We’re fortunate enough to be within a reasonable driving distance from Buffalo airport, so we’re able to take advantage of the almost laughably cheap airfares that peeps South of the 49th parallel enjoy. This is the 2nd year in a row that we’ve chosen to fly Southwest to get to Florida, and if airfares remain what they are with Canadian carriers, I doubt we’ll head to FLA from Pearson ever again. The airfare for all 3 of us is the cost of one seat on either major Canadian airline.
The drive to Buffalo usually takes about 2 hours – although take the information from the Current Border Crossing Traffic Conditions Hotline with a grain of salt. They said the Peace Bridge had no delay and we actually waited for 45min. That left us less than 2 hours once we got to the airport to park, check in, pass security, feed/change kids and board. Would have been plenty of time in the olden days or if the kids were older – but we felt rushed and it was not a good feeling. Next time we’ll cross at Niagara Falls and leave 30min earlier.
Southwest has a generous allotment of luggage per person – so we did not have any extra charges due to having 5 pieces (3 suitcases, 1 car seat, 1 playpen). We hung on to the baby’s car seat in case there was room on the flight. No room on the way out so we gate checked it with our stroller with no problems. On the way home from Tampa the flight was not full so he was safely ensconsed in his bucket for the entire flight – and slept the whole way home!
Ok so here’s what I’ve figured out about Southwest’s boarding procedure… There are no seat assignments, it’s first come-first served. You can pay extra for priority pre-boarding, but that does NOT guarantee you’ll be one of the first to board. Luckily, if you’re traveling with children aged 4 or younger, you can escape the rigamarole and board following the “A”s. It’s a pretty mad scramble to get seated and organized, but on every trip we had no issues and first access to the overhead bin! One note – only the immediate family of the person aged 4 and younger can board. Grandma was with us for our trip last year and she was not allowed to board with us.
We found the Southwest folks very friendly, you get a little snack (peanuts – beware!) and a drink for free, and the seat pitch is decent – even for my 6’7″ husband. The Southwest website is really informative when it comes to flying with children. Don’t know if this is good or bad, but these were the first flights where the flight attendants did not make a point of going over procedure of taking off and landing with a baby.
We had just 2 issues… The washroom in the rear of the plane (Boeing 737-700) was extra small and did NOT have a fold-down change table in it (don’t know if the front washroom had one, but doubt it), and our stroller was damaged after being gate checked on our return flight. Keep this in mind for future Southwest flights - had we reported the damage within 4 hours of landing, we may have been compensated. However, I just wanted to get our things and go home, so when I inquired a few days later I was informed (via super-friendly automated email) of the 4 hour window.
Driving home is a bit of a slog, but the savings in airfare is definitely worth the drive to Buffalo! In fact, with how great Porter Airlines is out of the Island airport, I have a feeling our trips out of Pearson will be fewer and fewer.