If it weren't for Southwest Airlines (SWA), the "granddaddy" of the low-fare airlines, most of the other small airlines busily creating a competitive air-travel marketplace would have nothing to aspire to.
True to its name, Southwest has long dominated the budget-travel scene between many Sunbelt cities. But due to overwhelming success, it has become strong enough to take on the major airlines on their high-priced turf in the Northeast, and, most important, the giant New York City market by serving Long Island's Islip-MacArthur airport. When Southwest announced plans to invade these areas, fares plummeted on not only Southwest, but also the major carriers serving those markets.
For business travelers, Southwest offers more than just low fares. It has one of the youngest fleets in the industry (8.4 years old, on average) and leads the pack in on-time performance. Its simple frequent-flier program is one of the easiest for securing award seats. Its no-nonsense Web site lets you make a reservation with as few as 10 clicks of the mouse. It serves less crowded, smaller and often gentler airports, eschewing most giant airline hubs. And, best of all, its average one-way fare is a very wallet-pleasing $79.
But don't expect a first-class section, an airport lounge or any on-board fare. Southwest proudly serves just light snacks and drinks, encouraging customers to bring their own food on board.
So even if you don't fly SWA, you can thank the airline for keeping the fares to and from the cities it serves affordable--and for providing a role model for other low-fare carriers doing the same in your hometown. For more information, call (800) 435-9792 or visit http://www.IFlySWA.com.