Why other airfare sites don't include Southwest Airlines...and why you should care

George Hobica, September 02, 2007
Fares from Washington DC:

    Happy Labor Day Weekend. And yes, we're laboring here at Airfarewatchdog.com while those automated airfare listing and alert sites are probably taking the weekend off. Well, good for them.

    One reason we can't take the day off is because we're not automated. As we've said time and time again, we use real people, not computer programs, to evaluate fares. And that's one reason why we list and compare fares on Southwest Airlines (now the largest domestic carrier in the US based on passengers flown) and the other guys, who are all about computer programs, don't.

    In fact, Southwest prohibits "any automatic device, program, or algorithm" to monitor its fares. (We don't get paid for sending traffic to Southwest, so it doesn't make economic sense for us to do this, but hey, the other guys have MBA's and we were English and graphic arts majors, among other things, so what do we know).

    Not only is Southwest big, but they also fly a lot of routes nonstop, which, let's face it, is how you'd really prefer to fly. And not only do they fly these routes nonstop, but often for less than other airlines.

    Here's a case in point: let's say you wanted to fly from Philadelphia to Las Vegas nonstop. US Air, of course, flies that route nonstop, but if you wanted to leave, say, on September 25 (and a lot of other days as well), you'll pay US Air $149 each way including taxes, as this screen grab from Orbitz shows (even Delta's change of plane fare would cost you $114):

    But you'd pay Southwest, as you can see below, $99.40, about $50 less each way or $100 less roundtrip. Those sites that forecast airfares, or compare them using machines, would, frankly, mislead you into thinking that your best deal was $298 RT vs. $198 RT on that route. So that's why we're working on Labor Day, but we hope you're not!