Southwest vs. Delta

When Southwest Airlines announced a couple of years ago that it would start flying to Minneapolis-St. Paul, visions of low airfares danced in our heads, what with Southwest’s low-fare image and all.

Has it worked out that way?

It depends on how you fly. For a typical business traveler or adults who want some ability to change flights, not so much. For those who like to fly on the very cheap, even if it means living a youth hostel flying life, it definitely has.

Here’s a sample of airfares for flights out of MSP on October 19, returning on Saturday October 23. In a head-to-head comparison of fares, Delta mostly tops Southwest, even if you include the number of fees. In the parenthesis are the Southwest “Wanna Get Away” fares, which is the no-frills end of the no-frills airline.

Destination Southwest Delta
Boston $918 ($307) $747.40
Chicago $312 ($292) $119.40
Orlando $754 ($410) $460.80
Las Vegas $874 ($380) $400
New York $834.00 ($383) $601.40
Los Angeles $842 ($400) $469
Pittsburgh $564 ($386) $288
Denver $576 ($215) $179.40
Dallas $828 ($376) $258

Today, Southwest announced it’s purchasing AirTran, one of its competitors in the low-cost airline business.

  • Bismuth

    It would be interesting to how Southwest’s presence at MSP has affected the prices of the other airlines. The theory goes that other airlines lower their prices to be competitive when Southwest adds a market, but I’m not sure. Anecdotally, I can fly BDL-MSP significantly more cheaply than I could a couple of years ago, on any airline.

    Incidentally, Southwest also has one of the best cancellation policies on their Wanna Get Away fares, for semi-regular travelers, at least. The entire fare is applicable toward future travel (within 1 year), without a cancellation fee.

  • Bob Collins

    A year ago, when I needed to get family members back east, one of them missed a SWA flight. Getting him rebooked –at no cost — for a same day flight was hassle free. I didn’t think airlines actually treated passengers well.

    The stop in Chicago to go anywhere is kind of a drag, though.

  • Jon

    I fly to Denver a few times a year and it is as cheap now – or even less expensive – than it was many years ago. Denver is a hub for two airlines, so that likely helps too. Last time I checked, Delta, United, Southwestern and Frontier Airlines all had the same price for a ticket. I tend to go with Frontier since they are just so darn friendly and Northwest was regularly a negative experience.