Last Minute Flights: Southwest vs. American

Wow, it’s been a crazy week in our house. First, our nearly 6-month old daughter got sick. Next she proceeded to pass that along to both myself and Mom. The timing couldn’t have been worse since I needed to be in Los Angeles for a last minute meeting yesterday. Since the meeting was mid-day, it afforded me the luxury of flying in and out of LAX on the same day. I’m based in Phoenix where Southwest and American both have hubs. As a result, there’s heavy competition and several daily options between Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Last Minute Flights: Southwest vs. American

Given the fact that both airlines fly the route every couple hours, they typically price match each other, especially for last minute fares. Choosing between Southwest and American came down to which airline would provide the most in terms of comfort and award miles.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a free agent in terms of airline status this year. In a way it’s kind of liberating. I don’t need to twist my schedule or pay a little more to make sure I’m on a certain airline. On the flip side, I don’t have any advantages when it comes to extra legroom seats or priority boarding on an airline such as American.  Now you know the background, let’s have a look at the pros and cons of each airline:

American Last Minute Flights

Pros:

  • Award miles can be used across the Oneworld network of airlines.

Cons:

  • Seat selection is non-existent. Typically you’re either offered a middle seat, or nothing at all until arriving at the airport. Even main cabin extra aisles and windows are often taken.
  • In-flight entertainment limited to a few shows and movies. No live TV.
American_Airlines_Boeing_777-300
American Airlines

Southwest Last Minute Flights

Pros:

  • In flight entertainment with live TV. I was able to watch the Lakers play live on my flight home last night.
  • Ability to secure an aisle or window seat by checking in at 24 hours or buying up to business select.
  • Flight attendants are typically much friendlier than the legacy airlines.

Cons:

  • Award points are limited to the Southwest network
  • Limited amount of extra legroom seats (Typically exit rows and bulkheads only)
Southwest Flight Attendants: The friendliest in the sky. – Courtesy Airways Mag

And The Winner Is…

I chose Southwest to get me to and from LAX. More than anything I value having an aisle seat on my flights. The fact that my seat was such an uncertainty with American was a deal breaker. Furthermore, having the in-flight live TV option was great to catch a little bit of the game.

Bottom Line

With all things being equal, Southwest was an easy choice for me. The seating situation, friendly flight attendants, and in-flight entertainment sealed the deal. Of course these two airlines don’t always price match each other. In a few weeks we’ll be flying to Houston for Thanksgiving. On that trip we chose American since their flights were about $150 less. That makes a big difference when there’s three of us flying. Anyway, have you run into a situation where pricing and schedules are the same between two airlines? If so, how do you determine which one you’ll fly?

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