DAL-MDW on Southwest

Last Saturday, I wrote about a trip I was taking from Dallas to Chicago on Southwest.  This was my first opportunity to fly Southwest between the two cities and I’ve long believed that even though the flight was a one stop flight, it was actually as efficient or more efficient than taking a legacy carrier such as American Airlines from DFW to ORD.

Yes, it was.  Entry into Love Field and moving to the gate was simple and quick.  I don’t know why but they appear to be able to move more people through security at Love Field in shorter time than anything I’ve ever seen at DFW.  I also don’t know why the TSA staffers at Love Field are coherent and focused and polite in stark contrast with the typical TSA staffers I’ve seen at DFW.  The experience at Love Field is better in every way that counts.

The flight departed on time and arrived in St. Louis on time.  I paid for Early Bird check-in and got an excellent window seat in the front of the aircraft.  The flight was about 80% full to STL but I managed to not have someone sit next to me on that segment. 

Departing STL for Chicago, we were delayed a brief while and the Captain announced that they were holding at the gate due to traffic congestion in Chicago.  The weather in Chicago was overcast with extremely light snow falling and temperatures at about 36 degrees.  When we did take off, there was light to moderate turbulence for the first 45 minutes or so but it wasn’t really uncomfortable with a seatbelt on.  As we neared Chicago, the pilot performed a series of “S” turns and I would presume he was asked to do so to fit into the traffic pattern.

Landing at MDW was uneventful and the taxi to the gate was short and quick.  But now we get to the downsides.  It’s clear that Southwest is overtaxed at MDW.  It’s clear by the fact that virtually every gate had an aircraft and when I deplaned, I found every gate area I passed full to overflowing with people awaiting a departure.  The walk from the gate areas to the baggage claims is long(ish) but no more so than at many other older airports.  Certainly not really more than one experiences at Love Field. 

By the time I claimed my baggage, the person I was to meet there arrived and I waited another 15 minutes for him to claim his luggage as well.  Travel into downtown Chicago was efficient and quick but probably only because we insisted on taking the interestate northwards instead of being lead to Lakeshore Drive.  Make a note of this:  You’ll generally always be better off if you insist on the taxi driver not taking Lakeshore Drive to downtown.  They’ll insist that it is quicker, it isn’t.  It’s slightly shorter but much more congested as a rule.

My Southwest service excellent in all respects on that flight but I do understand why MDW is having delay problems.  I don’t think it is the airport so much as it is the fact that virtually every Southwest flight into and out of this airport is full.  By full, I mean full to the brim. 

What makes those full flights worse is the fact that a great many people are business travelers carrying quite a bit of carry-on luggage.  By quite a bit, I mean an obscene amount.  With unassigned seating, these travelers jockey for position, jockey for overhead bin space and jockey to avoid sitting in a middle seat.  I’ll have more on that in my next post on this trip.

Overall, the experience was pleasant and everything Southwest is praised for.  But that said, you’ll find that I see some growing pains in the Southwest model that I think Southwest is going to have to figure out if it expects to continue to profit in the future.

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2 Responses to “DAL-MDW on Southwest”

  1. Make a note of this: You’ll generally always be better off if you insist on the taxi driver not taking Lakeshore Drive to downtown.

    Personally, I’d take the train. CTA’s light rail runs from both MDW and ORD to the downtown Loop area.

    -R

  2. O; and by the way…

    What makes those full flights worse is the fact that a great many people are business travelers carrying quite a bit of carry-on luggage. By quite a bit, I mean an obscene amount. With unassigned seating, these travelers jockey for position, jockey for overhead bin space and jockey to avoid sitting in a middle seat.

    And *that*, dear narrator, is precisely why I cannot abide SWA’s cattle-call seating scramble. I want a reserved seat *IN ADVANCE*, and not this lame-ass “festival seating” bullcrap. But we’ve had this disagreement many times before.

    -R
    (not a swa fanboi)

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