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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Friday, April 12, 2013

Is Southwest still a viable discount airline?

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By Clark Howard


Southwest has long been my "girlfriend" because I've loved them since they started flying.

Back in 1991, I spoke to founder Herb Kelleher and wrote an article predicting they'd one day be the largest airline in America. That's become partly true. They are the largest airline for domestic flights, though not if you factor in international travel.

But now Southwest is facing a midlife crisis. There was a recent story in Time that was so negative on Southwest. They've now got their second CEO since Herb retired. The new guy seems bright, but he doesn't seem to have enough customer focus, in my opinion.

Running an airline is a tough job, don't get me wrong. But Southwest has always stood for getting a good deal. Today, that's not necessarily as true.

Southwest is still great when you're buying leisure travel well in advance of your travel date. But for business travelers buying at the last minute, Southwest doesn't seem to be a special deal anymore.

If you're business traveler, go to a multi-airline search engine like Kayak.com (they don't include Southwest fares) or look at Allegiant Air or Spirit Airlines. Both are growing quickly because they offer unequivocal deals, yet I can't stand Spirit because of the customer experience.

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