Dallas to Chicago

Later today, I’m flying from Dallas to Chicago and this time I’m trying out Southwest Airlines’ service from Love Field to Midway Airport.  Both airports are the quintessential second airports for their respective cities and both have a strong Southwest history. 

Why this airline and these airports?  I’ve long advocated that you can enjoy a better, less expensive flight on Southwest that is essentially the same time elapsed “door to door” as a flight on a carrier such as American Airlines. 

So, I’ll be making a much quicker drive to Love Field airport where I’ll make a much quicker transit  through security to my gate.  I did pay the $10 Southwest Fee to early check in to improve my seating options (and it’s a fee that, for Southwest customers, does provide extra value).  My flight, however, is not non-stop.  I’ll be on a one-stop Southwest flight that pauses briefly in St. Louis.  Total programmed flight time?  2 hours, 55 minutes.

I paid $408 for this trip last Saturday compared to American Airlines fare for similar departure times on the same days of $659 and that does not include the fees for one checked bag that I’ll have to take with me.  All in, AA would have cost me (or, rather, my client) over $700. 

If I had taken AA, I would have had a much longer drive to DFW airport and a much more expensive one as well.  (One takes a tollway to DFW if one expects to get to DFW in a reasonable amount of time from where I live.)  The difference in time to get to each airport for me on a day where there are no traffic jams?  About 20 minutes less to access Love Field.

My Southwest flight time will be 2 hours, 55 minutes (if they’re on time) and a similar choice with American Airlines would be 2 hours, 30 minutes.  With the difference in drive time alone, I’ve just made up 20 minutes of a 25 minute difference.  When you account for the fact that I can arrive at Love Field with a bare minimum amount of time for passing through vs DFW airport where I would arrive about 15 minutes before my one hour deadline prior to flight time (because checking bags and passing through security at DFW can be easy or it can be real lengthy), I’ve just gained another 10 minutes. 

Since I”m arriving at Chicago Midway Airport, I’ll have a drive to my hotel in downtown Chicago that is nominally 6 miles shorter in distance and about 20 minutes quicker than if I arrived at Chicago O’Hare.  I’m now up by 30 minutes using Southwest.

At least in theory.

But let’s take a look at the contrasts in experiences I’m liable to enjoy between the two airlines.  On Southwest, I paid the $10 Early Bird Check-In fee so I’ll have a very high likelihood of obtaining a good, front of cabin seat on a 737-700.  It will be a fairly new aircraft and possibly a brand new aircraft.  It won’t be old and it won’t have old, worn out seats either.  I’ll enjoy 32″ to 33″ of seat pitch, most likely a friend flight attendant and no charge for a beverage.  Because of the nature of my trip, I have to check a bag and that comes free and on an airline with a good reputation for baggage handling and security.

If I had taken American Airlines on similar flight time, I would have enjoyed a 20+ year old MD-82.  Since I would have bought AA’s best economy price, I would have likely been at the back of the aircraft and sitting in old, worn out seating with 31″ of seat pitch.  My flight attendants would have most likely been cranky, older crew who have a reputation of taking out their job dissatisfaction on their customers.  (AA flight attendants can be good but in my experience the DFW and Chicago based crews are frequently hostile to customers.) 

My bag would be handled by an airline who had a less than positive reputation for baggage handling (and strangely I’ve had many bags delayed over the years on the DFW-ORD route) and only for a $25 fee each way.   If I had paid AA’s fee for priority boarding, I’d get earlier access to overhead bins but no options to sit in a preferred seat up front and an economy passenger on an AA MD-80 flight is going to have the options of “bad” and “worse” when it comes to seat assignments.

Savings in dollars:  About $300

Savings in time:  About 30 minutes door to door (if this works out as I expect).

What do I give up?  I don’t get frequent flier points on American Airlines.  Let me point out that my dollar savings alone just bought me a “free trip” if I wanted it.  Which would you rather have?  about 1600 frequent flier point or $300 in savings?  Which would you rather fly on?  An old MD-80 with old seats and a hostile flight crew or on a fairly new 737 with new seats and a friendly flight crew?

Once I complete this trip, I’ll write up what actually happened.

4 Responses to “Dallas to Chicago”

  1. Once I complete this trip, I’ll write up what actually happened.

    I already know how this is gonna be…


  2. DAL-MDW was *perfect* and exactly as expected.

  3. And MDW-DAL was…… ???


  4. Drive time from the Loop to MDW (either way) is shorter than the Loop to ORD, outside of rush hour.

    But during rush hour, it’s about the same. Whereas the Kennedy Expressway to ORD has a spur that takes you to the terminals, going to MDW on the Stevenson Expressway requires an exit at Cicero Avenue. During rush hour, Cicero crawls, and you almost always hit every traffic light.

    Of course, if someone likes in Arlington, Irving, or Grapevine, DFW is closer than Love Field. By the same token, for people who live in the north or northwest suburbs of Chicago, ORD is far closer than MDW.

    I used to live in a west suburb that was about equal driving time to both ORD (via Interstate 294) and MDW (via 55th Street). But now that I’ve moved further west, ORD is now the quicker airport.

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