LA to SF? Southwest is best.


I fly Southwest from Los Angeles (LAX) to San Francisco (SFO) nearly every week. Often people ask why I fly Southwest, their lack of assigned seating and first or biz class gets a bad rap as the air equivalent to taking the bus. But there are a pile of good reasons SWA is the only choice from Los Angeles to the Bay. Here ya go:

#1 More flights. There are times when a bit of flexibility is needed. Having a flight every hour comes in handy ALL THE TIME. Get to the airport an hour early, get on the earlier flight. Get to the airport 15 min late, get on the next flight. All flights delayed two hours, jump on the next one out. More options means less waiting. Also, worst-case you can easily redirect to Oakland or even San Jose (which Bob and Andrew took advantage of just earlier today). The only day I’ve ever been fully grounded was Sept 11, 2001.

#2 A-List. If you fly SWA enough, they give you a magical card which means no waiting in line for security at either end. It also means they save you an early boarding time (usually A16-20). That combined with check-in reminders from Tripit means I can get to the airport 30 minutes before take-off even during the holidays, clear security fast and usually be among the first 10 people on the plane and I get my pole position and jump off the plane quickly when we land.

#3 Park n Fly is half a block from Terminal 1 at LAX and your SWA Rapid Rewards card gets you 10% off parking. If you’re a high roller they have a valet and a car wash, too, but that shit is way too expensive for my cheap ass and my 04 Honda Civic. Still, walking to and from your gate instead of waiting for some wack shuttle is a savings of at least 15 minutes each way at LAX.

#4 No fees for changing flights. You just pay the difference in fare, no bullshit $150 fee. I can’t believe United and others still get away with charging that. I took United a few weeks ago because they have a later flight out of LAX and I ended up needing to change it. When they told me there was a change fee that was MORE THAN THE COST OF THE TICKET I felt like I was in the stone age of flying.

#5 Cheap flights. I try to book my flights far enough in advance they are $150 or less.

#6 Southwest’s frequent flyer program, Rapid Rewards, is based on trips, not miles. So while you’re inching your way to 35K miles 700 at a time I’m scoring a free ticket anywhere SWA flies every 8 round trips.

#7 Rapid Rewards is mad flexible. Very few blackout dates, and you can easily book tickets for other people. I find myself giving my flights to my daughter, mom, and sister more than I end up using them myself.

There are other good things which I don’t usually take advantage of on these short trips: no charge for bags, wifi, and now the addition of AirTran so I can use my free tickets to visit my dad who lives a few hours outside of Atlanta.

So yeah, if I’m flying to Seattle, NY, Boston, or London I prefer Virgin, but only amateurs fly Virgin between LA and SF. SWA all the way, baby.



  1. jonathanhstrauss wrote:


    And thanks for hipping me to the Park n Fly hook-up a couple months back, it's taken me down to ~3hrs door-to-door from LA-SF :-)

  2. jonathanhstrauss wrote:

    +1 on the SWA flight attendants (though Virgin America seems to have relatively nice ones too). Every time I fly United or American, it's the surly flight attendants that most make me miss Southwest.

  3. Michael Schneider wrote:

    Agree with your points.. BUT if you fly places that Southwest doesn’t fly frequently or you fly coast to coast or international you’re stuck with a lot of frequent flyer credit you can’t use. So, yeah, if you’re going back and forth bay area – LA, agree, but if you want to built up loyalty and status on an airline that can take you places other than the bay area, it makes more sense to stick with a major carrier (mine is American) so you’re not just cutting the security line, getting change fees removed, etc. on Southwest, but also if you’re flying to New York, London, etc. Oh, and American gives frequent flyers free drinks. Southwest? :)

  4. iancr wrote:

    Hey MS thanks for the comment but I disagree: American is the absolute worst LAX to SF. Terminal 4 then a shuttle to that little satellite terminal? That's the wackest. The SF trip is a short one and you don't get enough miles to make it matter, anyway. You want to put yourself through AA hell (with expensive change fees, etc) for an extra 500 miles? Soooo not worth it. And now that SWA bought AirTran and ATA they go coast to coast and into the south, too.

    I have awards on American, BA, and United (though those are basically useless these days). Flying internationally I prefer BA when possible. I'll fly Virgin or Jet Blue to NYC, Seattle, etc. I've had great flights on Delta and Frontier lately, too. But I'd rather pay MORE than fly American or United. I'm done with the brain damage of flying those two airlines.


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