Why Is Southwest Airlines So Cheap?

If you’ve ever shopped around for airline tickets, you’ve probably noticed that Southwest Airlines often has the lowest fares. In fact, their slogan is “Low fares. Nothing to hide.” But how does Southwest keep their prices so low compared to other major U.S. airlines?

Read on to find out the secrets behind Southwest’s cheap flights.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Southwest keeps costs low by operating a standardized fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, not assigning seats, eliminating extra fees, and encouraging quick turnarounds.

They Only Fly One Type of Airplane

One of the reasons why Southwest Airlines is able to offer such cheap fares is because they have a unique operating model. Unlike other airlines that have a mixed fleet of airplanes, Southwest exclusively flies the Boeing 737.

This decision has several advantages that contribute to their cost-saving strategy.

Boeing 737 fleet

The Boeing 737 fleet is known for its fuel efficiency and reliability. By operating only one type of aircraft, Southwest is able to streamline their operations and reduce costs. They don’t have to invest in training their pilots and crew members on multiple types of airplanes, which saves both time and money.

Additionally, having a standardized fleet allows Southwest to negotiate better deals with Boeing for purchasing and maintaining their airplanes.

Easier maintenance

Another benefit of flying only one type of airplane is that maintenance becomes much easier. Southwest’s maintenance crews are highly specialized in working with the Boeing 737, which improves efficiency and reduces downtime.

They don’t have to stock a wide range of spare parts for different aircraft models, which helps to keep maintenance costs low.

Higher asset utilization

By having a homogeneous fleet, Southwest can optimize their fleet utilization. They can easily swap aircraft between routes and adjust capacity based on demand. This flexibility allows them to maximize the number of flights per day and increase revenue.

Additionally, having a standardized fleet simplifies scheduling and reduces turnaround times at airports, resulting in higher operational efficiency.

No Seat Assignments

One of the reasons why Southwest Airlines is able to offer such cheap fares is because they do not have assigned seating on their flights. Unlike other airlines where passengers can choose their seats in advance, Southwest operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

This means that passengers are not assigned specific seats when they book their tickets, but instead are given a boarding position based on when they check in for their flight.

Encourages early check-in

Southwest Airlines encourages passengers to check in early to secure a better boarding position. The earlier you check in, the better your chances of getting a seat of your choice. This has become a popular strategy among frequent Southwest travelers, who often set reminders to check in exactly 24 hours prior to their flight’s departure time.

By doing so, they increase their chances of getting a good seat, such as an aisle or window seat, or even securing a seat near the front of the plane for a quicker exit upon arrival.

Simpler boarding process

Another advantage of not having assigned seats is that it simplifies the boarding process. Instead of dealing with the complexities of assigning seats and ensuring that passengers are in the correct seats, Southwest Airlines uses a unique boarding process that is efficient and time-saving.

Passengers are divided into groups based on their boarding position, which is indicated on their boarding pass, and then called to board the plane in numerical order. This eliminates the need for passengers to search for their assigned seats and allows for a smoother and quicker boarding process.

By not having seat assignments, Southwest Airlines is able to streamline their operations, reduce costs, and pass the savings onto their customers in the form of lower fares. While some passengers may prefer the convenience of assigned seating, many appreciate the simplicity and affordability that Southwest offers.

Point-to-Point Routing

One of the reasons why Southwest Airlines is able to offer such affordable fares is because of its point-to-point routing strategy. This means that instead of using a traditional hub-and-spoke system like many other airlines, Southwest focuses on connecting passengers directly from one point to another.

Avoids hubs

By avoiding the use of hubs, Southwest Airlines is able to reduce costs and offer cheaper flights to its customers. Hubs are large airports where passengers have to connect to another flight to reach their final destination.

These hubs often require additional fees and taxes, which can drive up the cost of airfare. Southwest’s point-to-point routing allows passengers to bypass these hubs, saving both time and money.

For example, instead of flying from Dallas to New York with a layover in Chicago, Southwest Airlines offers direct flights from Dallas to New York. This not only eliminates the need for a layover, but it also reduces the overall travel time and cost for passengers.

Shorter routes are more efficient

Another advantage of Southwest’s point-to-point routing is that it allows for shorter routes, which are more efficient. By operating shorter flights, Southwest can save on fuel costs and reduce the wear and tear on its aircraft.

This efficiency translates into cost savings, which can be passed on to customers in the form of lower fares.

For instance, instead of flying from Los Angeles to Denver with a layover in Phoenix, Southwest Airlines offers a direct flight from Los Angeles to Denver. This shorter route not only saves time for passengers, but it also helps Southwest minimize its operational expenses, making it possible to offer affordable tickets.

No Frills Service

One of the main reasons why Southwest Airlines is able to offer such low fares is because of its no frills service. Unlike other airlines that provide amenities such as complimentary meals and seatback screens, Southwest focuses on providing a simple and efficient flying experience.

This means that passengers won’t find themselves enjoying gourmet meals or being entertained by the latest movies during their flight. However, this also allows Southwest to keep their operational costs low, which ultimately translates into more affordable ticket prices for passengers.

No meals or seatback screens

When you fly with Southwest Airlines, don’t expect to be served a gourmet meal or have access to individual seatback screens. Instead, Southwest offers a selection of snacks and beverages for purchase onboard, allowing passengers to choose what they want to eat and drink.

This no frills approach helps Southwest to minimize costs and pass the savings on to their customers. Plus, with the rise of smartphones and tablets, many passengers prefer to bring their own entertainment, making seatback screens less essential.

Focus is getting passengers from A to B

Southwest Airlines’ primary goal is to get passengers safely and efficiently from one destination to another. They prioritize punctuality and reliability, ensuring that flights depart and arrive on time.

By focusing on the core function of air travel, Southwest reduces unnecessary expenses associated with elaborate in-flight services. This streamlined approach allows them to offer lower fares compared to other airlines that invest heavily in luxurious amenities.

Lowers operational costs

Southwest Airlines is known for its efficient operations, which help to lower their overall costs. They have a simplified fleet consisting mainly of Boeing 737 aircraft, which allows for easier maintenance and training for their staff.

Additionally, Southwest operates a point-to-point route network, meaning they don’t rely heavily on connecting flights through a hub. This reduces the complexity of their operations and helps to keep costs down.

Furthermore, Southwest has a high aircraft utilization rate, with quick turnaround times between flights, maximizing the efficiency of their fleet.

Encourages Efficiency

One of the key reasons why Southwest Airlines is able to offer such low fares is because of its commitment to efficiency. The airline has implemented several strategies that help streamline operations and reduce costs.

25 minute turnarounds

Southwest Airlines is famous for its lightning-fast turnaround times. While most airlines take around 45 minutes to an hour to prepare a plane for its next flight, Southwest aims to complete this process in just 25 minutes.

This quick turnaround allows the airline to maximize the number of flights it can operate each day, resulting in higher revenue and lower costs per passenger. By minimizing the time spent on the ground, Southwest is able to keep its planes in the air more often, which ultimately translates to lower fares for customers.

Employees rewarded for on-time departures

Southwest Airlines has a unique incentive program that rewards employees for on-time departures. This means that employees have a strong motivation to get flights off the ground as quickly as possible.

By prioritizing punctuality, Southwest ensures that its flights stay on schedule and minimize delays. As a result, the airline is able to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction and attract repeat business.

This focus on efficiency not only benefits the airline’s bottom line but also allows it to offer affordable fares to its customers.

Plane spends less time at the gate

Another way Southwest Airlines encourages efficiency is by minimizing the time spent at the gate. Unlike other airlines that have strict boarding processes and assigned seating, Southwest operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

This means that passengers can board the plane quickly and efficiently, reducing the turnaround time at the gate. Additionally, Southwest utilizes a single type of aircraft, the Boeing 737, which simplifies operations and allows for faster boarding and deplaning.

By keeping the plane’s time at the gate to a minimum, Southwest is able to increase its overall efficiency and keep costs down.


In summary, Southwest Airlines keeps their fares low by simplifying operations, standardizing their fleet, eliminating unnecessary services, and rewarding employees for efficiency. Their focus on low costs at every step allows Southwest to offer some of the most affordable airfares in the U.S. airline industry.

The tradeoff is a lack of amenities, but for many travelers, Southwest’s barebones approach is worth it for the savings.

So next time you’re shopping for a cheap plane ticket, be sure to check Southwest Airlines if you want to fly for less.

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