I actually did a version of this over a dozen times (along with hundreds of others) in the summer of 1991 (I believe it was), when Southwest ran a promotion during their first weeks of operating their LAX
flights, before Oakland became a major hub for Southwest's West Coast operations.
An advance-purchase fare was $29 each way, and the walk-up fare was $59 each way, including all fees and taxes. What you received as you boarded was a fully-transferable certificate good for a one-way flight anywhere on Southwest's system. Between the round-trip flights I made with confirmed reservations, and on standby early on in the promotion, I obtained about 30 one-way certificates, on top of the Rapid Rewards free flights I earned. Not a bad deal!
Southwest scheduled the same two aircraft to circle back and forth all day, and due to their tight turnaround times, you'd simply book or wait for the next flight at the other end, and with two (or three if you were lucky) round-trips a day, sometimes you traveled on the same plane only northbound or southbound, or sometimes traveled on the same plane for the entire return journey, or all your flights that day.
There was a lot of camaraderie among those of us who did this frequently, and I became part of a group of a half-dozen passengers who would run to the back of the plane and reserve the rows where one row faced forward and one row faced backwards. As the promotion (and airport commotion) was covered by local TV
stations, long lines were building at both LAX
, with people sleeping in the terminal if they didn't get a return flight, but I was lucky enough to have friends I could stay with the one time I was stranded in OAK
, and just took BART into San Francisco for the night. One member in our group even arranged to have a family member bring us a meal midday near the end, when it was difficult to even wait in the lines to get food at the airport and still make the return flight.
Now you may ask, what does a person do with 30 one-way tickets on Southwest? Sell them, of course! The Los Angeles Times only allowed you to advertise that you had 4 tickets for sale to keep the rate as a personal ad instead of charging you the commercial rate in the classifieds, but I received over 200 phone calls from one ad running 3 days. I sold them for $150 one-way or $275 round-trip, and cleared enough profit to afford a nice vacation in Europe, flown in Business Class on KLM (taken with a reduced mileage special with MileagePlus).
With my first post on a.net, I'm of two minds, agreeing with all the above posts on this subject. Yes, it's good to get out, see something, do a bit of spotting, enjoy a meal, etc., while at the same time it makes perfect sense to fly out and back on the same plane/airline/day--even multiple times!
(I also did this on two non-LCC carriers, once with TWA SFO
with their add-on segments on L-1011s for their London and St. Louis flights, and it just happened they used the same aircraft to make the turn that day, and once as an open-jaw ticketing anomaly on an Eastern 727-200 where to get the lowest fare I was booked LAX
as two segments, even though it was a direct flight--although this may not qualify for the exact requirements of this thread, it was an interesting way to travel nonetheless, as I didn't have to get off the plane because they gave me two boarding passes and both ticket coupons were taken on boarding at LAX