Southwest Airlines is no longer a cheaper option compared to the other airlines. The pricing structure is essentially the same as American and Delta including the baggage. While searching for prices to buy this flight, the cost for all the airlines were about the same when factoring luggage charges.
Since the pricing is the same, the cattle loading process is a joke. The company stance is that there are three loading groups: A, B and C. I would challenge that and say there are nine boarding groups and you should expect to be in the final groups boarding that will get center seats only. The 1st group to board is Pre-boarding as the gate attendant calls out. The 2nd group is business upgrade. The 3rd group is A 1-30. 4th group is A 31-60. The 5th group is XT or those that need extra time. The 6th and 7th are B 1-30 and 31-60. The 8th and 9th are the C groups.
Southwest has a 24 hour check in policy. 24 hours before your flight you can check in online. Theoretically, it's first come first service. I check in litterally the minute it lets me in. I always get B group. As a result, I rarely get to sit with my family or co-workers. I get stuck in the middle group. It's a terrible experience every time.
My next major complaint of this economy airline that charges same fares as regular airlines is no inflight entertainment. I am expected to use my smart phone and run down my battery by connecting to their free wifi to watch TV. If I want to see a movie on my phone, I'm free to pay $5 for the privilege. If you're using my device to give me access to your entertainment system, then give me a power source in every seat.
The biggest upside to Southwest: The flight attendants rock. They really are the best in the industry. I like them a lot. I also like not paying baggage fees. Because there is no fee, more people check their bags. Because they are checked, there almost never is a fight to be the first on the plane to get space.
I am not a fan of Southwest. When there was a clear price point difference that I could see and feel in my pocket book then I was okay with the cattle call loading. Now I am not. At 6'2", I do not want to sit in a center seat. I want to sit next to my wife or co-worker. Southwest does not give me a chance to make that happen even when I book at exactly the 24 pre-board checkin.