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Southwest Airlines - Navigation Nightmare

by Courtney Caldwell


If you're looking for cheap fares to get around the U.S. then Southwest is one of your best bets, however, the money you save on flights will be reinvested into the time spent on navigating their website. The Southwest Airline website is, by far, one of the most difficult and worst websites for finding what you need. I stand corrected, you can find information, but it's so disconnected from the next steps that it becomes a navigation nightmare just to book a flight.

While finding flight schedules and airfares is easy enough there are no links and no way to book your flight from those pages. It takes an exhaustive search to find the page that allows you to just book a flight. After finding the flight schedule and the fees you then have to leave those pages to hunt down the section that allows you to book, and that's no easy feat. There doesn't appear to be any pages or links that simply say "Book Your Flight."

After calling Southwest to find out why this is and how to do it, the agent instructed me that you need to return to the home page where there's a box that says Low Fare Shortcuts. Note, it does not say book your flight. After clicking on that you once again have to input all your information, and even then, it's not a simple or straightforward process. In fact, the agent felt it necessary to walk me through the steps and became equally frustrated with me as much as I had become with their site when I pressed her for an explanation as to why there weren't any clear links to booking a flight. Her annoyance with my questions seemed spawned by her inability to give me adequate answers. She simply did not know why Southwest had not created a more direct approach to booking a flight.

After following the challenging procedure, an investing more than an hour into what became a project, I was able to finally get to the end game to book the flight I wanted, which by the way, was much cheaper to book online instead of by phone. When I arrived at the final page and clicked on the "special online deal" for my destination, it came up 'unavailable." No where in the schedule that I had originally pulled up, called "Special Internet Deals," did it say that the particular flight I requested was unavailable. In fact, it gave the flight times and availability. So, on top of a long, arduous search through the site and multiple pages, in the end it was an exercise in futility.

While Southwest may be a no frills airlines with cheap flights, which is great for many, it is also a frustrating experience to get to where you want to go online never mind in the air. This is good news for the competition as the navigation system on the Southwest website is so poorly constructed and challenging that it leaves one angry enough to go somewhere else and not care if they pay a higher fare.

Clearly, Southwest has been credited for being one of the survivors of the recent travel industry downturn as well as one of its highest profiteers. Perhaps they need to think about investing some of those profits into 21st technology, intelligence and web developers that will bring their website up to speed. But then again, maybe they don't need to as their success has been based on low fares, low budget and clearly low standards in technology. This leaves one to wonder if the same lack of investment has been made into their safety and maintenance of aircraft.

Thanks Southwest but no thanks. I'll stick with Delta and the like and pay the higher fares, especially if it means saving time, providing convenience, and most of all, ensuring peace of mind in both cyberspace and air space.

This article was written in 2004. Since then, Southwest Airlines has come a long way, Baby.