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Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 Economy Class Review [MCO to HOU]

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Jessica Merritt
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Jessica Merritt

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A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little ca...
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Airline: Southwest Airlines (WN)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Flight #: WN0102
Route: Orlando International Airport (MCO) to William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
Date: May 6, 2024
Duration: 2 hours, 35 minutes
Cabin and Layout: Economy, 175 standard seats across 30 rows, 3-3 configuration
Seats: 26D, 26F
Cost: $442.96 each (round-trip from Houston)

I flew Southwest Airlines’ route from Orlando (MCO) to Houston (HOU) in early May 2024 with my best friend. We were heading home from a long weekend at Orlando World Center Marriott and wanted an easy direct flight. While we were slightly delayed and didn’t have great boarding positions, we still had a good overall experience and time to squeeze in a short lounge visit.

Read on to see how our flight on Southwest Airlines went, from booking to the airport and inflight experience.

Booking Southwest Airlines

I had specific preferences for our travel dates and times. We wanted to arrive at Orlando World Center Marriott on Friday afternoon or early evening and fly back on Monday evening at a decent hour since we’d both be back to work on Tuesday.

I checked numerous options to meet our needs, looking at Southwest, Spirit, and Frontier directly and checking and Chase Travel. Flights on and Chase Travel were pricier than I wanted to pay for this 2.5-hour flight.

Spirit and Frontier had the lowest prices, and we could have chosen either for about $200 each round trip — a total bargain. However, neither offered a direct flight. Spirit or Frontier would have taken us on journeys far out of the way — like a 7-hour layover in Las Vegas with Frontier — and arriving pretty late on Friday night. Tacking on a quick visit to Vegas with my bestie was tempting, but we just needed to get to Orlando and didn’t want to spend all day traveling before a busy weekend. More importantly, we wanted a direct flight home to maximize our time in Orlando without getting back too late to be functional the next day.

We went with no-nonsense direct flights with Southwest Airlines, even though we paid about double what we would have with the ultra-low-cost carriers. I chose Wanna Get Away fares — the lowest available — because we didn’t anticipate changing our plans, and the free bags, lack of change fees, and free inflight entertainment were more than enough for our needs.

It turned out our flight out of Houston’s Hobby Airport was delayed 2 hours and got us there about the same time one of the Spirit flights would have. Our flight home was also delayed an hour, but there was no way to predict either of those delays at booking time.

The total for our round-trip flights was $442.96 each. I had a Southwest Chase Offer to get 10% back on flights (for a maximum of $40 back) on my Chase Sapphire Reserve®, so I paid for the flights with that card. I also earned 3 points per dollar on the purchase, earning 2,657 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Southwest Airlines MCO HOU booking
I paid $442.96 per round-trip ticket and earned 2,657 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

We were both fine with taking whatever seats we could get for these short flights, so we didn’t add EarlyBird Check-In to get a better boarding position. We were toward the end of the B boarding group for both flights and sat in the same row.

Hot Tip:

Thinking about becoming a true Southwest loyalist? Read up on the airline’s loyalty program in our Rapid Rewards review.

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

We arrived at Orlando International Airport (MCO) about 2 hours before our scheduled flight departure. We rode a Mears Connect shuttle that was supposed to pick us up at 4:05 p.m. but arrived closer to 4:30 p.m. and took about 25 minutes to get to the airport. We were still there well ahead of our 6:50 p.m. boarding, with time to get through security and quickly visit a lounge.

Southwest MCO to HOU Mears Connect shuttle
The Mears Connect shuttle was behind schedule but still got us there with time to spare.


We’d checked in online and didn’t need to check bags, so we walked right through the entrance where the shuttle dropped us off and followed signs to the security screening area.

Southwest MCO to HOU terminal entry
The leather and rattan chairs had a “Golden Girls” vibe.

We followed a sign that indicated we should go up the escalators to the gates.

Southwest MCO to HOU terminal entry sign
A sign directed us upstairs to the gates.


We walked past ticketing and headed to the security entrance. MCO has 2 security checkpoints. Since we were flying out of gate 127, we went to the security check for gates 70 to 129.

Southwest MCO to HOU terminal entry sign security check
We went to the security checkpoint for gates 70 to 129.

It was easy to follow the sign to find the TSA PreCheck line.

Southwest MCO to HOU terminal entry TSA PreCheck sign
A sign for TSA PreCheck.

The regular TSA line spilled out into the entrance, but I walked right up to the TSA PreCheck ID check station with no wait.

Hot Tip:

I receive a complimentary TSA PreCheck membership with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I paid for the service using my card, and Chase reimbursed me as a cardholder benefit. Learn more about the best credit cards for complimentary Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.

Southwest MCO to HOU terminal entry TSA PreCheck line
The regular TSA line on the right was pretty backed up, but the TSA PreCheck line was clear.

I faced a line once I passed the ID check, but I was through security within about 10 or 15 minutes. Not bad!

Southwest MCO to HOU terminal entry TSA PreCheck screening line
The TSA PreCheck screening line.

It took my friend about 45 minutes to get through the regular TSA line. She had to do an additional screening for a live plant in her bag. I also had a plant but didn’t have any trouble with it. I plan to gift her TSA PreCheck for future travel, as I have unused credits available on other cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express.

After security, a train took us to our gate area.

Southwest MCO to HOU terminal train sign
The train boarding area for gates 100 to 129.

The Club MCO at Terminal B

Though security slowed us down, we had a little time to visit The Club MCO at Terminal B in Concourse 4. Before we got on the train to gates 100 to 129, we took a different train to gates 70 to 99 to visit the lounge.

I used my Priority Pass Select membership from the Chase Sapphire Reserve card to get myself and my friend in for free.

Arriving at the airport straight from EPCOT, we’d hoped to take showers, but the waitlist for the lounge’s 2 shower stalls was at least 45 minutes long, and we didn’t have enough time for that before we needed to board our flight. We just grabbed plates of food and freshened up in the restrooms.

MCO Terminal B The Club MCO Gates 70 99 main seating
The main seating area at The Club MCO.

The regular restroom stalls were tight for changing into clean clothes, but my friend had plenty of room in the accessible stall.

MCO Terminal B The Club MCO Gates 70 99 bathroom
The restrooms at The Club MCO.

The buffet had just 1 hot dish — a vegetable garden soup — but we found a good salad bar. There was a noodle salad, garden salad, and plain greens.

MCO Terminal B The Club MCO Gates 70 99 buffet salads
Salad choices at The Club MCO’s buffet.

Salad toppings and sides included cucumbers, Kalamata olives, chickpeas, tomatoes, and baby carrots.

MCO Terminal B The Club MCO Gates 70 99 buffet vegetables
Salad bar toppings.

Chilled water was available, as was a Coca-Cola soda fountain, iced tea, and a coffee machine that made hot coffee drinks, including lattes.

MCO Terminal B The Club MCO Gates 70 99 buffet coffee tea and soda
Drinks at The Club MCO.

The bar was just a few steps away from the buffet and offered complimentary alcoholic drinks. Premium drinks were available for an extra charge.

MCO Terminal B The Club MCO Gates 70 99 bar
The bar at The Club MCO.

We had the option to scan a QR code to order food and drinks for seat delivery. The lunch menu offered breaded cauliflower, a soft pretzel, chicken tacos, a protein bowl, and churros.

MCO Terminal B The Club MCO Gates 70 99 food ordering
Signs indicated we could order food and drinks.

Without much time to spare before boarding our flight, we didn’t bother ordering food. Instead, we threw together some salad bar items, which was fine! A cool and light plate was perfect after a day in the Orlando heat and sun and (unsuccessfully) trying to eat around the world at EPCOT.

MCO Terminal B The Club MCO Gates 70 99 buffet food
My ginger ale and salad bar plate from The Club MCO.


We hustled to the gate, thinking we’d have just a few minutes before boarding. When we arrived, though, we found a full gate area, and no one was standing around like the plane was ready to go.

Southwest MCO to HOU gate seating
The stagnant gate area.

When we found seats near the windows, we quickly saw why no one was preparing to board: Our plane hadn’t arrived yet. We sat down a few minutes past boarding time.

Southwest MCO to HOU terminal gate view
It was boarding time, but our plane had yet to arrive.

Only after we’d settled into seats at the gate did we hear and see a delayed flight announcement — we’d have to wait at least an hour more before boarding. We could have relaxed a bit more in the lounge, after all! Although we briefly considered heading back, we decided not to. We’d eaten what we wanted and changed clothes, and the lounge was 2 train rides away. Since we had seats and a view, it was more relaxing to just stay parked at the gate at that point.

A little under an hour later, our plane arrived.

Southwest MCO to HOU terminal gate plane arrival
Better late than never!

It was time to line up for boarding. I’d checked us in within seconds of the 24-hour check-in window, and we got boarding positions B55 and B56 — almost in C group. We hung back and waited our turn before getting in our boarding position spots and heading onto the jetway.

Southwest MCO to HOU terminal gate line
The A group boarding for our flight.

After the plane arrived, it only took us about 30 minutes to board, so the Southwest crew certainly hustled to make up for lost time. The jetway was backed up but cleared pretty quickly.

Southwest MCO to HOU jetway
The backed-up jetway.

We made it down the jetway in about 5 minutes.

Southwest MCO to HOU plane entry
Boarding our plane home.

On Board Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737-800

We were on a full flight and boarded toward the end of B group, so many seats were occupied by the time we got on.

Southwest MCO to HOU cabin
The full cabin on our flight.

Walking past numerous open middle seats, row 26 was wide open in the back. I took the aisle seat, and my friend took the window seat. We occupied seats 26D and 26F. Another passenger later filled in the middle seat.

These lightweight E-Leather seats were 17 inches wide with a 32-inch pitch and winged headrests.

Southwest MCO to HOU seats
Row 26 on our Southwest Boeing 737-800 flight.
Hot Tip:

Read our guide to the best seats when flying Southwest Airlines seats to choose the best spot available on the plane!

The legroom was fine for us. We had room for our bags underneath and space to spare for our feet.

Southwest MCO to HOU seats legroom
We had enough legroom on this flight.

The seatback pocket had room for my tablet, an extra charger, and a water bottle.

Southwest MCO to HOU seats seatback pocket
I had enough space for essentials in the seatback pocket.

A separate pocket behind the seat’s headrest had literature, including safety information and the inflight menu.

Southwest MCO to HOU seats literature
Literature from the upper seatback pocket.

The tray table was clean, sturdy, and large enough for my 10-inch tablet. I’d expect it to be capable of holding a laptop, too.

Southwest MCO to HOU seats tray table
The tray table was roomy for my tablet.

Food and Beverage

Our flight was just over 2 hours, and snack service was provided once we reached cruising altitude. The flight attendants offered us complimentary snack mixes and nonalcoholic drinks, and alcoholic drinks were available for purchase (from $7 to $9).

I took a snack mix and a bloody mary mix. My friend thought it was gross, but I love drinking tomato juice on planes!

Southwest MCO to HOU food and beverage snacks
Bloody Mary mix and a bag of snack mix were complimentary on the flight.


The onboard amenities were inflight entertainment and Wi-Fi. This plane didn’t have a seatback monitor or charging ports, but we could connect to Wi-Fi for free inflight entertainment and texting.

Full connectivity was $8, but I didn’t think it would be worth paying for a connection on a short flight.

SWA MCO to HOU amenities Wi Fi cost
Wi-Fi login.

I followed the instructions to get my tablet connected for entertainment.

Southwest MCO to HOU amenities Wi Fi
Instructions for inflight Wi-Fi and entertainment.

Entertainment included music and podcast playlists, TV shows, live TV, and movies.

Southwest MCO to HOU amenities inflight entertainment
Crew’s choice movies were among the free inflight entertainment options.

Another screen available on Southwest’s free Wi-Fi showed our flight status, including our estimated arrival time and time remaining. We could also look at a map to visualize our location.

Southwest MCO to HOU amenities inflight entertainment flight progress
The flight status screen on our flight.

Southwest also advertised the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card with an offer to earn 50,000 points and a promo code for 25% off a base fare. If you’re interested in this card, make sure to check our current welcome offer:

  •  Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Southwest MCO to HOU amenities inflight entertainment
The inflight entertainment advertised Southwest credit cards.


The plane had 3 lavatories on board, with 1 in the front and 2 at the back. Sitting just a few rows away, I went to one of the lavatories in the back of the plane. It was a compact but functional lavatory.

Southwest MCO to HOU amenities bathroom full
One of the lavatories at the back of the plane.

I noticed grab bars within the lavatory but didn’t see a changing table.

Southwest MCO to HOU amenities bathroom toilet
The toilet area of the lavatory.

A compartment next to the toilet opened to reveal complimentary menstrual products. Thanks for looking out, Southwest!

Southwest MCO to HOU amenities bathroom toiletries
The lavatory had a menstrual product compartment.

The sink worked fine but didn’t drain very quickly.

Southwest MCO to HOU amenities bathroom sink
The airplane lavatory sink.


We had minimal interactions with Southwest staff but had good service nonetheless. We didn’t check bags or get service at the gate, but we were scanned in quickly at boarding and received prompt and friendly snack and drink service at our seats. Also, I was impressed by how efficiently the crew turned the plane around so we could board quickly after it arrived late.

Arrival at William P. Hobby Airport

We arrived at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) about 40 minutes past our original arrival time. It wasn’t an on-time arrival, but it didn’t seriously derail our plans!

Final Thoughts

On this flight, we encountered delays nearly every step of the way, from our shuttle to security and boarding, but we still had time to stop by a lounge and made it home less than an hour behind schedule. This short flight was easy and comfortable, and we appreciated the complimentary snacks and drinks. Although we had to supply our own screens, the complimentary inflight entertainment was nice, too. It was worth it to pay more for direct flights so we could get to Orlando and back with minimal hassle.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Southwest's 737-800 have entertainment screens?

This flight didn’t have seatback screens. However, we could connect our devices for complimentary inflight entertainment, including movies, TV, music, and podcasts.

Does Southwest have Wi-Fi?

Southwest offers inflight Wi-Fi for $8, or free for A-List Preferred or Business Select members.

How much are bags on Southwest?

Southwest offers a free first and second carry-on bag including a personal item and 2 checked bags. Overweight checked bags cost $100 to $125 depending on the weight, and oversize checked bags are $125 per bag. Third and subsequent checked bags are $125 each.

Are drinks free on Southwest?

Southwest Airlines passengers receive a complimentary nonalcoholic drink and snack on flights of 176 miles or more. Alcoholic drinks are available for purchase, but no additional food items are for sale.

What's included in Southwest Wanna Get Away fares?

Wanna Get Away fares are the lowest fare available with Southwest Airlines. These fares are nonrefundable, but you can get a flight credit if you cancel at least 10 minutes before the scheduled departure. Free same-day standby is available. Passengers get 2 checked bags free, 2 carry-on bags (including a personal item), no change fees, and free inflight entertainment. None of Southwest’s fare classes allow you to select seats prior to boarding. However, you can get a better boarding position (and therefore a better seat selection) if you pay for EarlyBird Check-In starting at $15 per passenger or purchase a Business Select fare.

Jessica Merritt's image

About Jessica Merritt

A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little cash as possible.

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