Southwest Airlines wins our airline of the year cudos.
Consistency, on-time performance, no hidden fees, friendly and helpful staff, comfort, good prices, and good equipment handling are longtime hallmarks of this year's Airline of the Year - Southwest Airlines.
Southwest is also a good friend of wheelchair travelers. Very good with preboarding, identifying needs, and helping out whenever they can. This year's trip to Denver we were taking our 300+ pound power chair. It's always a little hair-raising when you travel with a power chair because you don't know if a clumsy baggage handler is going to break it.
I told the gate attendant that I'd like to show here where exactly to pick up the chair. She had me wait a minute and brought up the supervisor of the tarmac handlers who paid close attention to what I was telling him, asked good questions about the handling and weight of the chair, and pulled the ground staff together to explain what I had told him...and made sure he had four guys available to pick up the chair and treat it gently.
Southwest has clean planes, friendly cabin staff, the best baggage handlers when it came to loading our chair, free checked luggage, free snacks - on the longer flights even approaching a light meal, free use of pillows and blankets, no delays, and low prices.
The only knock I can think of is that there is no assigned seating on Southwest and it can be a free-for-all to find a seat. Get there early if you don't qualify for pre-boarding to get one of the first boarding passed - Southwest has three tiers, A, B, and C, and are handed out first-come, first-served. A boards first, B second, and C last.
Congratulations to Southwest for being consistently (there's that word again) the best airline we've flown.
While you're here, you may want to see our Year In Review for 2011.