For Southwest, no comparison

Website that breaks down airline amenities gets an incomplete grade for Las Vegas travelers

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

When you have a choice of airlines to fly, how do you decide which to take?

Many travelers are loyal to specific companies and do everything they can — even rent cars and drive miles out of their way — to use their favorite carriers. But that can be expensive.

Others take the economic route and use websites such as Orbitz and Expedia to find the carrier with the lowest fare.

Then, there are those who dig even deeper in search of airlines with the most comfortable seats or best amenities.

For them, tries to make the job easier. The website advises that “all flights are not created equal” and outlines in-flight entertainment, Wi-Fi and seat size options for various airlines.

But Routehappy, which launched in April, has a major flaw, particularly for people who fly in and out of McCarran International Airport.

While it catalogs 31 billion flight combinations, it doesn’t include every airline, including Southwest and Allegiant Air, which operate almost half of the flights to and from Las Vegas.

The top recommendations for a flight from Las Vegas to Reno, for example, were US Airways and Delta flights, both of which included a stop. Delta’s flight required a plane change. Both take 3 1/2 hours.

A Southwest nonstop flight, on the other hand, would get you there in just more than an hour.

Routehappy officials hope to persuade Southwest to allow them to include their flights. But Southwest keeps bookings proprietary, so don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

Southwest has controlled its booking engine for years. It doesn’t let third-party travel sites sell its seats.

The main reason is revenue. Southwest makes all the money when it sells tickets and doesn’t have to pay commissions. It also can deal directly with customers if something goes wrong. And company officials argue comparison shopping is unfair.

But that’s exactly what Routehappy does: compare.

Southwest’s cabins inevitably won’t look as good as Virgin America’s, and the airline certainly doesn’t have the technological toys of most of its competitors.

But it’s still hard to compare the value of the company’s no-change fees and limited baggage fees.

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