Long regarded as a true 'discount airline', Southwest Airlines announcement earlier this week that it will sell early boarding priority for $40 per flight, makes it just another major carrier seeking to increase revenue any way it can. So now, not only will the cattle-car mentality of not assigning seats define what the Dallas-based airline really is, Southwest, supposedly the place to go for lower fares, will basically sell the best seats to those that can afford them. And, at $80 round-trip per person, that's not the kind of money that a family of four can typically afford.
Granted, Southwest still doesn't charge for checked baggage, but who would be surprised if that policy also went by the wayside in the not-too-distant future? Or not imposing change fees? And, for the low-fare shopper originating in the Twin Cities where Southwest is the second largest carrier in terms of passengers served, by comparing fares with Delta, Sun Country and other airlines, they will often find that Southwest isn't the price leader after all.
Yes, travel fans, the playing field is constantly shifting when it comes to finding the best deal for your trip from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. If convenience is a factor and you want a non-stop flight to the most popular destinations, Delta Air Lines, with more than 450 daily departures from MSP is still the top choice. Sun Country, based locally, is primarily a leisure carrier with direct service to Florida, Arizona, California, Las Vegas, Mexico and the Caribbean. Vacation travelers can easily avoid the hassles and uncertainty of making connections in Chicago and Denver, both of which are Southwest hubs, during the snowy winter months by planning ahead wisely.
For those of you inclined to fork-up the extra dough, Southwest will be making available for purchase boarding positions in the lucrative A1-15 category 45-minutes prior to departure. The upgraded boarding slot can only be purchased at the gate with a major credit card. Of course, you can still choose Early-Bird check-in for just $10 each way at the time of purchase, and you will board with the first half of the passengers on the flight. Taking your chances and saving the money will almost certainly find you in the high B or possibly C group for boarding. These are the travelers who board last and more often than not end up sitting without their traveling companion, and the likelihood of a middle seat is dramatically increased.
If you don't want to put up with the boarding insanity at Southwest, book with Delta, Sun Country or another major carrier and you'll get pre-assigned seats and peace of mind. The seating options may not be perfect, but at least you'll have one less thing to worry about when planning your vacation.