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Site Inspection: Southwest's Revamp

John Deiner

If you haven't noticed it yet, Southwest Airlines rolled out a redesign of its Web site this week. Our snap decision: It's bold, brash and decidedly no-frills, much like the airline itself. The design is also uncrowded and clean -- exactly the opposite of how we find the budget carrier's planes most of the time.

One thing that hasn't changed is the fact that you can't book a flight directly off the home page, like most other airline Web sites (you have to click on "Book a Flight"). The Dallas Morning News quoted Anne Murray, the airline's director of online marketing, as saying that customers were asked whether they wanted that capability and that there was no clear-cut consensus. We say: Who cares?

The site still offers one of the easiest ways to book once you make that fateful, time-consuming click; the flight/price grids don't appear to have changed a bit. And even the weariest of eyes would be hard-pressed to miss the spots where you can click for info on flight status and online check-in. In fact, from top to bottom, font sizes seem more in your face than other airline Web sites.

That's a good thing. We're tired of digging around sites trying to find basic information (particularly a phone number to call a real live human being), and Southwest has been a longtime proponent of keeping it simple. Now, if it would just get those planes a little cleaner.

By John Deiner |  January 18, 2007; 9:15 AM ET  | Category:  Airline Industry , John Deiner
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Southwest just beats all comers. Flying with them (even over Thanksgiving with a two-year-old from DC to Austin and back) couldn't be easier, and I don't think I've ever met friendlier flight crews. Factor in the pricing and it's no question why the flights are crowded...everyone wants to go with them.

Posted by: 23112 | January 18, 2007 10:18 AM

Since January 2005 (as far back as their tracking goes), I've earned 36 points, so they're a favorite of mine. Flew to Long Island over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and again New Year's with no problems -- can't beat $78 round trip (well, Thanksgiving was a little more). Earned another free trip over the holiday period and I'm 14 away from the next one!

Posted by: Columbia, MD | January 18, 2007 11:06 AM

I haven't noticed cleanliness problems -- at least, no more than with other airlines. I fly United for all business and international travel (because I earn miles and use them to upgrade to first class when possible) and Southwest for most personal, domestic trips. I recently flew both in the same week -- and observed that the seats I got on United by paying extra for "Economy Plus" ("up to 5 inches more legroom") were the same as the seats that _everyone_ gets on Southwest. And the leather seats on Southwest were more comfortable. And boarding was faster. And the gate attendants and flight crew were consistently, uniformly friendlier. And you can easily get a friendly human on the phone (a couple of weeks ago I spent a half hour on hold with United, got dropped, then spent another 15 minutes on hold). There's just no comparison.

Posted by: jane | January 18, 2007 12:21 PM

Whenever I fly Southwest the planes are as clean or cleaner than any of the other airlines I use. As for crowded, I've never seen more than one person in any seat, or anyone sitting in the aisles, the wing, or the roof. Who is the "we" that find the "budget carrier" to be crowded and unclean? Why is an unsubstanitated claim made in the article?

Posted by: United 1K Member | January 18, 2007 1:16 PM

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