1. Open Seating and Family Boarding
Especially now that I am flying with a walking time bomb/puppy/small child, I appreciate more than ever unassigned seats. Throw in Family Boarding (where families with children get to board after first class and before two-thirds of the rest of passengers), and I get to choose how important a window or aisle is for me at the current moment (window when he's feeling curious, aisle when I know a diaper change is coming) AND people who board after me can self-select if they are into sitting by a kid or not.
In July, I flew 7 legs and I twice chose to sit by a 13 year old who ended up being awesome with babies (one girl I actually ended up giving $10 at the end of the flight because I was flying without Porter and she was so incredibly helpful, plus her mom kind of seemed like a wreck), I had two grandmotherly women choose to sit by us (and ooh and ah and play peekabo and use voices and all that good grandmotherly stuff), once had someone in front of me move when I sat down (no offense taken, lady, I get it!) and once got the row to myself even on a very full flight (thank you Southwest flight attendants for making my dream come true!).
There's all sorts of commotion about parents giving goodie bags to passengers around them and I don't buy it. I truly think children are usually more well behaved and bring more joy to strangers traveling than headache, but I get that lots of people don't like babies and don't want to deal. In fact, much of the stress of flying is not just handling the moods and whims of the small child, but reading the people around you to make sure you aren't making them grumpy. Southwest makes this much much easier.
2. Companion Pass and Points points points
I am a airline loyalty miles junkie (haven't paid cash for a flight in 5 years, knock on wood) and Southwest happens to have a really great program.
First, the Companion Pass, which you get if you accrue 110,000 points in a calendar year (by flying on SW, purchases made with the SW credit card, or my personal favorite, sign-up bonuses). Once you get to 110,000 points, for the rest of that year and the following calendar year, you can have someone fly with you ANYWHERE SOUTHWEST FLIES, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, only paying fees (for a domestic flights, fees are $5.60). So when I fly, I buy a ticket with SW points and Porter (my designated Companion) flies for free, add in a free lap child and that's three of us flying roundtrip for $12 out of pocket. It feels like stealing.
We've been through three years of the companion pass and our is expiring this year (sobbing emoji) so we'll see if we decide to get creative and get it again for next year.
In addition to the Companion Pass, between Porter and I, we use several Chase credit cards tied to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program which, conveniently, transfers to both Southwest and my other preferred airline United. It is helpful that Porter has to buy mountains of shirts, medals, and cones that accumulate points, but really everyone in their day to day makes enough purchases to get points and should be using a credit card that works to their advantage. (To be clear, we don't ever carry a balance and any credit card is paid off in full each month.)
3. Generousity and flexibility
There is no cancellation fee, no fee for checked bags, no fee to change your ticket. It's wonderful. They also give out a lot of snacks (no meals though).