/Guide to Southwest Airlines for NYC Metro Flyers

Guide to Southwest Airlines for NYC Metro Flyers

If you live in the New York City metro area, Southwest Airlines might not be the first airline that comes to mind. It doesn’t have fancy lie-flat seats when you fly out west to LAX and it hasn’t always serviced the true NYC airports. But if you are a NYC resident, you should absolutely consider the airline (especially if you have a family).

Southwest is TPG‘s No. 1 airline for families due to its flexible policies, complimentary checked bags and family-boarding options. And now that the airline is offering an easy path for your family to travel 2-for-1 for the rest of 2019 via the Southwest Companion Pass, this is an airline that should be on your radar. I personally lived in New York City for 11 years and had the pass for eight of those years. That means I spent a good amount of time flying Southwest 2-for-1 from its New York City metro airports. It can be done and is often the best deal available.

Official application links: Earn the Companion Pass and enjoy 2-for-1 travel for the rest of 2019 with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.

NYC Airports Served by Southwest Airlines

For starters, Southwest serves both Newark (EWR) and LaGuardia (LGA) airports. In fact, Southwest Airlines’ gates are in the fancy section of LGA’s Terminal B. Although flying in and out of JFK is not an option on Southwest, those two airports pretty much cover everyone in the tri-state area. And if you live a tad further out of the city, Southwest also has a large presence in Islip (ISP) — perfect for those in Long Island.

Having these three airport options available in one relatively condensed area will allow you to pick from a ton of Southwest routes and compare prices. From these airports you can fly to many domestic locations in the South, Midwest, West Coast and even some international destinations. The one real disadvantage of flying Southwest from NYC-area airports is the number of nonstop destinations is relatively slim. But with just a brief layover in Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Denver, Chicago and some other central locations, you can get to many different places.

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 lands at LaGuardia Airport in New York on October 4, 2017. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 lands at LaGuardia Airport in New York. (Photo by Robert Alexander / Getty Images)

Know the Nonstop Routes

Most families (and single travelers) prefer nonstop routes. I get it. Boarding and deplaning an aircraft once during the day can be stressful enough for a family — doing it multiple times to get to your destination might not be feasible. But be open-minded. Southwest actually offers many routes where there is just a stop on the ground and not an actual layover. These direct flights (different than nonstop) may mean you do not get off the plane and your family can stay in their seats while the plane is on the ground before taking off again.

In the example below, the first flight from LaGuardia requires a change of planes in Fort Lauderdale (FLL), the second stops in Orlando (MCO), but you stay onboard for the 45 minutes the plane is on the ground and the third represents a nonstop flight. 

If you do take a Southwest flight that stops en route to your final destination, you can use that stop to move up to the “good” seats once some passengers exit the aircraft.

Have your child fly with you for free!

Southwest makes it incredibly easy for you to search for routes between your two desired destinations. Its site will tell you which days of the week the route operates, the time and whether or not there is a nonstop option or if you’ll have a layover/one stop. Keep in mind though that many routes are seasonal. If you do not see availability during a certain time of the year, check another month to see when that route map start up again.

Southwest NYC Nonstop Routes Include:

Newark: Chicago (Midway), Denver, St. Louis, Nashville, Austin, Phoenix, San Diego, Oakland, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale

LaGuardia: Milwaukee, Chicago (Midway), Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Dallas (Love Field), Nashville, Houston (Hobby), New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale

Islip: Baltimore/Washington, Tampa, Orlando, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale

Price Out All NYC Area Airports

Pricing between the three NYC area airports to the same destination on the same date can vary greatly, so price all three. And since all Southwest flights price out as one ways, you can always check to see if departing from one airport and returning to another will actually save money — assuming you aren’t parking a car at the airport. Unlike other airlines, you cannot search for all three airports at once. You will need to put the exact airport code into your search (EWR versus LGA versus ISP) and it will only show you routes for that exact city pair and not surrounding airports. This makes searching for the best price a slightly tedious process, but if it can save your family money on each ticket, it can be worth it.

For example, I pulled a random route/date from NYC to Fort Lauderdale and you can save $31 just by flying out of LaGuardia to Fort Lauderdale instead of departing from Newark. The LaGuardia flight also lets you sleep in and not head to the airport before the sun comes up.

$99 fare from LaGuardia to Ft. Lauderdale on Southwest

$130 fare from Newark to Fort Lauderdale on Southwest

Pick the Airport That Works Best for You

While price and route options might end up determining which airport you fly out of, also take into consideration which airport works best for your family. For example, if you live in New Jersey, getting to Newark is significantly easier than LaGuardia. Saving money on a flight might actually end up costing you more in time, tolls and transportation.

Know Your Airport Lounges

For many families, having an airport lounge option means a world of difference. It allows your kids to run around in a confined space and also nosh on some snacks before takeoff. At Newark Airport, Southwest departs from Terminal A, which means if you have a Priority Pass membership, you can access the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge between 5am and 3pm. At LaGuardia, Southwest is located in Terminal B, which those with The Platinum Card® from American Express card have easy access to the Centurion Lounge. Islip Airport doesn’t offer either option, but since it is such a small airport with much shorter lines, flying with kids here is a breeze.

LaGuardia Amex Centurion Lounge

Islip Airport Is Accessible

Don’t write off Islip Airport as an option if you do not live in Long Island. When I lived in NYC, we flew out of Islip quite often. Yes, it is significantly farther away than the other airports, but the airport is so easy. You will not experience the long lines that you sometimes see at LaGuardia and Newark, which can ultimately make the total travel time from your house to the gate pretty equivalent.

Parking at the airport is also much less expensive than the other two airports (starting at $12 per day for ISP). Another option is to stay at a cheap airport hotel the night before, leave your car at the hotel and take the hotel’s shuttle to the airport. I actually did this a few times and it worked out very well. For early morning flights, it ensured I didn’t have to wake up my kids at the crack of down and deal with potential traffic getting to the airport. The amount I saved on airport parking pretty much covered the hotel expense and made the actual travel day much smoother.

For those in NYC without a car, you can take the LIRR from New York Penn Station to Ronkonkoma train station, roughly a 50 mile and 1.5-hour ride at under $11 per adult. From there you can take a taxi/Uber to the airport, which is only a mile away.

Bottom Line

These days, Southwest Airlines is a viable option for those living in the NYC Metro area. There are many nonstop, direct and connecting routes and pricing is very favorable, especially when you factor in free bags and the Companion Pass. While you might need to do some legwork on your end to understand the routes and airports that will work best for you, it can be worth the effort.

If your family plans to get a Southwest Companion Pass this year, you may also want to read:

Jennifer Yellin covers family travel deals for TPG and blogs at Deals We Like. Follow her family’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram.