Fly With American Airlines vs. Southwest: My Verdict

American Airlines vs Southwest Personal Insights 

This article explores the key differences between American Airlines and Southwest, focusing on various aspects such as airfare, baggage policy, route networks, delay and cancellation statistics, check-in and boarding processes, and amenities.

As someone who has worked for both airlines, I will provide personal insights to help you determine which airline best suits your travel needs.


Choose Southwest Airlines if:

  • You’re traveling domestically and prefer non-stop flights.
  • Budget-friendly options are essential to you.
  • A positive and hassle-free passenger experience is a priority.
  • You want to support an airline known for excellent customer service.

Choose American Airlines if:

  • You’re embarking on international travel, especially to diverse destinations.
  • You need access to a vast network of routes.
  • Partnering with other airlines and earning reward points are important to you.
  • You value extensive route options and global connections.

Company Profile

American Airlines company profile: 

  • One of the top three mainline carriers globally.
  • Fleet Size: Boasts a colossal fleet of over 900 aircraft, one of the world’s largest commercial fleets.
  • Aircraft Types: Operates a mix of Airbus and Boeing aircraft.
  • Global Network: Maintains an extensive network of routes that span the globe.

Southwest Airlines company profile:

  • Smaller in scale compared to American.
  • Fleet Composition: Exclusively uses Boeing aircraft for its operations.
  • Route Focus: Primarily operates routes within the United States, with a limited number of international routes.
  • Hybrid Model: Operates in a unique space, hovering between a mainline airline and a low-cost carrier.
  • Special Emphasis: Uniquely prides itself on being the “LUV” airline, emphasizing customer service and fostering a family-like atmosphere.

Pricing and Fare Options

When it comes to pricing and fare options, Southwest is going to be your go to for discount travel. 

They are constantly doing sales, with huge discounts.

However, if you are trying to go overseas, American would be your choice. They have a wide network of routes spanning around the world.

What is included in Southwest Airlines fare: 

  • Two free checked bags
  • Free in-flight TV and movie options
  • Complimentary small snack
  • Free tea, coffee, and sodas
  • Alcoholic beverages available for purchase
  • In-flight internet available for a fee
  • Excellent customer service

What is included in American Airlines fare:

  • Carry-on and personal item
  • Advanced seat selection
  • Premium Economy, Business and First Class
  • Provides in-flight service with a small snack and beverage
  • Offers alcoholic beverages for purchase
  • Wider range of free in-flight TV and movie options
  • In-flight internet available for a fee
  • Equipped with power outlets on most planes
  • Varies service based on cabin groups, with First Class offering meals/snack baskets and free alcohol
  • Service quality differs based on the route, with international routes having distinct service levels

Bag Policy 

Southwest Airlines Bag Policy:

  • Baggage policy is among the best in the industry.
  • First two checked bags fly free (weight and size limits apply).
  • Skis, golf bags, and surfboards fly free on flights to Hawaii.
  • Carry-on policy allows one bag and one small personal item.
  • Carry-on size limit: 24” (L) + 16” (W) + 10” (H).
  • Bags exceeding these dimensions must be checked.

American Airlines Bag Policy:

  • Baggage policy has different levels based on status.
  • First checked bag is complimentary for specific groups, including cardmembers, AAdvantage Gold, and Oneworld Ruby members.
  • First and second checked bags are complimentary for additional groups, including premium customers and elite members.
  • First, second, and third checked bags are complimentary for flagship customers, AAdvantage executive platinum, and military personnel.
  • Bag fees vary and can be found on their website.
  • Carry-on policy includes one personal item and one carry-on.
  • Carry-on size limit: 22 x 14 x 9 inches (including handles and wheels).

Route Networks

Southwest you will see routes spanning throughout the U.S. with some international destinations, but not many.

American’s route is extremely expansive, including their oneworld partnerships which include a wide array of other airlines that make their ability to get to almost anywhere in the world.

If you are looking for domestic travel, both airlines will have this covered. International, American would be your go to, they have a very big network. 

Southwest Airlines Network

  • Operates over 4,000 daily flights
  • Serves 121 airports in the United States and Mexico
  • Focuses on domestic flights, with limited international service to Mexico and the Caribbean
  • Known for its low fares and flexible booking policies

American Airlines Network

  • Operates over 6,000 daily flights
  • Serves over 350 airports in over 50 countries
  • Offers a wide range of domestic and international flights, including transatlantic, transpacific, and Latin American service
  • One of the world’s largest airlines and a member of the Oneworld alliance

Overall American Airlines has a much larger national and international route network than Southwest Airlines, with flights to over 50 countries. Southwest Airlines only offers limited international service to Mexico and the Caribbean.

Delays and Cancellations

Each airline has their delays and cancellations, and they both try to utilize their fleet to the best of their ability.

However, over the years, it seems that Southwest has been able to recover quicker than American.

Many of Americans’ primary hubs get a lot of weather over the course of the year. This drastically impacts an airline’s operation.

I also find that Southwest is able to rebook people in a more timely manner. However, American does have a much bigger fleet, with a much bigger operation, so they can maneuver their aircraft and staff around a lot faster.

📌 No matter what airline you choose to fly with, you can expect delays/cancellations. You just hope they are able to recover quickly. Both have experienced system-wide meltdowns.

Check-in and Boarding Process

Both American and Southwest offer online check-ins, 24 hours prior.

However, the difference with these two being, American you select your seat assignment, Southwest has an open seating policy.  

So in Southwest Airlines you want to check-in right on that 24-hour mark to try to get a good boarding group. If you don’t, and the flight is full, you can expect to be in a middle seat, which no one wants.

American Airlines Boarding Process

  • Boarding starts 30-50 minutes before scheduled departure (depends on the destination and plane type)
  • Boarding ends 15 minutes before departure
  • Customers who need special assistance and families with children under 2 years old can ask to board early at the gate
  • Boarding Order:
    • ConciergeKey members
    • Group 1:
      • First Class
      • Active-Duty U.S. military with military id
      • AAdvantage Executive Platinum (Business on a 2-class international plane)
    • Group 2:
      • AAdvantage Platinum Pro
      • Oneworld emerald
      • (Business on a 3-class plane)
    • Group 3:
      • AAdvantage Platinum
      • Oneworld Sapphire
    • Group 4:
      • AAdvantage Gold
      • Oneworld Ruby
      • AirPass
      • Premium Economy
      • Citi/AAdvantage Executive cardmembers
      •  Travelers with priority boarding
      • Eligible corporate travelers
    • Group 5:
      • Main Cabin Extra
      • AAdvantage members who earn 15,000 loyalty points
      • Eligible AAdvantage credit card members
    • Group 6:
      • AAdvantage members
    • Group 7-8:
      • Main Cabin
    • Group 9:
      • Basic Economy

Southwest Airlines Boarding Process

  • You are assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and position 1-60+ upon check in
  • “Your unique group and position combination (for example: A35) will be displayed on your boarding pass and represents a reserved spot in the boarding group at the gate.”
  • Numbered posts will indicate where to line up
  • Family Boarding
    • After the A group has boarded and before the B group begins boarding
      • Up to two adults traveling with a child six years old or younger
      • If they have an A group boarding, they should board with the A group
  • Preboard
    • Available for customers with disabilities who need a specific seat to accommodate a disability, need assistance boarding the plane, or need to stow an assistive device
  • Open seating
  • Active-duty U.S. military with an id, who does not receive an A boarding pass, can board between A and B groups
  • If the individuals in your group have different boarding groups, you can board together, but in the later position the other individuals hold.


In my personal opinion, I believe American Airlines has the better in-flight entertainment options. 

They have a wide array of business travelers, so their in-flight options are extremely nice. They usually have brand new movies you can watch, live tv, easy access to watch games, etc.

Their internet service does come with a fee, but you can buy monthly passes, for those who travel a lot.

Southwest has inflight entertainment, but it’s pretty basic.


Honestly, the seats are fairly similar.

I find that either airline has comfortable seating arrangements.

American’s first-class cabins by far have the best legroom and seats, but those tickets are extremely pricey. 

American’s seats do have charging ports in their seats, Southwest does not at this time.

Southwest Airlines American Airlines
Legroom 32 inches 30 inches
Seat Width 17.5 inches 17 inches

Staff and Reputation

Hands down, Southwest wins this one by far.

Some of the nicest people you will ever meet work for Southwest airlines😜. They really value customer service and taking care of people. Everyone is family and it truly shows.

About American Airlines staff and crew, I can’t say that is always the case.

Southwest’s reputation speaks for itself. I really think they are the people’s airline. It shows in the interactions daily, they just truly care about one another.

American Airlines has a reputation of being a legacy carrier, so they are more about professionalism and class. Southwest has those components as well, but they want to have fun with it.


I think both airlines are fantastic when it comes to safety.

Of course, things happen, but each airline has proven that safety is their number one priority.

I can’t say that either have shown that this isn’t the case. Working at both airlines, I never felt the company was unsafe in their practices. Everyone is trained exceptionally well. 

Southwest Airlines has a younger fleet on average than American Airlines, which could be a factor in safety. However, both airlines have rigorous maintenance programs.

Loyalty Programs and Benefits

American Airlines Loyalty Programs:

    • AAdvantage Program
      • You earn miles when you fly on American, oneworld and other participating airlines
      • Over 1,000 partners
        • Flights to nearly 1,100 destinations worldwide
        • Upgrades
        • Vacations, car rentals and hotels
        • Retail products
  • You can use your miles for a flight award on any American flight-no blackout dates

Southwest Airlines Loyalty Programs:

  • Rapid Rewards
    • Earn points by flying or spending with partners
    • Use them how you want: gift cards, merchandise needs, from golf balls, electronics to home products.
    • You can purchase points
    • No blackout dates – meaning your choices and possibilities for travel are wide open.
    • Unlimited reward seats
    • Points don’t expire
    • Redeem for flights and more (A wide array of partners)

American Airlines takes the lead on this one, when it comes to the flying aspect. You can use those points for a lot and for a ton of destinations.

However, Southwest’s Rapid Rewards are amazing when it comes to using their partnerships. I have gotten a ton of gift cards using my points. Really depends on how often you travel, and the type of travel you want to do. I personally go with the cheapest fare, unless I am traveling internationally. That’s when I want more of the perks to come in.

Why would you choose Southwest over American, or vice versa?

Honestly, this answer depends on the situation.

If I am traveling domestically, I am 100% going to choose Southwest. They have a base where I live, so I can get non-stop flights, as well as them being drastically cheaper than American.

American, I would have to go through one of their hubs to get to my destination, and that just doesn’t work for me.

I want whatever is going to be cheaper, and get me to my destination with one flight. No layovers.

I also just like Southwest, the people are amazing and I’ve never had a bad experience. American, I can’t say that.

Now, when it comes to international travel, I am going to pick American. They have a huge network and really go to some amazing destinations. They also partner with other airlines, making it easier to get to where you need to be, all while getting those points.

I wish Southwest would expand their network more, because I would still choose them. It all comes down to how they treat people and their employees as well.

Conclusion: American or Southwest?

In my personal opinion, I go with Southwest, especially when it comes to domestic travel.

International travel, American Airlines takes this one, but simply because they offer a bigger network. I think it would be interesting to compare American to one of the other mainline carriers, their service, and networks are more in line with one another.

Southwest isn’t a legacy carrier, but they aren’t a low-cost carrier either. They are kind of in their own category.

What makes them stand out the most, and I find that other people feel the same way, is their customer service. I love that they value connection. They want you to want to fly on them, simply because they are fun and nice.

If you’re okay with cheap flights, limited inflight service, and not having a seating assignment, they are the best choice out there.

American Airlines is a great choice, but they are lacking in the customer service department. That just isn’t what they are about. Southwest really focuses on a family dynamic.

American focuses on their network and partnerships with other airlines. Both have their perks, but Southwest has my loyalty.

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