What makes Southwest Airlines so cheap and affordable?

Southwest Airlines is one of the most popular airlines in the United States, and it’s known for its affordable fares. But what is it about Southwest that makes it so cheap?

Several factors contribute to Southwest’s low fares. One of the most important is its low-cost business model. Southwest focuses on efficiency and simplicity, and it passes those savings on to its customers.

No-Frills Approach

One of the key reasons Southwest Airlines can offer low fares is their no-frills approach to flying. Unlike many other airlines, Southwest doesn’t nickel and dime passengers with fees for things like checked bags or seat selection. Instead, they keep things simple by offering a basic fare that includes two checked bags and the ability to choose your seat at no extra cost. This transparency and lack of hidden fees make it easier for passengers to plan their budgets.

Point-to-Point Routes

Southwest Airlines operates on a point-to-point route network rather than a hub-and-spoke system, which is commonly used by larger carriers. In a hub-and-spoke system, flights are routed through a central hub, often resulting in longer travel times and more expensive ticket prices. Southwest’s point-to-point system allows for more direct flights, reducing travel time and operational costs. This efficiency enables Southwest Airlines check-in to offer competitive prices on their routes.

High Aircraft Utilization

Southwest Airlines has a reputation for turning its aircraft around quickly. Their “10-Minute Turn” strategy ensures that planes spend as little time as possible on the ground between flights. This high aircraft utilization rate means that Southwest can offer more flights per day per aircraft, spreading their operational costs over a greater number of passengers. This, in turn, helps keep ticket prices down.

Fuel Hedging

Fuel prices can be a significant factor in the cost of airline operations. Southwest Airlines is known for its proactive approach to managing fuel costs through a strategy called fuel hedging. Essentially, they enter into contracts to purchase fuel at fixed prices in advance, which can protect them from sudden spikes in fuel prices. This financial planning helps stabilize their operating expenses and allows them to maintain lower ticket prices.

Streamlined Fleet

Southwest Airlines primarily operates a single type of aircraft, the Boeing 737. This uniformity in their fleet simplifies maintenance, training, and operational processes. It also allows the airline to buy aircraft in bulk, which can result in cost savings. Fewer types of planes mean fewer spare parts and less complexity, contributing to lower overall expenses.

Happy Employees

Southwest Airlines is known for treating its employees well. The company’s positive corporate culture and competitive compensation packages have led to a high level of employee satisfaction. Happy employees tend to be more productive and customer-oriented, which can result in better service and operational efficiency. In the long run, this benefits both the airline and its passengers.

Lean Operations

Southwest Airlines is renowned for its commitment to cost control. They carefully manage expenses in all areas of their operations, from in-flight service to airport facilities. By constantly seeking ways to become more efficient, Southwest can pass the savings on to its customers in the form of lower fares.

High Passenger Volume

Southwest Airlines consistently ranks among the largest carriers in the United States by passenger numbers. This high volume allows them to spread their operating costs over a large customer base. More passengers mean more revenue to offset the expenses of running an airline, which ultimately results in lower ticket prices for travelers.

What are the Tips for saving money on Southwest Airlines?

1. Book Early

One of the simplest ways to snag a great deal with Southwest Airlines is to book your tickets as early as possible. The airline often releases its flight schedule and fares up to 6–8 months in advance. By booking early, you can take advantage of lower prices before they start to rise as the departure date approaches.

2. Be Flexible with Dates

Flexibility in your travel dates can lead to significant savings. Southwest Airlines’ fare calendar allows you to see fares for an entire month, making it easy to spot the cheapest days to fly. If you can adjust your travel plans by a day or two, you may find substantial discounts.

3. Sign Up for Fare Alerts

Stay in the loop about Southwest’s special promotions and fare sales by signing up for fare alerts. You’ll receive notifications about discounted fares, allowing you to grab a deal when it’s hot off the press.

4. Consider the Low Fare Calendar

Southwest offers a Low Fare Calendar on its website, which is a valuable tool for budget-conscious travelers. This feature displays a month’s worth of fares for a particular route, making it easy to identify the most cost-effective travel dates.

5. Use Rapid Rewards Points

Southwest Airlines has a fantastic frequent flyer program called Rapid Rewards. By accumulating points through flying, credit card rewards, or partners, you can redeem them for free flights. Keep an eye out for promotions that offer bonus points for signing up with Southwest credit cards.

What are The pros and cons of flying Southwest Airlines?


  • Low fares

  • No baggage fees

  • Open seating

  • Point-to-point routes

  • Generous frequent flyer program


  • No assigned seating (can be a con for some passengers)

  • Limited international service

  • Fewer amenities than some other airlines


Southwest Airlines has earned its reputation as a budget-friendly airline by combining several key factors that contribute to its affordability. From its no-frills approach and point-to-point routes to efficient operations and happy employees, Southwest has cracked the code for offering cheap and affordable flights without compromising on safety or service quality.