Trip Report: Southwest Airlines San Diego to Las Vegas

Trip Report: Southwest Airlines San Diego to Las Vegas

I’ve never been a big fan of Southwest Airlines because of the whole open seating thing, and this trip was no different. I love taking pictures of the view out of the window in-flight, and I’m always a bit anxious before getting on any Southwest flight with a boarding position anywhere higher than B-20. That’s the point where I find that most of the window seats become occupied, and it makes me uneasy not to know ahead of time where I’m going to be sitting on the airplane.

San Diego (SAN) – Las Vegas (LAS)
Thursday February 20 2014
Aircraft: Boeing 737-700
Seat: 23A

Southwest Airlines 737-700 N270WN illustration
Southwest Airlines 737-700 N270WN

We arrived at the airport about two hours before our flight. I have heard horror stories about how long the lines can get in terminal one here at SAN, and since we had bags to check, I didn’t want to take any chances! But as is usually the case when planning for the worst, check in was quick and took all of 5 minutes. The lines were very short this morning, and the whole process was very efficient. Not what I was expecting at all, but I was happy.

terminal 1 southwest airlines check in counter
The Southwest Airlines check in counter at San Diego International airport / Terminal 1

Going through security was just as easy – there were no lines, and we were able to walk right up to the checkpoint after having our ID’s and boarding documents checked. I wish it was always this easy…

Unfortunately, our flight would be boarding from gate 1, which meant that once through security, there is very little in terms of shopping or refreshments available. There are only three gates in this concourse (1, 1A, and 2) so it’s very small and confined from the rest of the airport.

southwest airlines terminal at SAN
View from inside the smaller Southwest Airlines terminal at SAN that houses gates 1, 1A, and 2
gate 2 in terminal one at SAN
Looking at gate 2 at the Southwest Airlines terminal at San Diego International Airport
gate 1 and 1A at SAN
Looking at gate 1 and 1A at the Southwest Airlines terminal at SAN

Boarding was called about 15 minutes late due to late arrival of the aircraft from OAK, but they were able to get all those passengers off and the aircraft cleaned in less than 15 minutes. I’m always impressed by how fast Southwest can turn an airplane around, and this was no exception.

My wife and I had boarding cards for B30 and B31, which is basically right in the middle of the boarding queue. For those not familiar with the Southwest Airlines boarding process, each passenger is given a boarding position number when checking in for the flight. There are three groups: A, B, and C, with 60 positions within each one. So basically, they board A 1-30 first, A 30-60 second, B 1-30 next, B 30-60 after that, and so on. To make the process as simple as possible, there are signs or poles at each gate with numbers on them. All you have to do is queue up next to the number that is on your boarding pass and they’ll will call the entire group at once. To me, it’s a very efficient way to board an airplane – and it totally eliminates other passengers crowding the gate while they wait to board.

boarding position southwest airlines
Southwest airlines gate poles that show boarding position
southwest airlines 737-700
View from the jet bridge as we boarded our Southwest Airlines flight to Las Vegas

As mentioned above, I was hoping to get a window seat. My wife prefers aisle seats, so we wished each other good luck as we boarded the plane and scouted out somewhere good to sit. It’s a process I dislike very much! Once onboard, I saw that seat 5A was open. Score! I politely asked the older couple who were in 5B and C if they would mind letting me in, and the lady gave me the biggest eye-roll that it made me chuckle. She was mad that I wanted that seat, and it was totally obvious.

How mad? She wouldn’t even get up to let me in. Her husband said I could crawl over her if I wanted that seat, and by this time I was holding up the line so I said “sorry” and continued on down the aisle. “Sorry” was not exactly what I wanted to say, but I’m not for confrontation, so I brushed it off. My wife was lucky enough to find an open aisle seat about halfway back, but I had to go all the way back to the second to last row for an open window seat. That was close!

Southwest Airlines leather seats
Southwest Airlines leather seats on the 737-700

The flight was about 75% full today, and I was thankful that the middle seat next to me was unoccupied.

view from seat 23A
View from seat 23A on this Southwest Airlines 737-700
legroom 737 southwest airlines
Legroom on this Southwest Airlines 737-700
heading out to the runway at San Diego international airport
Taxiing out to runway 27 at SAN

After departing runway 27, we turned north over the Pacific Ocean and didn’t turn inland again until crossing right over top of Los Angeles. From there it was a direct shot over to LAS.

view of san diego international airport from the air
Departing San Diego on this WN737 with a view of the airport below
point loma from the air
View of Point Loma as we depart SAN
overflying Los Angeles
Flying right over top of Los Angeles as we make the turn east for LAS. Can you spot LAX down there?

One of the things that I do like about Southwest Airlines is the fact that they offer free beverages and snacks no matter how short the flight. This flight to LAS was only 50 minutes, but they managed to serve a drink and peanuts to everyone on board. Other major airlines take note – Southwest knows how to do it!

in-flight snack on Southwest Airlines
Orange juice and peanuts for an in-flight snack on Southwest Airlines

We approached LAS from the west, which is something I can never get tired of. The scenery and landscape around the Las Vegas area is other-worldy – the rocks and dirt make it look like we are landing on planet Mars.

approaching LAS
Starting our descent into LAS
the city of las vegas from the air
The scenery changes from desert to city rather quickly when flying into Las Vegas
moments before touchdown at LAS
Interesting freeway layout just west of LAS
view of Las Vegas from the airport
Awesome view of the Las Vegas strip as we touch down at LAS

After a smooth landing on runway 1L, we made a short taxi over to gate C22 that would eventually dump us into a very crowded airport terminal where we would have to wait two hours for our flight up to RNO.

southwest airlines 737-700
Our flight from SAN docked at gate C22

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