginning of the B Group.

However, if you have kids under 4, your boarding pass could have you at the end of the C Group and you’ll still be allowed to board immediately after the A Group. This nearly guarantees that your whole family will be seated together.

3. Free Entertainment On Your Own Device

Southwest provides free satellite TV, a selection of free shows on demand, a flight tracker, and internet access for a fee on ALL flights. If you a personal device, you can access it. Just be sure to download the plugins in advance for your device here (for iOS) and here (for Android). No other airline in the U.S. has free entertainment guaranteed on all flights.

4. LOTS of FREE Snacks

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The headline speaks for itself. There lots of munchies for free on Southwest – not all are healthy, but they are plentiful. I’m writing this on US Airways right now and they offer NOTHING.

5. More Legroom Than Most Other Carrier With the Same Size Aircraft

The chart below shows that Southwest is beating the majority of their competitors in legroom for their standard seats by at least an inch or two and in some cases up to five inches! *Note: this chart does not display extra legroom seats that are sold for an additional up charge or could obtained for free as an elite benefit. All data was obtained from Seatguru.com

Airline Aircraft  Seat Pitch Seat Width
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 (734) 32 17
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 (734) Combi 32 17
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-700 (737) 32 17
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 (738) Slimline 31-32 17
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 (738) V1 32 17
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 (738) V2 32 17
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 (738) V3 32 17
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900 (739) 32 17
Allegiant Airbus A319 (319) 30 17
Allegiant Airbus A320 (320) 30 17
American Airlines Boeing 737-800 (738) V1 31 17.2
American Airlines Boeing 737-800 (738) V2 31 17.2
Delta Boeing 737-700 (73W) 30-31 17.2
Delta Boeing 737-800 (73H) 31-32 17.2
Delta Boeing 737-900ER (739) 30-31 17.2
Frontier Airbus A319 (319) 28-31 18
Frontier Airbus A320 (320) 28-31 18
JetBlue Airbus A321 (321) 33 18
JetBlue Airbus A321 (321) Transcon 33 18
Southwest Boeing 737-300 (733) Evolve 32-33 17
Southwest Boeing 737-300 (733) V2 32-33 17
Southwest Boeing 737-500 (735) 32-33 17
Southwest Boeing 737-700 (737) 31 17
Spirit Airbus A319 (319) 28 17.75
Spirit Airbus A320 (320) 28 17.75
Spirit Airbus A321 (321) 28 17.75
United Airbus A319 (319) 30 17.7
United Airbus A320 (320) 30 17.7
United Boeing 737-700 (737) Domestic 31 17.2
United Boeing 737-700 (737) Micronesia 31 17.2
United Boeing 737-800 (738) V1 31 17.2
United Boeing 737-800 (738) V2 31 17.2
United Boeing 737-800 (738) V3 Econ Plus 31 17.3
United Boeing 737-800 (738) V5 30 17.3
United Boeing 737-800 (738) V6 30 17.3
United Boeing 737-900 (739) V1/V2 31 17.3
United Boeing 737-900 (739) V3 31 17.3
United Boeing 737-900 (739) V4 30-31 17.3
US Airways Airbus A319 (319) 31 18
US Airways Airbus A320 (320) 31 18
US Airways Airbus A321 (321) 32 18
Virgin America Airbus A319 (319) 32 17.7
Virgin America Airbus A320 (320) V1 32 17.7
Virgin America Airbus A320 (320) V2 32 17.7

Bottom Line

With the exception of Joy not liking the open seating policy, I can’t think of anything that isn’t good about Southwest. It’s economical, friendly, and has hassle-free exchanges/refunds. What’s not to like?