Everything you need to know about Southwest and Rapid Rewards
This Wiki FAQ contains virtually all known tips and tricks about flying Southwest and maximizing benefits from Rapid Rewards.
For example, if you know the system, you can get a great seat virtually every time. You will also find Southwest's boarding process with its letters and numbers more civilized than that of any other airline's coach class.
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Rapid Rewards works differently than mileage-based programs, and flying on Southwest differs from flying on a legacy carrier. The differences are sometimes subtle and sometimes not. Reading this Wiki is your ticket to a more rewarding flying and earning experience on Southwest.
The Rapid Rewards Program
History of the Rapid Rewards Program
- Rapid Rewards began on June 22, 1987 as The Company Club, a simple program awarding a free round trip after you collected 16 stamps on a paper card, provided that you hadn't accidentally run that card through the washing machine or otherwise misplaced it. If you managed to collect 100 stamps in a year, you earned a Companion Pass allowing you to take a designated person with you for free on all your Southwest flights.
- On April 25, 1996 Southwest renamed the program Rapid Rewards, sending out plastic membership cards to everyone who had redeemed awards under the Company Club program. Those members are the only ones with numbers starting with 0000001. Electronic tracking of flight credits was a major improvement over paper cards and stamps.
- Double credit for online bookings provided a huge boost for the transition from telephone to web-based booking. This was a boon to members from 1997 to 2005 (?).
- As Southwest grew, the disadvantages of the program from their point of view became harder and harder to ignore. Last-seat availability for award travel led to instances when peak holiday flights were filled with 75% or more award passengers. Those seats could have been sold for high prices, and the revenue loss was obvious.
- In 2006 Southwest imposed capacity controls on awards, softening the blow slightly by doubling the validity period of credits from 12 to 24 months. Capacity controls gradually became tighter as fares rose with fuel prices.
- With the exception of Business Select bonus credits, RR 1.0 rewarded customers identically regardless of the fare paid or the distance traveled. Southwest was operating many long-haul flights that were not envisioned when the original Company Club program was designed. Full fare ticket prices had also risen quite dramatically since then. The program was structurally unfairly stingy to long-haul full-fare passengers and unfairly generous to short-haul discount-fare passengers. Company management believed the inherent unfairness of their loyalty program was a significant impediment to increasing their share of the lucrative premium passenger market. Something had to be done.
- Rapid Rewards retained its 16 credits = one free round trip formula until March 1, 2011
- Southwest's solution was the New Rapid Rewards, which FlyerTalk members call RR 2.0. Southwest announced the change on January 6, 2011. Many commenters at blogsouthwest.com believed that this solution was far more complex than needed, and that minor tweaks to credit earning rates for different fares or different trip lengths would have sufficed. Southwest must have considered such a change but apparently believed that it needed a much more dramatic overhaul to create a loyalty program capable of generating profits comparable to those of AAdvantage and other legacy programs. And so, beginning March 1, 2011, we got Rapid Rewards 2.0.
- Those who want to see what Rapid Rewards used to look like before the overhaul can visit the Wiki page for Rapid Rewards 1.0.
- On September 27, 2010, Southwest announced that it had agreed to acquire AirTran. On April 21, 2012, Southwest added web site functionality to convert Southwest credits to AirTran credits and vice versa, and to convert Southwest points to AirTran credits. This functionality appears to be the primary means of transition from AirTran's A+ Rewards program to Southwest's Rapid Rewards.
The new Rapid Rewards Program
- The new Rapid Rewards program, effective March 1, 2011, is fare- and fare class-based with banked points and significant elite level bonuses. It bears some similarity to Virgin America's Elevate and JetBlue's new TrueBlue; however, it adds the new wrinkle of varying earnings with both fare and fare class. Furthermore, it adds the novel feature of fare class-based redemption rates, dramatically boosting the points "price" for short-notice travel.
- Go to http://southwest.com/newRR for a complete overview of Rapid Rewards 2.0. That site includes a Flash-based tool that can import your 2010 account information to give you an idea how you will fare going forward.
- Earnings and redemptions are based on the stated fare (i.e., including excise tax but not including the add-on fees and charges).
- Earning rates are 6 points per dollar for Wanna Get Away fares, 10 points per dollar for Anytime fares, and 12 points per dollar for Business Select fares.
- Redemption rates are 60 points per dollar of fare (not including tax) for WannaGetAway fares, 100 points per dollar for Anytime fares, and 120 points per dollar for Business Select fares. Because of this, the best redemption strategy for RR 2.0 is exactly opposite what it is for RR 1.0 and legacy programs: You should never redeem points for expensive, last-minute tickets. Redeeming exclusively in the WannaGetAway fare class will maximize the value of your points.
- All seats are available for redemption, with no blackout dates.
- Starting March 1 redemption prices in points will show on the flight selection page. This will allow us to get familiar with the cost in points for travel that we typically book.
- You will not be able to combine cash and points directly for a purchase, but you will be able to buy the extra points you need and then redeem your points. Points will be sold in blocks of 1,000 for $25, with a minimum purchase of 2,000 for $50. The maximum purchase is 40,000 points per transaction.
- As is typical with travel loyalty programs, buying points is expensive. Six thousand points would cost $150 but would yield a maximum of $100 to apply toward airfare.
- Unused redemption travel is redeposited to your account, just like standard awards in the old program. Redeeming for WannaGetAway tickets for relatives who travel infrequently is a good idea, because it avoids the problem of non-transferability of ticketless funds. If they fail to make a trip for which a cash fare was paid, the funds are locked in their name. With an award ticket, the points go back into your account regardless of who the (non-) traveler was.
- Points do not expire provided there is earning activity in your account within the preceding 24 months. Unusually for a loyalty program, activity other than earning (such as a redemption) does not keep the points alive.
- Without bonuses you are earning an effective rebate of 10% on your purchases, assuming that you earn and redeem in the same fare category. If you buy Business Select and redeem Wanna Get Away, your effective rebate is 20% and Southwest LUVs you. If you buy Wanna Get Away and redeem Anytime, your effective rebate drops to 6% because Southwest does not LUV you quite as much.
- Because redemption price is based on fare, it increases as fares climb due to inflation, making the program inherently stable and sustainable. Furthermore, redemption price automatically drops during fare sales, providing interesting redemption opportunities. Short-haul/low-fare redemption, which is a bad deal in RR 1.0 and all legacy programs, becomes an excellent deal in RR 2.0. This is arguably the most salient advantage of the new program. Infrequent travelers who under the old program never reached 16 credits within two years will now be able to redeem a small number of points for a cheap one-way trip.
- Rapid Rewards Visa cardholders will be able to redeem points for travel outside the lower 48 states, including over 800 international destinations, and for items other than airline tickets. These options are called “More Rewards” within the program. You cannot take advantage of "More Rewards" if you do not have the Rapid Rewards Visa. Because Southwest has to buy these items for you, the point cost of these awards will be at least 100 points per dollar of cash price.
- Credit card earnings will be 1 point per dollar, or 2 points per dollar for purchases from Southwest (and partners, for holders of the Signature and Preferred verions of the card). If used toward WannaGetAway fares, the value here is comparable to or potentially better than the former program (in which $19,200 of Rapid Reward Dollars earned 16 credits and a Standard Award). If used for Anytime or Business Select fares, the value is poor to abysmal: Your points would be worth only $192 toward Anytime or $160 toward Business Select fares.
- Rapid Rewards Dining will earn 3 points per dollar.
- One drink coupon book will be mailed to you every time you complete 10 paid one-way trips.
- With the smaller denomination of the frequent flier currency, more partners (such as shopping portals) are expected to be added. There might even be some small-scale redemption opportunities in our future.
- Elite levels in the new Rapid Rewards are more competitive with legacy programs, and introduce the concept of Tier Qualifying Points (TQP), similar to legacy programs’ Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM)
- Elite Level benefits are described below in Elite benefits
- A-list in the new Rapid Rewards requires only 25 paid one-way trips in a calendar year (vs. the previous 32 in a rolling year) or 35,000 TQP within a calendar year. At this level you get all previous A-list benefits plus a special phone number for Reservations, priority standby, and a 25% bonus on your flight points earnings. The 10% effective rebate becomes 12.5%.
- The A-list Preferred level requires 50 paid one-way trips or 70,000 TQP within a calendar year. At this level you get all current A-list benefits plus an extra-special phone number for Reservations, higher priority standby, free Wi-Fi when the aircraft is Wi-Fi capable, and a 100% bonus on your flight points earnings. The 10% effective rebate becomes 20%. Top elites who buy Business Select and redeem Wanna Get Away will earn an effective rebate of 40%, which is very competitive with, possibly exceeding, the top elite earning rates for legacy carriers.
- Priority standby will NOT include free same-day standby. You will still have to pay up to Anytime fare or higher to take an earlier flight than you booked.
- The Companion Pass continues in the new Rapid Rewards. By itself, it carries none of the A-List elite travel benefits, although many CP holders will have also earned A-List or A-List Preferred status.
- With the new program, you can qualify or requalify for CP based on either:
- a) 100 one-way flights in a calendar year, or
- b) 110k Companion Pass Qualifying Points (earned via a mix of flight points & partner points, but not including flight bonuses or elite level percentage bonuses) in a calendar year
- These levels are essentially equivalent to the levels under Rapid Rewards 1.0. The main change is that you can not qualify with a mix of, for example, 50 cheap one-way flights and 55k partner points.
- For people buying high fares, CP qualification via points will be easier than under the old Rapid Rewards. For people buying fewer than 100 cheap tickets, CP qualification will get much harder. For example, total Wanna Get Away fare purchases of $6750 for the year, $150 per week for 45 weeks, will earn only 40,500 Companion Pass Qualifying Points, only about 1/3 of the points needed for a Companion Pass. That example has 90 flights, a tantalizing 10 flights away from qualifying on flight count. The number of Companion Pass holders is likely to drop due to the inability to mix point-based and flight count-based qualification.
- Qualification for elite levels and for the Companion Pass will change to calendar years. Starting March 1, 2011, all of these benefits will expire at the end of a calendar year, not mid-year. As of March 1, 2011, there are no more mid-year expiration dates.
- You will maintain your CP or A-List or A-List Preferred status for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it and for the entire next calendar year. The transition from the current rolling qualification system will be customer-friendly, extending all currently earned status to the end of the appropriate calendar year. Transition details are somewhat complex and will be explained below.
- Southwest has a FAQ for the new program at http://www.southwest.com/newRR/faq.do
- Full terms and conditions are at http://www.southwest.com/newRR/termsAndConditions.do
Here is a summary of which types of points earning count toward tier qualification (Tier Qualifying Points) and companion pass qualification (Companion Pass Qualifying Points):
TQP? CPQP? Type of Earning Yes Yes Flight Base Points No No Tier Bonus for Flights No No Promotional Bonuses for Flights Capped Yes Rapid Rewards Visa card earnings No Yes Rapid Rewards Visa sign-up bonus points No Yes Rapid Rewards Dining earnings No Yes Rapid Rewards Dining bonuses No Yes Hotel stay base points No ??? Hotel stay bonus points No Yes Rental car base points No ??? Rental car bonus points No Yes Hotel program point transfers to Rapid Rewards No No Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfers to RR N/A N/A Transfers from AirTran are credits, not points!
Commentary on the new Rapid Rewards by nsx
- As with any overhaul, people who have learned to milk the current system will find the new system not as responsive to current earnings-maximizing usage patterns. This disruption is one of the objectives of any overhaul, much as you clean a wound to make life more difficult for harmful microbes. ;)
- The new program is much less exploitable than the old one. This also is intentional. It provides value that is much more closely linked to the value that you, the customer, provide to Southwest. Like it or not, you must agree that this is more fair.
- One of FlyerTalk's most popular topics is exploiting program earning opportunities in order to achieve a high effective rebate, the ratio of redemption value to purchased ticket price. People like me have been earning effective rebates approaching 40%: purchasing 16 tickets at $50 each and earning a standard award usable in lieu of a $300 round trip. There is no way that low-fare customers merit this level of incentive.
- Elimination of extraordinary effective rebate ratios makes RR 2.0 much less interesting to FlyerTalkers than programs that still offer such opportunities. However given the ever-increasing difficulty of redeeming capacity-controlled awards on legacy carriers, even FlyerTalkers (the most complexity-tolerant of all customers) may decide that they prefer a program that delivers what it promises without any drama.
- I believe that Southwest has very precisely identified and attacked the crucial weakness of legacy programs: the bait and switch nature of tightly capacity controlled awards. Rapid Rewards 2.0 is a perfect fit with Southwest's brand as a no-gimmicks airline. The program may not be the most generous, but it is simple and completely free of any hidden catches. Unlike mysterious capacity controls, price-based redemption provides us an excellent ability to predict ability to redeem for free travel.
- International award redemption is unlikely to be competitive with legacy programs until capacity-controlled awards become completely unavailable on those programs. Still, more redemption options are always better than fewer.
- Last-minute redemption (within a week of travel date) will become much more expensive than for Rapid Rewards 1.0. This is a painful loss, and it is a serious disadvantage in some cases relative to legacy carriers' capacity controlled awards. I had hoped for an option to redeem for capacity controlled seats for last-minute travel. As of April 21, 2012 this appears to be possible if you transfer 19200 points to 16 credits AirTran credits, then transfer the 16 AirTran credits to 16 Southwest credits, creating a Standard Award.
- In summary, although the new program is significantly less rewarding than Rapid Rewards 1.0 for short-haul discount fare customers, it is financially sustainable and it is customer-friendly enough that we will learn to love it.
- On November 8, 2007, Southwest introduced the A-List, its first effort to provide priority boarding to its most frequent customers. In October 2008, Southwest began to add priority screening lines (Fly By Lanes) as a second A-list benefit. Priority bag check-in lines followed.
- The new Rapid Rewards added a higher elite level, A-List Preferred, on March 1, 2011. The Companion Pass is more of a special award than a traditional elite program level, so it is covered separately in this Wiki.
- If you take 25 or more paid one-way flights or earn 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points in a calendar year, Southwest will give you A-List status for the remainder of that year and all of the following year. This is the same way other large airlines award elite status. A-Listers receive a 25% bonus on flight points they earn.
- High-fare passengers will find it easier to qualify based on points. Low-fare passengers will qualify more quickly by flight count than by points. For 2011 and earlier, see Transition for A-List status for other qualifying methods during the 2011 transition period.
- Tier Qualifying Points are base points earned through the purchase of revenue flights (6, 10, or 12 points per dollar of base airfare, according to fare class) or through the use of the Rapid Rewards Premier Card from Chase. Other partner points or bonus points, unless otherwise noted, are not Tier Qualifying Points and do not count toward A-List and A-List Preferred qualification.
- Members who have a Rapid Rewards Premier Card from Chase will earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 in credit card spend, up to 15,000 Tier Qualifying Points per year.
- You can check your progress toward qualification or requalification for the A-List near the lower right of your MySouthwest Account Snapshot page.
- A-List status gives you automatic check-in for any flight you book at least 36 hours before departure time. You will board right after the Business Select passengers. You will no longer need to remember to check in 24 hours before your flight time. Instead, you can print your 'A' boarding pass any time up to one hour before departure, or at an airport kiosk until 20 minutes before departure.
- Customers on the A-List are automatically checked in for their flights, getting boarding passes ahead of all others except Business Select customers.
- The highest ranked A-lister gets boarding pass A16, or A01 on those few flights where Business Select is not offered.
- Priority ranking within the A-List is apparently by number of flights in the qualification period, but Southwest has never revealed the ranking algorithm.
- Beginning March 1, 2011, Southwest began offering standby priority to A-Listers. This does NOT change the fact that under normal circumstances you have to "buy up" to Anytime fare in order to take a flight earlier than the one you booked.
- Also beginning March 1, 2011, Southwest opened a higher-priority telephone reservations line for A-Listers.
- See http://www.southwest.com/rapid_rewards/aList_membership.html for Southwest's official explanation of the A-List, and http://www.southwest.com/rapid_rewards/aList_membership_rules.html for the detailed official A-List rules.
- On March 1, 2011, in conjunction with a complete overhaul of Rapid Rewards, Southwest introduced A-List Preferred, a higher elite level.
- The qualifying criteria for A-List Preferred are exactly double those for A-List. If you take 50 or more paid one-way flights or earn 70,000 Tier Qualifying Points in a calendar year, Southwest will give you A-List Preferred status for the remainder of that year and all of the following year.
- A-List Preferred members receive all A-List benefits plus a few more:
- 100% bonus on flight points rather than 25%. This benefit can make it worthwhile to take several low-fare trips at the end of the year to reach 50 flights and lock in the higher earning rate for the following year.
- An even higher-priority telephone reservations line than A-Listers.
- Top priority for standby, above A-Listers.
- Free use of WiFi on flights equipped with that service, a savings of $5 per flight segment.
- On August 22, 2011, AirTran (A+ Elite) & Southwest (A-List/Preferred) began offering reciprocal frequent traveler benefits. AirTran will provide 365 days of Elite status (from date of activation) to Southwest A-List members & Southwest will provide A-List Preferred status to AirTran Elite members expiring on December 31, 2012.
Transition from the old to the new Rapid Rewards
- The transition from the old credit-based Rapid Rewards to the new points-based (and largely fare-based) Rapid Rewards is much more complex than the new Rapid Rewards program itself.
Transition for awards
- The transition for earnings is simple: You earn credits before March 1, 2011 and points for any activity that posts on or after March 1 (regardless of the activity date!).
- You have a one-time option to top off your last 16-credit Standard Award at the ratio of 1200 points per credit. At that point you get a Standard Award. From then on, you can only earn points, not credits. FT member swag came up with a tip: It might be wise to delay exercising your option until you really need the Standard Award. That way it will carry a later expiration date if you don't use it immediately. For this purpose, you need some leftover RR credit in your account as of March 1, presumably as little as 0.25 credit.
- You cannot transfer any Standard Awards into points. Your Standard Awards will expire after one year, but they can be extended for $50 within two years of expiration (subject to change at any time; it may be best to reissue within one year to avoid losing an Award). A Standard Award issued in early 2011 can therefore currently be reissued in early 2014 and can be used for travel until early 2015. Top-off Standard Awards, those issued using a combination of credits and points, cannot be reissued after they expire.
- After the transition date, you no longer have the option to convert two Standard Awards into one Freedom Award. Also, as of March 1, 2011, any Standard Award that expired more than a year ago is lost. In April 2011 Southwest began allowing awards expired up to 2 years ago to be reissued, but this reprieve from the new rules is likely to be temporary. Unless this reprieve is changed to a formal policy, reissue your awards within a year of expiration!
Transition for A-List status
During 2011 only, you will qualify for A-List status if you meet the criterion under either the old rule or the new ones: (a) Take 32 or more paid one-way flights within a rolling 12 months, or (b) Take 25 or more paid one-way flights or earn 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points in calendar year 2011. The rolling qualification is being computed approximately monthly, rather than daily as it was prior to March 1, 2011. You may have to wait a few weeks after you qualify for your status to update. Progress reports on rolling qualification are sent to members by email when the computations are performed.
If you already have A-List status that expires on or after March 1, 2011, your status will be extended until the end of 2011. If your A-list status expires in early 2012, your status will be extended until the end of 2012. Again, there will be no mid-year expiration dates after March 1, 2011.
Southwest's staff will assign A-List Preferred membership to people who have the appropriate flight history (presumably 50 or more one-way trips) over the most recent 12 months. Apparently the (a) option mentioned above for A-List qualification during 2011 will not apply to A-List Preferred: This will reportedly be a one-time evaluation.
If you miss the cut for A-List Preferred but achieve 50 flights within 12 months later in 2011, you might want to write a polite letter to the Rapid Rewards department reciting your flight history and requesting an upgrade to A-List Preferred. It's worth trying.
Regardless of your 2010 flight history, when you reach 70,000 points in 2011 or 50 flights in 2011, your status will automatically be upgraded to A-List Preferred with an expiration date of December 31, 2012. This provides a strong incentive to increase your use of Southwest in 2011.
A-List qualifying points for January and February 2011 will be computed as (base fare X corresponding number of points per dollar for fare product) + (7.5 % excise tax X 12 points per dollar) = Qualifying Points.
Transition for Companion Pass
- During 2011 only, you will qualify or re-qualify for Companion Pass if you meet the criterion under either the old rule or the new ones:
- (a) Accrue 100 credits from any source within a rolling 12 months, or
- (b) Take 100 or more paid one-way flights or earn 110,000 points from any source in calendar year 2011.
- In particular, if you were on track to qualify under the old rules, you are still on track. Southwest will not derail your plans as we had previously understood.
- The rolling qualification is being computed approximately monthly, rather than daily as it was prior to March 1, 2011. You may have to wait a few weeks after you qualify for your Companion Pass to display as Earned on the website. Progress reports on rolling qualification are sent to members by email when the computations are performed.
- For the purpose of option (a), each one-way flight on or after March 1 will count as one credit, and partner points will be divided by 1200 to give an equivalent credit count for CP qualification.
- For the purpose of option (b), you will receive Companion Qualifying Points for credits earned through Partners for the time period of January 1, 2011 through February 28, 2011 at 1,200 Companion Qualifying Points per credit. Flights will be credited according to the fare you paid times 12 points per dollar, even for WannaGetAway fares.
- You will receive 2011 Companion Qualifying Points for credits earned through Partners for the time period of January 1, 2011 through February 28, 2011 at 1,200 Companion Qualifying Points per credit. Companion Qualifying Points for January and February 2011 flights will be computed as (base fare X corresponding number of points per dollar for fare product) + (7.5 % excise tax X 12 points per dollar) = Qualifying Points.
- If you have a Companion Pass that expires on or after March 1, 2011, its expiration will be extended until the end of 2011 and your re-qualification period begins on 1/1/2011. If you have already re-qualified for renewal by 3/1/2011, or if your current Companion Pass expires in 2012, your status will be extended until the end of 2012, and your re-qualification period will begin on 1/1/2012.
Transition from AirTran's A+ Rewards to the new Rapid Rewards
- The transition from AirTran's credit-based A+ Rewards to Rapid Rewards consists of a flexible exchange option. It includes enough features to please almost everyone. See the graphical introduction at http://www.rewardsfarther.com/ and access the exchange function (after logging into My Southwest) at https://www.southwest.com/account/rapidrewards/rewards-transfer-login
- All transfer capabilities will end when the exchange option ends. This will presumably be shortly after AirTran-branded operations cease.
Redeeming Southwest credits or points for an AirTran award
- You can redeem Southwest credits or points for an AirTran award, either alone or in combination with any existing AirTran credits you may have.
Redeeming AirTran credits for a Southwest award
- You can redeem AirTran credits for a Southwest award or for Southwest credits that take you part of the way to an award, depending on how may Southwest credits (not points) you had and how many AirTran credits you move to Southwest.
FlyerTalk members have discovered some interesting and valuable ways to use the new transfer capabilities. You can change Southwest points into AirTran credits, then change AirTran credits into Southwest credits. This two-step process allows you to create new Standard Awards for travel on Southwest from points, something that was formerly limited to one conversion per member. The new awards will NOT be extendable if they expire, so convert carefully.
Each of the following useful techniques can be accomplished in just a few minutes. The exchange function works intuitively, flawlessly, and immediately. Its developers did an absolutely superb job.
- Move 300 points to AirTran, then move the resulting brand new 0.25 AirTran credits to Southwest. (If you move an existing 0.25 Southwest credit to AirTran, it will carry its original expiration time of less than a full year. So use the 300 points, which is only $5 worth.) Next you need to logout and log back in to My Southwest to see your 0.25 credit. Presto! You now have a 0.25-credit seed for a Southwest Standard Award. Create that award with 18900 points any time in the next year (or the next two years if you are an AirTran A+ Elite member). The new award will be valid for a year from its creation date.
- If you have AirTran credits but no Southwest points, sacrifice 0.25 credits by moving them to Southwest. This will give you an option to create a Southwest Standard Award with 18900 points any time until the original expiration date of your 0.25 credits. The new award will be valid for a year from its creation date. Even if you have to buy the 19000 points at $475, it might still save you money over buying a last-minute Anytime fare.
- If you have Southwest standard awards with nearby expiration dates (actually with any expiration dates), you can change the expiration to a full year from now. Just move the two half-awards, one at a time, to AirTran at 8 credits each. Then move the 16 AirTran credits back to Southwest. Logout and log back in to My Southwest. You will see two new one-way awards, each valid for a full year and non-extendible.
Furthermore, if you have Southwest credits that are going to expire and an unused/unexpired Standard Award, the following process can be used to push the expiration date out to one year for both the credits, and the Standard Award. If at any time a transfer does not show up instantly, logout and log back into My Southwest.
- One at a time, transfer the two one way Standard Award coupons (with expiration date of X) to AirTran for 16 A+ Rewards credits (with expiration date of X).
- Depending on how many Southwest credits are in your account, transfer as-many-as-needed-to-get-to-16 A+ Rewards credits (with expiration date of X) to Southwest to generate two one way Standard Award coupons (with expiration date of one year). For example, if you have 3 Southwest credits, transfer 13 (16-3=13) A+ Rewards credits to Southwest.
- Transfer the remaining A+ Rewards credits (with expiration date of X) to Southwest for an equivalent number of Southwest credits (with expiration date of X).
- One at a time, transfer the two one way Standard Award coupons (with expiration date of one year) to AirTran for 16 A+ Rewards credits (with expiration date of one year).
- Transfer the same number of A+ Rewards credits as in step two (with expiration date of one year) to Southwest to generate two one way Standard Award coupons (with expiration date of one year).
- Transfer the remaining A+ Rewards credits (with expiration date of one year) to Southwest for an equivalent number of Southwest credits (with expiration date of one year).
Earning with Partners
- Car rentals and hotel stays with preferred partners earn 600 points each. Active promotions may double, triple, or even quadruple the normal earnings (though there have been numerous reports of difficulty getting bonus points to post).
- Teleflora purchases made through the Rapid Rewards affiliate page or the dedicated phone number (1-800-355-4381) earn:
- 600 points for purchases of $34.95-$99.99;
- 1200 points for purchase of $100 or more.
- The Rapid Rewards Visa card provides perhaps the most and best opportunities to add Rapid Rewards points to your account (though if you procrastinated too long you may not be able to earn the points by your deadline). Here are some of the ways you can earn a few or many points fairly quickly:
- As of April 2012, your first purchase (or balance transfer) on a newly acquired Rapid Rewards Visa card via http://www.southwest.com/freetickets currently earns you 50,000 points.
- The signup bonus is credited to your Rapid Rewards account as of the closing date of the statement that includes your first purchase or balance transfer. In particular, you don't have to wait until the statement after you pay the fee.
- You can earn additional points for balance transfers within the first 90 days, currently one point per dollar of balance transfer, up to 10,000 points.
- The Rapid Rewards Credit Card page promotes the $69 annual fee Rapid Rewards Plus card with 3000 anniversary points. The $39 Classic Visa may still be available if you call and ask for it (or if your credit does not qualify you for the signature card); if so the same bonus point offers should apply. Additionally, Southwest Rapid Rewards also promotes a Premier card for a $99 annual fee with higher sign-up bonus and 6000 anniversary points. They also offer business plus and premier accounts for the same annual fees as described above. Both Plus and Premier cards are Signature Visas. Plus is a blue card and Premier is a black card.
- You can double dip with Visa cards, getting bonus credits for a Classic Visa and more bonus credits for a Signature Visa. You can re-dip by acquiring the Rapid Rewards Business Visa, either Plus or Premier. It is not known whether you can get signup bonus points for a Plus card after having a Premier Card or vice versa.
- Note that the extra cost for the Signature Visa cards (versus the Classic card) gives you double points accrual for purchases at southwest.com and with preferred partners, plus at least 3,000 points each year on your anniversary. These extras make the Signature card a better deal for most people.
- The "anniversary bonus" is credited on the day before the closing date of the last statement before you will be billed for the next annual fee. If you cancel the card shortly after the renewal fee is billed (reportedly within 30 days of receiving the statement), you won't have to pay the fee. You do, however, still keep the bonus points you earned for keeping the card for one full year.
- Keeping the card after the first year may or may not be a good value depending on your usage patterns. If you are not a frequent patron of Southwest and its preferred partners, the card may not be worth the annual fee.
- Purchases made with the Rapid Rewards Visa earn one point per dollar (two points per dollar at preferred partners). If you need points soon, consider shifting spending to the current statement period. For example you could prepay bills or purchase gift cards, especially southwestgiftcards, which have no fees and no expiry.
- As of April 2012, your first purchase (or balance transfer) on a newly acquired Rapid Rewards Visa card via http://www.southwest.com/freetickets currently earns you 50,000 points.
- American Express Membership Rewards ended its partnership with Rapid Rewards on June 30, 2010.
- Diners Club allows you to redeem N times 1500 points for N times 1200 Rapid Rewards points, plus a fee of N times either 95 cents or 95 points. You can redeem these for your own account or anyone else's. Ask on Coupon Connection (accessible only if you have 90 solid posts and 90 days of membership), because trading or selling Diners Club credits does not violate Rapid Rewards rules. Diners Club has in past years run a fall promotion in which you could redeem 18,000 points for one Rapid Rewards free ticket. With that redemption you got 12 credits (not 16) toward Companion Pass qualification.
- You can redeem 6000 Choice Privileges points for 1800 Rapid Rewards points, and there is no limit on total redemptions.
- As of December 14, 2007 Choice imposed a requirement of holding the (free) Choice Privileges affinity credit card or having a recent points-earning stay to qualify for this redemption. At the same time they disabled online transfer requests. These two restrictions (apparently imposed due to the tsunami of activity generated by the initial overly generous Amtrak/Choice transfer terms) were lifted when the exchange rate was increased from 5,000 points to 6,000 points in July, 2008.
- As of December 1, 2007, you can transfer Amtrak Guest Rewards points to Choice Privileges at the favorable rate of 15,000 Choice points per 5,000 Amtrak points, up to a maximum of 25,000 Amtrak points per calendar year. (From mid-October 2007 until November 30, 2007, the conversion rate was an amazing of 25,000 Choice points per 5,000 Amtrak points. This led to a rush of conversions, and Amtrak Guest Rewards changed the rate without notice on December 1, 2007. This was AGR's third no-notice change, something that most loyalty programs avoid.) As of May 1, 2008, you need to have Amtrak elite status or an Amtrak credit card that you have used to purchase at least $200 of Amtrak travel in the last year in order to make this transfer. The Amtrak credit card, however, is free and you can get 5000 to 8000 points for signing up for it. If you have no Amtrak points, note that Continental Airlines will let you redeem 5000 One Pass miles for 5000 Amtrak points, and there are no limits. All it takes is a phone call. Yes, converting One Pass lead into Rapid Rewards gold via Amtrak and Choice takes more transfers than a Southwest flight to Dallas under the Wright Amendment, but it works. For now, anyway. Expect the conversion from Amtrak to Choice to take several weeks; these conversions are heavily scrutinized. So make sure the account names match!
- Some hotel programs will allow you to redeem their points in exchange for Rapid Rewards points. For example, Marriott Rewards will allow you to redeem from 10,000 Marriott points for 2000 Rapid Rewards points up to 125,000 Marriott Points for 50,000 Rapid Rewards points. See the hotel partners page for details on current conversion rates. Hotel partners have been dropping out recently at an alarming rate.
- Priority Club is ended its partnership with Southwest effective September 13, 2011.
- Starwood Preferred Guest became a partner in August 2010 and had a more favorable exchange rate, however they ended points transfers with the change to the new Rapid Rewards. Per-stay points are still available.
- Hilton ended its partnership with Southwest Rapid Rewards effective December 31, 2011.
- Hotel point transfers are typically a poor value compared to the other hotel awards, (which until December 31, 2006 included a Rapid Rewards ticket and even a Companion Pass for Hilton HHonors), but the option is available.
- For a detailed discussion of hotel earning options for Southwest Rapid Rewards, see http://boardingarea.com/blogs/loyaltytraveler/2012/02/10/hotel-points-conversion-into-southwest-rapid-rewards-points-favors-marriott-choice-and-hyatt/
- Rapid Rewards Dining, offered in partnership with Rewards Network grants three points per dollar of qualified dining expenses charged to a credit card registered with Rapid Rewards Dining. New members can earn 300 points for completing their first $25 of qualified expenses and a review within 60 days of signup.
- As has been pointed out on FlyerTalk the RR 1.0 earning rate was extremely poor compared to what other airlines offer or what you could earn by joining the cash back version of the program. It appears the new earnings rate is more favorable, reducing the cost of a free flight from $6400 to the $2000 - $3000 range (redeeming for cheap WGA fares).
- Rapid Rewards Dining is most useful as an inexpensive means of keeping points from expiring in accounts for children and other relatives who travel very infrequently.
- Southwest does not allow you to purchase Rapid Rewards credits from them, but they will sell you points in the new program. Points will be sold in blocks of 1,000 for $25, with a minimum purchase of 2,000 for $50. The maximum purchase is 40,000 points per transaction. Purchased points do not count as Companion Pass Qualifying Points.
- Points are expensive, so purchasing them will rarely make economic sense. The major exception would be when you face a deadline to create a Standard Award through your one-time option to convert new points to old credits. It also might make sense if you don't have quite enough points to redeem for an upcoming trip, and you don't plan fly Southwest again in the next two years.
Redemption Options other than Southwest Tickets
Southwest Rapid Rewards points cannot be transferred to other programs except AirTran, as described above in Redeeming Southwest credits or points for an AirTran award. However if you have a Southwest Visa card, beginning in mid-2011 you can redeem points for air tickets to Hawaii, Alaska, foreign countries, or other items through the More Rewards program. Redemption to non-Southwest cities in the lower 48 states will not be allowed. Expect an approximate value of 1 cent per point or less on these redemptions.
Targeted promotions have appeared a couple of times per year since the demise of the non-targeted online booking bonus. FlyerTalkers have been unable to identify any rhyme or reason behind the selection of Rapid Rewards members for targeted promotions. However some FlyerTalkers have reported that Rapid Rewards has a policy not to target you for a promotion if you have recently been targeted for another promotion.
Some targeted promotions appear after you login to MySouthwest. Click Promotions on the left. You get a list of promotions. Click the one you are interested in. Don't forget to click the Register button below the Terms and Conditions. Repeat for any other promotions you are interest in. Here are some examples reported by FT members:
- "Just purchase 3 roundtrips for yourself on southwest.com and fly between November 9, 2006 and February 20, 2007, and the next roundtrip is on us! How's that for rapid?"
- "Get triple credit on any flights you book for yourself at southwest.com and fly between November 9, 2006 and February 20, 2007. That's 6 credits per roundtrip instead of the usual 2, which means you could be flying free after just 3 roundtrips!"
- "Earn one additional credit per one-way flight. Member must register for this promotion between March 25 and May 31, 2010 to qualify, and registration must be completed prior to booking and commencement of travel. Reservations must be booked between March 25 and May 31, 2010. Your travel must be completed between March 25 and May 31, 2010."
Other targeted promotions are delivered by email or regular mail. Here are some recent examples:
- Southwest Signature Visa card holders received a mailer with a single-use 20% off code. Booking had to be between January 25 and February 10, 2007, for travel between January 25 and March 8, 2007. It was of limited use, since the offer excluded Promotional, Internet One-Way, and Senior Fares. (Also, DING! fares do not allow use of any promotion codes.)
- Over recent years, FT members have reported receiving "Buy 3, Get 1 Free", "Buy 5, Get 1 Free" and even "Buy 1, Get 1 Free" targeted promotions in the mail. If you receive one of these, consider yourself very lucky.
Non-targeted promotions have become relatively frequent. They are discussed on FlyerTalk within hours of beginning, but you typically need to register via My Southwest > Promotions before traveling and before booking your trip. That means canceling and re-booking existing reservations if the fare has not increased. Current promotions in April 2012 give bonus points for WannaGetAway (advance purchase) fares to selected cities and Business Select fares, both over limited pre-summer time periods.
Can I use expired drink coupons?
- Business Select boarding passes have a drink coupon printed on them. These drink coupons are valid only on the day of travel.
- One book of drink coupons is mailed out for each award you earn, provided that you are over 21 and that this preference is specified in your member profile. As of September 2010, these coupons will be personalized with your name and Rapid Rewards number. Presumably this is an anti-counterfeiting measure.
- Drink coupons issued before March 2007 have expiration dates printed on them, but they were never enforced. According to a policy announced in August 2010, these coupons will be usable only until August 31, 2011, when they will expire. Until then, the old drink coupons with the airplane tail on the cover are redeemable at the old (higher) value.
- As of April 1, 2010, drink coupons are no longer accepted for Monster energy drinks. Until August 31, 2011 there was a little-known exception for the newest tan-colored coupons that specify "or specialty non-alcoholic drink".
- Expiration dates are now fully enforced, and coupons with no printed expiration date have now expired. Monster energy drinks are available for purchase only: no coupons.
Who earns: purchaser or traveler? Can I pool with family members?
- Except for one past instance (the MySouthwest booking bonus), the traveler earns the credits, not the purchaser. For example, if your family of eight flies to Orlando and back, you will not earn a free trip. Southwest does not have family accounts, à la British Airways. You cannot combine family credits to earn an award.
What features does SWABIZ offer? How can I join?
- SWABIZ provides small businesses and other organizations enhanced travel management and reporting tools and access to the same low fares as southwest.com. The designated Travel Manager can view itineraries and fares, but not credit card information, unless the traveler has used a company credit card account created by the Travel Manager. Bonus credit may be available for a limited time after your organization signs up, or you may get another incentive for booking trips during your first few months.
- DING! fares are not compatible with SWABIZ. DING! bookings can therefore not be made via swabiz.com, and DING! reservations will not appear on SWABIZ travel reports.
- According to the terms and conditions "SWABIZ is for business travel only." "Vacation or leisure" travel should still be booked at southwest.com.
- When logged in to SWABIZ, individual travelers can view, but not change, reservations that were made on southwest.com.
- You can create a SWABIZ account online. It is no longer necessary to contact your "Area Marketing Manager" and go through an approval process.
How can I sell my awards, points, or ticketless funds?
- Southwest announced a name match restriction on ticketless funds beginning January 28, 2011, but implementation was delayed indefinitely. The restriction went into effect without further notice on April 29, 2011. Now ticketless funds are only permitted to be applied to a new reservation for travel by the same passenger. You can no longer buy or sell ticketless funds unless you find someone with the same name as you.
- The most effective response to the new transfer restrictions is to use points to book flights for your family members. If you need to cancel a trip, the security fee is fully refundable and the points refund into your Rapid Rewards account, where they can be used for anyone and they will never expire.
- Award trips are "fully transferable", but buying and selling of Rapid Rewards Awards is against WN's terms and conditions. Don't do it. The Rapid Rewards people can easily check who has been flying on your awards. If you earn 20 awards and they are used by people with 20 different last names flying 20 different routes, that starts looking suspicious.
- Buyers of award seats may be ticket brokers who use them for people who have entered the US illegally. You probably don't want your Rapid Rewards account to be associated with such flights. For example, Mr. Mileage was served with a cease and desist letter from SWA to stop the sale of Rapid Rewards. SWA then sued them and they finally stopped. Rumor has it that they were booking well over 100 tickets a day for large sized immigration attorneys. The ticket sales are indeed watched by SWA. According to one report, 90% of broker sales are used to move illegal workers to different states. Don't sell awards to ticket brokers!
- If you want to sell a ticket on eBay, the recipient of the award must make the initial reservation, but anyone knowing the record locator can make a change to it. If the ticket is canceled by someone who knows the record locator (PNR) or if the flight is canceled, the award is returned to the account of the original recipient. While these awards can be transacted on eBay for about $300, be aware of the risks involved. eBay can and will cough up personal user information (name/address/phone #) to any company that requests it, even if no one from the company has done a transaction with you. Furthermore, eBay will cancel your listing if you use any of several undisclosed keywords that indicate you are going to arrange travel for the buyer.
- When you buy a ticket purchased using points or an "award" from a third party, it may be difficult to determine whether you have actually purchased a points or award seat, as opposed to a regular fare seat. As noted in this post on FlyerTalk, when you purchase an "award" ticket it might actually be a revenue ticket that was paid for with a stolen credit card! When you show up at the airport for your flight you are likely to be stopped at the counter and asked to cough up the full ("Anytime") fare for your flight.
- In summary, you can assume any sale of points or award tickets in an online forum accessible to the public can be and will be observed by Southwest. Sales to a mileage broker will be detected when Southwest gets its hands on the broker's business records through legal action. Private sales can be detected if the buyer says the wrong thing to a Southwest employee. If Southwest figures out who you are, you will get a polite but firm warning letter. If you keep selling, you can expect your account to be closed.
Where can I find the official Rapid Rewards rules?
- Rapid Rewards is described at http://www.southwest.com/rapid_rewards/about_rr.html and http://www.southwest.com/rapid_rewards/free_award_ticket.html
- Southwest's Rapid Rewards FAQ is at http://www.southwest.com/rapid_rewards/rr_program_faq.html
- Official program rules are at http://www.southwest.com/rapid_rewards/rules_and_regs.html
- Award rules are at http://www.southwest.com/rapid_rewards/use_ticketless_award.html
- Travel policies, including the Contract of Carriage, are available at http://www.southwest.com/travel_center/travel_center_policies.html
The Companion Pass (CP)
What is a Companion Pass?
- A Companion Pass (CP) allows you, the Companion Pass Holder, to bring your Designated Companion along with you for free (paying only the Security Fee) as many times as you want throughout the entire life of the Pass. It doesn't matter what kind of ticket you have booked.
How do I earn a Companion Pass?
- You can qualify or re-qualify for Companion Pass by taking 100 or more paid one-way flights or by earning 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points in a calendar year. However, purchased points and points earned from program enrollment, Tier bonuses (25% or 100%), flight bonuses, and Partner bonuses (not defined in detail yet) do not count toward Companion Pass status. During 2011 only, you could qualify or re-qualify according to the old rules, as described above under Transition for Companion Pass. As of January 2012, the old, confusing 12-month rolling qualification period is history.
- As of March 1, 2011, Companion Passes all expire at the end of the calendar year. When you earn a Companion Pass, it is valid for the remainder of the current year and all of the following year.
How will I receive my first Companion Pass?
- After the necessary number of points or paid trips taken during the year have posted to your account, you will receive an email within the next two days with a link to allow you to designate a companion. Also, as soon as you have qualified, the web site will allow you to designate a companion after you log in to your Rapid Rewards account. You will then receive the CP card within about a week. Qualification via the rolling method (offered for 2011 only) may be delayed longer because the computations are performed only monthly.
- Once the companion is designated you can book Companion Pass flights for that companion online even before receiving the card, however, the CP card may be requested at the airport. Per Southwest, you should ask reservations to make a reservation note that you have not yet received the CP card in case they ask.
- FT member Dan B points out that you are unable to reserve flights for a new CP before it is issued (or is it before the CP's effective date?). You may be able to make a placeholder reservation using a spare RR award or a refundable fare, and have it converted to CP later by telephone. This has been reported to work.
Can I use the Companion Pass in conjunction with a free ticket?
- The Companion Pass allows you to bring the designated person along with you for free (paying only the Security Fee), even if you are traveling on a free ticket! For some people, this essentially doubles the value of their free tickets. Think of it as a 100% bonus for reaching this elite level.
- You cannot "chain" Companion Passes. Southwest's Companion Pass rules at http://www.southwest.com/html/generated/help/faqs/rapid_rewards_program_terms_and_conditions_faq.html state: "An individual may not travel as both a Member and a Companion on the same flight, except in Customer of Size instances. Corporations and other entities cannot be designated as Companions. A Member who is a Customer of Size and earns a Companion Pass can use his/her Companion declaration for an extra seat. To declare the extra seat as the Companion, the Member must contact Customer Relations."
Can I change my Designated Companion?
- You may change your Designated Companion up to 3 times per year, a process that originally required mailing in your old Companion Pass. According to an early 2010 report, it is now possible to change your Companion immediately on the phone, a process that will cancel any reservations for your existing Companion.
- The reservation system will only permit you to make a Companion Pass reservation for the current Designated Companion.
- This might have you wondering whether you can book Companion Pass travel for X, change your Designated Companion to Y, then have X get a free trip on the earlier booking. The short answer is No. The earlier companion booking for X will be canceled when the Designated Companion is changed to Y.
If I can't make good use of a Companion Pass, can I trade it for something else?
- Prior to 2005, SWA would typically provide an alternative to the CP (4 award tickets) on request. Current SWA policy is not to provide an alternative to the CP. You can ask, but the answer is virtually guaranteed to be "no".
Using Standard Awards and Freedom Awards
Standard Awards were earned in full or in part from activity prior to March 1, 2011, as explained in the above section on Transition Rules for Awards. Because of the possibility of reissuing expired awards, these awards may be usable as late as February 2014.
Prior to March 1, 2011, you were allowed to convert two Standard Awards to one Freedom Award, retaining the earlier of their two expiration dates. Standard awards are subject to capacity controls but not blackout dates. Freedom Awards are subject to blackout dates but not capacity controls.
What are Capacity Controls?
- Capacity controls do not apply to Rapid Rewards points, only to Standard Awards from the old Rapid Rewards.
- Capacity controls are limitations on the use of Standard Award seats similar to the limitations imposed on the availability of low fares on peak-demand flights. In 2005, Southwest decided that it could no longer afford to make every seat available for award travel, even with a dozen or so "blackout" dates such as the day before Thanksgiving excluded from award travel. Some flights to leisure destinations at peak vacation times were being filled primarily by award travelers. Southwest imposed capacity controls on awards beginning February 10, 2006.
- Standby travel is not allowed on a capacity controlled award. The only exceptions are the same as for a discount fare ticket: If your flight will depart 30 minutes or more late or if you miss your flight by less than 2 hours.
- Companion Pass reservations are not considered awards and are therefore not subject to capacity controls. If the CP Holder has a seat, paid or not, the Designated Companion can take the last available seat in the airplane.
- Starting November 8th, 2007 and ending February 28, 2011, two Rapids Rewards Standard Awards could be traded in for a Freedom Award, which has no seat restrictions, but has approximately 10 "blackout" days around holiday periods.
- You were never allowed to convert one standard award to a one-way Freedom Award.
- Once you have converted two standard awards to a Freedom Award, you cannot directly convert the Freedom Award back into two standard awards if you decide you don't need the Freedom Award. However as of April 21, 2012, transferring your Freedom Award to AirTran credits and from there back to Southwest credits will have the net effect of splitting it into two Standard Awards.
How can I determine whether standard award seats will be available for a vacation I am planning beyond the current schedule horizon?
- Is your vacation in Las Vegas? It might as well be, because you pretty much have to gamble on this one. If you check availability the minute the schedule opens up you might snag a couple of token award seats allocated for a peak city pair on a peak date. Otherwise you will need to be flexible with your dates. This lack of ability to make firm vacation plans more than 5 months ahead was a significant weakness of the old Rapid Rewards program.
How can I maximize my chance of getting the Standard Award seats I want?
- You really need date flexibility, unless you know from past experience that flights tend not to fill up on your preferred dates and times. Availability of DING! fares and other deep discounts indicate flights that are likely to have good award availability. You will need to avoid Fridays to Las Vegas and Sunday returns from Las Vegas. Ditto for Orlando. The day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving will be nearly impossible to obtain using a Standard Award.
- Be sure to re-check award availability starting about 10 days from your travel date.
- You can use "non-scheduled routing" for Award travel when you do not see availability on the scheduled routes. You can do this using no more than 2 flight numbers (but unlimited stops). Example: You want Sacramento (SMF) to Baltimore (BWI), but there are no Award seats on the regular routing.
- Select the Advanced Search option at the bottom of the small pop-up box that appears when you book a Standard Award. You can use select Depart SMF, Arrive LAX, Return BWI using same date on the Reservation Screen. You will get two selection grids for SMF-LAX and LAX-BWI. Select any pair of single-flight options that meet the connection time minimum (varies by airport) and maximum (always 4 hours). You will be charged only 1/2 of Award (each Award has 2 "coupons," A and B, each good for one-way travel) as long as you use only 2 flight numbers -- even if you stop 2 times from LAX to BWI.
- If your routing has a connection longer than 4 hours, or is a routing the booking system doesn't like (e.g., due to excessive backtracking) you will be charged both halves of your Award for the two parts of your flight. For example, suppose the normal "regular routing" connection arrives at LAX at 1PM and the normal routing leaves LAX at 2PM, but that there are no Award seats on the 2PM flight. You can book the second leg that leaves LAX at 3:30pm if Awards seats are open on that "non-scheduled routing" connection.
- If you attempt to book 3 flight numbers on one half of an Award, the system might tease you by showing on the purchase page that only half an award is needed. However if you try to complete the purchase, you will see the message "We are currently unable to complete your request due to an undefined error."
Can I standby on an award?
- When you can't find a capacity-controlled seat, it's logical to ask whether you can go to the airport and standby for an open seat. The short answer is no. The only exceptions are the same as for a discount fare ticket: If your flight will depart 30 minutes or more late or if you miss your flight by less than 2 hours.
- If you show up at the airport with no award reservation or an award reservation for a different date, the airport people will not be able to help you without making phone calls to Southwest's internal Help Desk. Your fate will then depend on your particular circumstances and perhaps on what kind of day all those people helping you are having. Don't expect any chance of success unless your story is really compelling.
- Why wouldn't Southwest allow standby on awards? After all, why not fill a seat that would otherwise go out empty? Simple. Just as for standby on a paid ticket, Southwest is thinking ahead. If standby travel were permitted on awards without any reservation, families would show up at the airport the day before Thanksgiving and jam the terminal, waiting in vain for seats to Grandma's house. That would be a recipe for customer service disasters all around.
What if I can't get seats and my award expires?
An award can be recovered for a fee, as described above.
When do my old Rapid Rewards credits expire?
- Activity posted on or after March 1, 2011 earns the new points rather than the old credits. A Rapid Rewards account can therefore contain up to 15 of the old credits. Each credit expires 24 months from its activity (the date it was earned, not the date it was posted). If you are going to make use of the one-time opportunity to use 1200 points per credit to top off your old credits at 16 and earn a Standard Award, you should probably do so before any of your credits expire.
When do awards expire? How can I recover an expired award?
- Awards are good for one year from the date of issue. The reservation system will not allow you to use an award for a travel date later than the expiration date of the award.
- When you log in to MySouthwest, there is now an option at the left to "Reissue Awards". For a $50 fee (subject to change), an award near or past expiration can be reissued with a new expiry date 12 months after the date of reissuance. Note the following rules regarding the "character" of reissued awards:
- Standard Awards (which are subject to capacity controls) are reissued as Standard Awards (subject to capacity controls);
- Freedom Awards (which are subject to blackout dates but not to capacity controls) are reissued as Freedom Awards.
- The official rules on southwest.com previously (as of April 30, 2010) stated: "We will only consider reissuing Awards that have been expired less than 24 months. Members can request an Award reissue and pay for the fee(s) by credit card:
- online through the MySouthwest® section of southwest.com
- through our toll-free Rapid Rewards number, 1-800-445-5764
- at any Southwest Airlines Ticket Counter"
- On March 1, 2011, the time limit for reiussing awards drops to 12 months. In April 2011 Southwest began allowing awards expired up to 2 years ago to be reissued, but this reprieve from the new rules is likely to be temporary. Unless this reprieve is changed to a formal policy, reissue your awards within a year of expiration!
- Note that the rules also state "Credit cards are the only form of payment that will be accepted for the award reissuance fee. Cash, checks, money orders, Ticketless Travel Funds, Southwest LUV Vouchers, and southwestgiftcard® will not be accepted." Presumably, however, a debit card that you can use for other online purchases would also work.
Buying Tickets and Getting the Best Fare
Why can't I search online travel agents (OTAs) to compare Southwest flights?
Southwest does not publish their flights in a machine readable format. Southwest also prohibits OTAs from scraping their web page to harvest the information (source)
When will the schedule horizon be extended?
- Southwest now gives an estimated date for the next booking horizon extension very soon after each extension date. The information is available on quite a few web pages, such as:
- The "How far in advance..." question in the Booking and Purchasing Air Travel section of the FAQ on southwest.com.
- The top level travel tools page on southwest.com.
- The top level travel policies page on southwest.com.
- The top level travel tips page on southwest.com.
- The Southwest Vacations home page.
- The estimated date is always subject to change. It can be moved forward or backward, so if you plan to book a flight as soon as the schedule window is extended you may need to check frequently for updated estimates.
- When the booking horizon is extended the schedules and fares typically show up before or shortly after 6 AM Central Time. This is 4 hours earlier than in prior years.
- Advance estimates of the next horizon extension came about through an April, 2007 policy change. The current practice is significantly more customer-friendly, even though it spoiled our fun guessing game. :)
- The February 8, 2007 extension was later than any in memory, and the delay was the subject of considerable discussion. On that blog Bill Owen, Southwest's lead scheduler, explained the situation in some detail, even revealing why the schedule tended to open on Thursday mornings. In summary, the schedulers wanted to optimize the May 2007 schedule for summer winds aloft rather than having that optimization take effect in June or July. They decided in November 2006 to delay the summer release until this optimization was complete.
- Given the amount of criticism engendered by the delay, Bill Owen has set forth a new policy that "We will consider 120 days of bookable inventory as our minimum when getting our schedule ready for peak travel periods, such as summer or the Holiday Season. I can't promise that we will never go under this minimum for those heavy demand periods again, but I can promise that we will do everything in our power to make sure you always have more than 120 days of available flights to choose from. I can promise that it will take something almost cataclysmic to prevent that from happening. For other, less heavy travel periods, we will try to keep a minimum of 100 days of inventory available for your booking pleasure. On the other end of the booking window, we're going to push the maximum available inventory from 180 days to between 190 and 200 days of inventory-and once again, we'll pay particular attention to making peak travel periods available for booking as far in advance as possible." Because of this change in managing the schedule horizon, future schedule extensions are not likely to follow the pattern of earlier years.
- Years ago, knowing when the schedule was going to open up would often improve your chances of obtaining a discount fare at a peak travel time such as Thanksgiving. Since about 2004 Southwest had been stingy with discount fares from the moment the schedule opens. More discount seats are sometimes allocated between 12 and 8 weeks before the date of travel if the flight is not selling out as quickly as Southwest expected.
- In most cases you don't need to treat the horizon extension like it's a Black Friday sale at Best Buy, but there are exceptions:
- For award seats, it often does really help to get in there right away.
- The day (usually in June) when the horizon is extended to include the busy holiday season can be quite problematic. See, for example, this FlyerTalk thread.
- On low-frequency routes that require a connection the lowest fare bucket can be painfully small.
Recent schedule extension history
Extension Date Last Bookable Date Notes July 1, 2013 February 12, 2014 Projected May 6, 2013 January 5, 2014 March 4, 2013 November 1, 2013 February 4, 2013 September 27, 2013 November 19, 2012 August 9, 2013 October 22, 2012 May 31, 2013 August 27, 2012 April 12, 2013 July 16, 2012 March 8, 2013 July 9, 2012 February 13, 2013 June 4, 2012 January 4, 2013 February 20, 2012 November 2, 2012 January 22, 2012 September 28, 2012 November 13, 2011 August 10, 2012 October 3, 2011 June 1, 2012 September 5, 2011 April 9, 2012 July 25, 2011 March 9, 2012 May 24, 2011 January 6, 2012 March 15, 2011 November 4, 2011 February 8, 2011 September 30, 2011 November 16, 2010 August 12, 2011 October 7, 2010 June 3, 2011 September 28, 2010 April 25, 2011 August 17, 2010 March 11, 2011 June 15, 2010 January 7, 2011 May 5, 2010 November 5, 2010 Unusual, unannounced minimal (five day) window extension March 23, 2010 October 30, 2010 December 16, 2009 August 13, 2010 October 13, 2009 May 7, 2010 September 1, 2009 March 12, 2010 June 23, 2009 January 8, 2010 Had been projected to be through January 15, 2010 April 14, 2009 October 30, 2009 February 2, 2009 August 14, 2009 December 9, 2008 June 26, 2009 November 6, 2008 May 8, 2009 August 21, 2008 March 6, 2009 June 26, 2008 January 9, 2009 April 18, 2008 October 30, 2008 January 31, 2008 August 22, 2008 stealth extension, reservations page did not show the extension until February 1, 2008 January 9, 2008 August 3, 2008 November 8, 2007 May 9, 2008 August 27, 2007 March 7, 2008 June 27, 2007 January 11, 2008 April 26, 2007 November 2, 2007 February 8, 2007 August 24, 2007 November 16, 2006 May 10, 2007 September 21, 2006 March 9, 2007 August 17, 2006 January 9, 2007 July 13, 2006 December 10, 2006 May 26, 2006 October 27, 2006 April 19, 2006 September 12, 2006 February 23, 2006 August 3, 2006 December 20, 2005 June 9, 2006 October 27, 2005 March 31, 2006 September 26, 2005 February 3, 2006 horizon shrink likely due to Hurricane Katrina and MSY replanning August 18, 2005 January 9, 2006 July 15, 2005 December 12, 2005 May 12, 2005 October 28, 2005 March 17, 2005 September 12, 2005 February 18, 2005 August 3, 2005 December 9, 2004 June 6, 2005 October 22, 2004 April 1, 2005 September 23, 2004 March 3, 2005 July 29, 2004 January 14, 2005 July 15, 2004 December 11, 2004 May 5, 2004 October 29, 2004 March 25, 2004 September 13, 2004 February 13, 2004 August 7, 2004 January 13, 2004 June 11, 2004 December 11, 2003 May 8, 2004 October 16, 2003 April 2, 2004 September 19, 2003 March 6, 2004 July 24, 2003 January 16, 2004 June 26, 2003 December 13, 2003 May 14, 2003 October 24, 2003 March 13, 2003 September 8, 2003
What are the benefits of paying the Business Select premium fare?
- Business Select fares allow you to board in one of the first 15 slots. The earliest purchaser boards first. For more details, see How does Business Select boarding work?
- If a flight is expected to carry a large number of through passengers, Business Select may not be offered on that flight. Southwest's rationale is that early boarders may not have a sufficient choice of good seats.
- As described at http://www.southwest.com/nick/business_select.html, Business Select includes other benefits: a free drink onboard and bonus Rapid Rewards credit: 0.25 credits for a flight under 750 miles, and 1.0 extra credit for a flight of 750 miles or more.
- Business Select customers also may use the Fly By security lane and bag check if the airport offers it.
What is that "promotion code" box on the Book Travel page? How can I get a code?
- The Southwest promotion codes that can be entered on the main Air Booking page typically give you a fixed percentage or dollar amount discount if you satisfy the parameters of the promotion. Round trip purchases are usually required. Some Southwest promotion codes can only be used once or twice; others allow unlimited use.
- "Promotion code" can also refer to Rapid Rewards promotions; those codes are not entered on the flight booking page.
- On southwest.com there are numerous pages, some short-lived, others relatively permanent, that allow entering flight requests. Rarely, if ever, will you see the promotion code field except on the main Air Booking page.
- If there is a current Southwest promotion code that is not member-specific or limited-use, you will likely find it posted on FlyerTalk's Rapid Rewards forum.
- Recent promotions have been very short-lived (two-five days). If you blink you might miss it.
- Be aware that fares change frequently and they may be high while a general use Southwest promotion code is active. Some flights booked with DING15 (see below) were available later at lower fares without any promotion code. In particular, Southwest tends to mark fares up during the "50% off" sales. While the special fares may be attractive, they may well not represent true 50% savings. (See example at the end of this section.)
- Some Southwest promotion codes are targeted. These are rarely issued, and they are typically snail mailed to targeted Rapid Rewards members. If you are a very frequent flier on Southwest, you are unlikely to be targeted for a promotion. If you do receive one and are sure you will not use it, FlyerTalkers would appreciate your posting it on FlyerTalk.com unless the offer prohibits this.
- Southwest promotion codes cannot be used with DING! fares.
- Only one promotion code can be used at a time.
- The following Southwest promotions are all expired:
- 15% off for a round trip for Signature Visa card holders for travel through June 1, 2011. You entered your card number (any Signature Visa, not limited to the Rapid Rewards Visa cards) and you received a single-use promotion code. If your bank's web-site allowed creation of single-use card numbers, you could get an unlimited number of promotion codes.
- Various joint marketing promotions (with Disney, for example) and market-specific promotions (Dallas to MCI and STL, for example).
- On the April 18, 2008 schedule extension date, promotion code SAVE10 (10% discount) was advertised on southwest.com. That was trumped, however, by promotion code DING15 (15% discount) announced via DING! (and of course promptly posted on FlyerTalk).
- In June, 2008, Southwest offered a $25 discount for a future round trip flight to customers who used Visa to purchase a southwestgiftcard of $100 or more. The codes were distributed by Email on July 18, 2008. Each $25 coupon code saved about $26.88 per passenger ($25 plus the 7.5% Federal excise tax). Because up to eight passengers can travel on one PNR, a single code was worth as much as roughly $215. Restrictions on use of the codes, however, were significant (and apparently a bit more significant than was publicly disclosed by Southwest), according to at least one report on FlyerTalk.
- The August, 2008 Coca-Cola® / Cinemark / Southwest Airlines Promotion. Some game pieces had one-time use codes good for $25, or 25% off a round trip purchase; the rest of the game pieces had a code good for $10 off.
- In late 2008 Southwest began offering a series of promotion codes for 50% off round trip WGA fares to or from a specific city. Purchases had to be made within a small time window (two to five days) and travel had to fall within a specific time frame (a few months), while avoiding large blackout periods around the holidays. The following codes and purchase dates have been seen so far:
- FLYBUF for Buffalo, October 21-23
- FLYMSY for New Orleans, November 16-18
- FLYSLC for Salt Lake City, November 16-18
- DENVER for Denver, December 8-12
- LASVEGAS for Las Vegas, December 30-31
- SEATTLE for Seattle, January 20-22
- Here is an example of how the actual savings can be less than suggested by the 50% offer: During the Denver sale the lowest WGA fare in one market was $56.50 ($113 x 50%). After the sale the lowest WGA fare on that route went back down to $79, and later to $69. The $56.50 fare thus represented a nice savings of 18%, rather than spectacular savings of 50%.
What is the fee to change or cancel a reservation?
- There are no such fees. Southwest does not penalize you for canceling or no-showing a flight. If you bought a refundable fare with a credit card, you can ask for the entire amount to be refunded to your credit card. If you bought a non-refundable fare online using a credit card, it is fully refundable if you cancel it within 24 hours of purchase. Otherwise the price is re-usable but not refundable. But buying a refundable fare using these non-refundable funds does not make them refundable even if it should happen to confuse the computer system into not being able to tell you that they are not refundable.
- If you cancel a flight after checking in or after Southwest assigns you a boarding pass number because of your A-list status, you will need to delete the boarding pass before proceeding to cancel the reservation.
- FT members have asked Southwest about change fees, and the answer has consistently been that change fees are not being planned. Indeed, such fees would undercut a major attraction of Southwest for high-yield business travelers. The 2009 and 2010 "No Bag Fees" advertising campaign shows a heavy corporate commitment to a no-fee brand identity. In January 2011 Southwest ran "Fee Court" advertisements touting the lack of $150 fees to change tickets.
I changed or canceled a non-refundable flight. How do I check the balance or re-use the funds? What restrictions apply?
- Unused funds can be applied to any new or modified Southwest Airlines air travel reservation, whether purchasing online or by phone.
- Traditionally funds were fully transferable; there was no requirement that the same passenger use the funds. Southwest planned to impose this name match restriction beginning January 28, 2011, but enforcement did not start until April 29, 2011. Funds are now permitted to be applied only to a new reservation for travel by the same passenger. This change is was reported on FlyerTalk, but was not announced beforehand.
- There is a work-around of sorts for this restriction. You can combine all the funds for a given passenger, let them expire (and they will carry the earliest expiration date of all the funds you combined), and pay $75 to have the funds re-issued as a travel credit usable for anyone.
- When purchasing online the funds are applied on the "Purchase" page. Southwest's web site has a very good help page with detailed step-by-step instructions.
- Until July 24, 2007, you could use funds from up to four PNRs on a single purchase. From then until October, 2008 the limit was two, reportedly due to a desire to conform to international standards for future interlining. From late October, 2008 until approximately mid-April, 2009 the limits were in an exceptionally confusing transitional state wherein the stated rules did not agree with the way the web site actually worked. Thankfully that is behind us, but the rules remain more complex than they were prior to October, 2008:
- Under the old rules all PNRs with unused funds were categorized as "Ticketless Travel Funds" (TTF) and their reuse was subject to a simple single limit based on the number of PNRs.
- Under the new rules a single passenger PNR with unused funds will fall into one of two distinct categories, and different limits apply to each category. These new categories are "Unused Tickets" (UT) and "Leftover Electronic Ticket Funds" (LETF).
- The web site gives the following instructions for using the various sources of funds:
- An "unused ticket" means "one passenger's cancelled itinerary, from which no funds have been reused". A single passenger's itinerary on one PNR is probably a single ticket whether it is for one-way travel, round-trip, or circle itinerary.
- "Leftover Electronic Ticket Funds" are unused funds that do not make up a complete ticket. The two primary reasons unused funds on a PNR may be LETF are:
- A flight was rebooked at a lower fare;
- An Unused Ticket's funds were only partially reused in a prior transaction.
- There are several additional complexities related to multi-passenger PNRs which make it highly advisable to book each passenger's reservation separately unless you are using a promotion code. (A single-use promotion code covers all passengers on a combined reservation.)
- Each passenger's funds and funds expiry date are tracked separately.
- Each passenger's UT counts separately against the limit of two UT per passenger on the new itinerary.
- Each passenger's LETF count separately against the limit of four "other payments."
- Presumably, each passenger's balance may separately be UT, LETF, or zero.
- Example 1: $40 from a two passenger PNR containing two UT balances of $50 each is applied to a purchase. The $60 remaining balance on the PNR would consist of $10 LETF for Passenger A and a $50 UT for Passenger B.
- Example 2: $60 from a two passenger PNR containing two UT balances of $50 each is applied to a purchase. The $40 remaining balance on the PNR would consist of $0 for Passenger A and $40 LETF for Passenger B. Important: On any later attempt to view or reuse that PNR's $40 balance, the system will return a name doesn't match error if you supply Passenger A's name. (In the past it was always sufficient to use only the primary passenger's name until all funds for all passengers were consumed.)
- The system will add every separate UT/LETF to the payment screen when you enter a valid PNR/name combination. Fortunately, however, you can use the provided links to remove any one or more of those UTs/LETF from the payment screen. That's especially important when there are widely divergent expiry dates within a single PNR.
- Below are some additional ways in which the current funds reuse system can trip you up if haven't learned the new rules.
- The order in which funds are applied is determined by an internal algorithm. (In the past they were simply used in the order they were entered by the purchaser.) Fortunately this will be displayed accurately as each PNR is entered (during a portion of the transition period that was not the case).
- The "always applied first" rules for UT over LETF and LETF over LUV vouchers mean you cannot (directly) ensure funds from a LUV voucher are used before any LETF, even if the LUV voucher is older.
- Although it is now possible to apply up to six PNRs to a single purchase of one ticket, and even more for a multi-passenger itinerary, you can only reach the maximum if you have the right kind of PNRs. For a new single passenger ticket, that would be two UT and four LETF. When you have enough unused funds for a new purchase but they are not in the right category, you may have to complete several intermediate steps to either combine LETF into a UT, or extract some LETF from a UT.
- If you have many PNRs each containing a small amount of LETF, none of which is a UT, you can make one or more dummy reservations to consolidate your funds in stages. Use one of the small amounts plus one larger amount to purchase a new reservation, repeat several times, then cancel these reservations and apply them to another purchase. However you should try to avoid commingling early-expiring funds with later-expiring funds.
- As explained in this FlyerTalk thread, refaring down generates small LETF/TTF that are very hard to use. The workarounds are far too complex to post in this Wiki. Read that thread if you do a significant amount of refaring to take advantage of fare decreases.
- In past years, the funds lookup and reuse system would go down every night for about two hours starting at about 10:30 PM Pacific Time. As of May 2009, this no longer happens.
- If you just want to check the balance and expiration date on a PNR you can use the "View Travel Funds" form, but for a few reasons that can be cumbersome and/or inadequte. Prior to July, 2007, the form allowed lookup of four PNRs at a time. Inexplicably this limit was reduced to two when the funds reuse limit was reduced. Even more inexplicably, the limit was not increased when it again became possible to use funds from more than two PNRs for a single transaction. Furthermore, after closing an enormous (at least $200 million, potentially close to $1 billion) security hole discovered and reported by a FlyerTalk member, SWA took the additional step of adding a ReCAPTCHA challenge to the funds lookup form. Unfortunately the funds lookup form has not yet been made log-in aware and the challenge applies whether you are logged in or not.
- To know what limits will apply to reusing a particular PNR, you need to know more than just a balance and an expiry date -- but that is all you can get using the funds lookup form. For the rest of the important details you can initiate a flight purchase transaction, enter the PNR in the the "Apply Funds" portion of the payment page, then abandon the flight purchase after collecting the information you need. In particular the output of the funds lookup form neither:
- Categorizes funds as UT or LETF; nor
- Reports the individual balances for each passenger of a multi-passenger PNR.
When and why do funds expire?
- Ticketless travel funds (TTF) expire one year from the original purchase date (of the oldest funds applied to the purchase). Travel must be completed by the expiration date.
- If you are booking flights that are close to or straddle the expiration date, you have yet another reason to book separate one-ways instead of a round trip.
- The TTF expiration rules apply equally to both refundable and non-refundable funds. If you call before the expiration date you can request a refund of the refundable portion. (You cannot do this online.) Customers have sometimes been told, however, that certain refund requests can only be made in writing.
- When you cancel a reservation that has any refundable funds, it only makes sense to let Southwest hold the refundable portion if you are going to immediately use them for a new reservation. Otherwise, request the refund!
- For fully refundable fares, refund procedures vary depending on several factors.
- There have been reports that some RSAs do not correctly enter the refund transaction into the system. You'll need to monitor your credit card statement. If the credit does not post within the expected time frame (up to 17 days) you may need to phone again.
- Presumably the odds of experiencing this problem are much less if you phone Customer Relations (214-932-0333) instead of the Reservations Department.
- If your funds expire they can be reinstated for a fee as described below.
- Southwest says TTF expiration is the trade-off for having no change fees. Expiration dates are a major nuisance, but they certainly beat having to pay change fees.
- Carriers who charge change fees typically have a one year expiration rule as well, so this isn't really a trade-off.
- Also note that the Southwest system will sometimes "archive" Ticketless Travel Fund PNRs with "low" balances even before their actual expiration date. The exact cutoff amount for low-balance archiving is not known, but it might occur if the balance is below $10 and is likely to occur for balances below $5.00. If a low-balance PNR has been archived you will not be able to apply it to a new reservation without manual intervention. RSAs will be able to see that you have a valid PNR and possibly see the balance on it, but will probably be mystified as to why you (and they) cannot apply the balance. A lengthy wait on hold could ensue while the RSA calls in a supervisor for assistance, so explaining the archiving issue to the CSR at the outset could prove to be a time-saver. The RSA will need to enter a request for the funds to be retrieved from archives, after which you will be able to apply the funds as usual. (The expiration date will not change.) Fortunately, the retrieval of the funds from archives can be completed in a matter of minutes, once the issue has been properly identified.
Why do I have to worry about commingling funds with different expiration dates? How can I efficiently combine small amounts from several ticketless funds?
- Southwest imposed a name match restriction on ticketless travel funds (TTFs) beginning April 29, 2011. Therefore the following information applies on a per passenger basis.
- Avoiding expiration of funds is a major annoyance. When you combine funds, whether you are re-using multiple amounts or whether you are re-using one amount and adding funds, you need to be careful about funds expiration. Southwest's computer system can only carry a single expiration date for all the funds.
- Southwest has made an uncharacteristically aggressive business decision to retain the earliest funds expiration date. This means, for example, that you probably don't want to combine your $2 credit which expires in one month with $96 of new funds unless you are certain you are going to fly this trip. If you don't fly, the whole $98 will expire in one month! For this reason, you should consider keeping a spreadsheet of reservations with one column for the funds expiration date. You can check your funds expiration date by entering the record locator in the View and Apply Ticketless Funds page at southwest.com.
- The baroque rules for use of multiple sources of funds to buy a ticket are explained above. Read that section as many times as necessary until you fully comprehend the difference between "Unused Tickets" (UT) and "Leftover Electronic Ticket Funds" (LETF), two different kinds of Ticketless Travel Funds (TTF's). Unfortunately, there are no longer any shortcuts or tricks on this issue.
- If you have many TTF's with the same expiration date that you want to combine, here's one technique that can help. Book a relatively inexpensive itinerary using up to two UT's and up to four LETF's. Then use the Change Air Reservation option to add funds from up to four additional PNRs to a more expensive reservation. You can repeat this change process numerous times, perhaps indefinitely, building up to more and more expensive itineraries at each step. This mind-exploding technique is explained in this Flyertalk thread. One person managed to combine 9 record locators into a single reservation!
- If you combined two funds with different expiration dates, the new locator will carry the earlier of the two dates. Only do this if the dates are close together, the amount of the newer funds is small, or you are absolutely sure you will "consume" the funds by the earliest Ticketless Travel Funds expiry date.
What if my ticketless funds have expired?
- If your ticketless funds have expired you can call or write to Customer Relations and request a travel credit ("LUV Voucher").
- As of April 2012 a fee of $75 (formerly $50) applies for this once-free service. The fee is deducted from the balance of the expired TTF.
- The fee reportedly applies per ticket so it may be wise to consolidate all expiring funds into a single new reservation before calling to request the voucher. Of course you can only do so with funds that have not yet expired. Given the new (as of April 2011) name match restriction on ticketless travel funds (TTFs), only funds for the same passenger are combinable with each other.
- You must request the voucher within six months of the date on which the funds expired. It has been reported that you cannot request the voucher before the funds have actually expired.
- The LUV voucher will have an expiration date six months from the date on which you place the request with Customer Relations.
- In June, 2010 it was finally reported that a LUV Voucher for expired funds had been received by Email. Previously vouchers were only sent by postal service.
- Funds that have previously expired and been reissued as a LUV Voucher are not eligible to be reissued again.
- Customer Relations will research the history of the expired funds to ensure they have not been previously reissued. This process may take a few days, so don't expect to be able to use the LUV Voucher immediately.
- It is unknown whether other funds that were commingled with an expired funds voucher can be separately "reissued."
Does no-showing a flight cancel your return reservation or incur any other penalty?
- No. On Southwest, unlike other airlines, you can no-show the outbound half and still keep your return reservation. Furthermore, if you purchased a round-trip fare, you will be able to fully re-use the funds from the unused outbound half of your trip after you complete the return. Southwest has very few fares which require round trip purchase, so there usually is no need to book a round-trip when you only plan to fly one direction. After your travel dates have passed any segments that you no-showed remain usable for purchasing future travel. If you want the fastest re-usability of funds, book one-ways instead of round trips.
- If you want to promptly re-use all the funds from a reservation, cancel the reservation before the day of travel. If you wait until less than one hour before departure (and especially if you have checked in and then not phoned to remove yourself from the flight), your funds may be locked unless you phone Southwest to cancel the reservation and release them.
How can I find what dates have the lowest fares?
- Southwest's web site has a tool they call "Southwest Shortcut to Low Fares." There are two different ways to access Southwest Shortcut:
- If your travel dates are slightly flexible, begin with a regular flight search. When the search results are displayed you should see a GIF format image that you can click to bring up the fare calendar and look for lower fares close to your travel dates. The image looks like this:
- The website will not provide the Shortcut image/link if you are searching DING! fares, using a promo code, or using the change itinerary feature.
- If you do not see the Shortcut image when conducting a regular search, it may have been blocked by an ad filter. For inexplicable reasons Southwest has chosen to put some functional content images in an ads directory. You'll need to add an exception rule in your ad blocker to allow the regular and hover (underlined) versions of the images to be seen. The syntax for the Ad Block Plus extension is:
You can confirm that your filter was causing the problem and that your exception rule is working if:
- you see the Shortcut image above;
- you initially do not see any Shortcut images below item #3; and
- you see both the regular and hover (underlined "text") images below after you add the exception rule and reload this page.
- If your travel dates are very flexible you can begin your search at the the low fare finder entry page.
- If you are already visiting southwest.com, a link to the low fare finder entry page is available as the 4th item ("Low Fare Calendar") in the pop-down "Air" menu (next to "Special Offers" in the top navigation bar).
- If you are using Firefox 3.5 or later and have previously visited the lowFareFinderPage, the "awesome bar" feature lets you go there very quickly. Simply jump to the URL field (click it, or type Alt-D or Ctrl-L) and start typing something like lowf. Then select Southwest Shortcut from the drop-down menu.
- In typically ill-conceived user-interface fashion, southwest.com demands an eight-figure date input just to see fares for one of the next several months. For expediency you can use the first day of any month of interest;
- Thanks to additional bone-headed programming, scrolling forward through calendar months is cumbersome if you have requested round-trip calendars. You should either
- limit your search to one-way quotes; or
- begin your search with the latest month you are willing to travel, then scroll backwards.
- If your travel dates are slightly flexible, begin with a regular flight search. When the search results are displayed you should see a GIF format image that you can click to bring up the fare calendar and look for lower fares close to your travel dates. The image looks like this:
- Note that the "Shortcut to Low Fares" is not necessarily a shortcut to the lowest fares. Southwest sometimes offers lower fares on non-stop flights (especially on routes with new non-stop service) and the full-month search command executed by the reservation system does not handle this situation well. For details, see this informative post by SWAVictor on FlyerTalk.
- The Shortcut to Low Fares, renamed Southwest SeatFinder, works the same way to show availability over a month at a time when you are booking Standard Award travel. FlyerTalk posters have frequently reported inaccurate results using SeatFinder. According to SWAVictor's post mentioned above, however, the SeatFinder results should be accurate, but in some cases the availability reported on the calendar is on flights that are not "published, scheduled service," and such flights will not be listed on the "Select Flight" page shown after you choose your travel dates. In such cases if you act quickly and somebody doesn't beat you to it, you may be able to grab an award seat by calling Southwest's reservations line.
- Internet Specials are typically released early Tuesday morning and expire at midnight Pacific Time Thursday. You can sign up for email notification of these sales, but those emails tend to be tardy. If you want to be the early bird you should check your favorite origin-destination pair early Tuesday morning. Some Internet Specials run Friday through Monday.
- System-wide sales tend to last several weeks to a month or so, replacing Internet Specials for the duration. These typically provide the lowest cross-country fares. These sales are often accompanied by sales in specific markets, e.g., intra-California, Florida, or Chicago.
- Featured destinations are sometimes accompanied by attractive fares to that destination, but not always. If your connecting city is a Featured Destination or has extensive Internet Special fares, you can often build yourself a two-step trip at the same or lower price than a conventional routing. (Through 28-Feb-2011, this allows you to double your Rapid Rewards earnings on the trip; when RR 2.0 debuts on 01-Mar-2011 this benefit will cease to exist.) There's a risk that you may be required to pay more (the difference from full fare) if your inbound flight is delayed too much. Ambitious mileage runners sometimes book three-step trips and fly up to 10 segments per day, but if you can handle that you hardly need this FAQ.
- As long as you do not break minimum connection time rules, you can check a bag through to your destination on a two-step itinerary for which there is no published service. You will not be able to print a boarding pass for step 2 at your step 1 origin, but you can do so at the step 2 gate with no problem. Of course you could also print one from your computer if you are using online check-in.
- Another reason to book a two-step is that WN's software will not sell you an unpublished connection. You have to stand by or buy the two segments separately. You can't even book an unpublished routing on a standard award ticket (except as described here) unless no published routing exists between those cities. This is annoying, but the reason is to keep costs (agents' time spent building unpublished trips) down. It also simplifies baggage handling and reduces misdirected bags (probably the main reason to limit published connections).
- If your outbound flight date is too soon to qualify for the best fare but the return flight would qualify, consider booking the outbound as a one-way at the high fare or using a standard award (one half of an award per traveler for the one way). Book the return as a round-trip if necessary to get the low fare (which it usually is not). After you fly the return you will have a travel credit you can use later.
- For many years, the Customer Service Commitment document posted at southwest.com stated "SWA does not prohibit or penalize what is commonly known as 'hidden city' ticketing, nor does it prohibit or penalize what is commonly known as 'back to back' ticketing. 'Hidden city' and 'back to back' reservations and tickets are authorized for travel on SWA." The two-step and similar variants were perfectly OK to 'fess up to on Southwest. As of the October 3, 2011 edition (possibly earlier) of the Customer Service Commitment document, this verbiage is no longer present. However, also not present is any language signifying that Hidden City or Back To Back reservations are prohibited. So while apparently no longer explicitly allowed, neither do there seem to be any rules forbidding such practices or associated penalties for using them.
- The number of seats in the lowest fare bucket may be less than the number of people in your party, so even if not traveling alone it is usually best to do your initial search specifying only one passenger. If the fare per person goes up when you repeat the search specifying multiple travelers, you may need to split your group up onto multiple reservations. Adjust the passenger count as many times as needed to find the point at which the fare quote changes. Book the lowest fare for as many passengers as you can then book the other passengers at the higher fare. If the lower fare opens up later, you can change that reservation with no penalty.
- A more sophisticated strategy is to open two or more browsers (e.g,. Firefox and Internet Explorer) at the same time, either on the same computer or different computers. Check availability and select as many seats as you can at the low fare on each browser. Fill in all the billing information but do not click the "I Want to Purchase This Air Travel" button. When you have completed this on all the browsers, click the "I Want to Purchase This Air Travel" button on each browser within a few seconds of each other. If you are lucky, you will get more low fare seats than you could otherwise. Please post your results on the Southwest forum at flyertalk.com.
- DING! fares sometimes show availability only for one person, but FT member L Dude 7 was able to book one ticket then another at the same fare. And DING! still showed availability of a single seat. So availability may not be as limited as it appears at first.
- If you buy a nonrefundable ticket online and change your mind within 24 hours (exactly 24 hours, not one calendar day), you can phone Southwest to get a refund, or you can request a full refund online. This is a Southwest policy to mitigate Internet glitches. A few other major airlines have a similar policy, but the industry trend is toward elimination of this cancellation option.
- Southwest often matches sale fares initiated on jetblue.com or virginamerica.com by these competitors. Check their websites to determine when the sale ends, and for what dates it is offered. Southwest often ends its matching fares a few hours early, at 9 PM Pacific Time.
- Until some time in 2011 Southwest explicitly permitted hidden city and back-to-back tickets. From page 5 of Southwest's 2010 Customer Service Commitment: "Hidden city" and "back to back" reservations and tickets are authorized for travel on Southwest Airlines. It is important to note that your luggage will be checked to the final destination as shown in your reservation record.
- There has been no announcement, formally or informally, of any change in this permissive policy. The change to the Customer Service Commitment may have been motivated by a desire to avoid arguments over website limitations in creating hidden city tickets.
- Here's a hidden city example. If there is a great fare to Columbus and you want to get off at an intermediate stop or plane change, you can do that without penalty but your checked luggage will end up in Columbus.
- If you want to skip the first leg and board a later leg, that will not work, according to more than one Southwest employee: If you try to board in a thru city, the Agent will have to exchange the ticket, requiring an upgrade to full fare. If the originating city doesn't board the Customer, the downline city won't be able to either. To get even more technical, the through city won't even have access to the ticket without doing an exchange.
- Back-to-back tickets (a second round trip from B to A between the outbound and the return of the first round trip from A to B) work fine on Southwest, but there are currently very few cases in which a round-trip ticket is cheaper than two one-way tickets. Most veteran Southwest customers prefer to book only one-way tickets for greater flexibility in taking advantage of DING! sales that become available for one direction only. (DING! fares are not accessible from the Change Air Reservation page; you need to cancel and re-book.) If you only buy one-way tickets, back-to-back ticketing is moot.
Can I manually build a connection when booking online?
- You can try, and sometimes it works. If you are hoping that you'll only have to pay the lower A-C fare when booking A-B-C, be forewarned that such an endeavor is not advised for the impatient or weak of heart. The topic is certainly complex. It can, however, be broken down into several fairly straightforward rules that the reservations computer uses to decide whether to merge your two flights and charge you a single fare, or to treat them as two separate one-way flights. Unfortunately, though, even a dedicated student of the subject cannot predict what the computer will do in every situation, because Southwest does not publicly disclose any information about one crucial component of the equation (i.e., which cities are valid connection points). Thus trial and error is the only reliable approach. Feeling lucky? Follow these steps:
- On the Plan Trip page, select your originating city in the Depart column, the connection city you want to try in the Arrive column, and your destination city in the Return column.
- On the Select Flight page choose two flights that meet the minimum connection time. (The next page will show only an error message if your selections do not meet the minimum for your intermediate airport.)
- On the Price page your itinerary will be displayed as either two separate fares or one combined fare.
- Depending on current market prices, the combined fare could be less or more than the sum of the two separate fares. If any long-haul segments are included, the combined fare is likely to be lower.
- The most common reason for wanting to manually build a connection is to find a way to to book a standard award seat when there is no availability shown on the normal flight choices from origin to destination. The custom connection rules for standard awards are discussed in greater detail below. One complication in addition to those rules applies when booking paid-fare custom connection tickets: fare combinability. When you are hoping that the computer will merge two WGA fares and it doesn't cooperate, check to see what happens if you select the Anytime fares for the same flights. If the computer merges those two fares you will know that the two lowest currently available WGA fare classes are considered non-combinable.
- There is no way (at least via the website) to force the computer to choose a higher combinable WGA fare that might result in a lower total fare.
- Depending on the pricing and applicable bonus credit offers, you might prefer to have a one-way trip price as two separate fares rather than one combined fare. If the computer insists on merging the two fares against your wishes, you can book each leg as two independent one-way flights on separate PNRs.
- Be careful not to violate minimum connection times, and be aware that if your first flight is late or canceled WN will be under no obligation to reaccommodate you.
- When standard award seats are unavailable account holders can try booking an "A-B-C" one-way flight, using just half of a standard award (one award "coupon"). For example, the system might report no award seat availability for SAT-BDL, but it might show awards available for SAT-BWI and BWI-BDL. If you select two suitable matching flights you should be able to book them without being "charged" separately for each of the two flights. Understanding which flights are a suitable match can be challenging.
- In all cases you must comply with the minimum connection time for your connecting airport. The minimum varies by airport, but you don't have to know in advance what the minimums are; the system will automatically prevent connections that are too short. (Note that a phone reservation agent might be able to override the minimum connection time requirement.)
- The rest of the requirements vary depending on whether or not Southwest offers "published, scheduled service" between your origin and destination. Note that this factor is evaluated for the specific day you wish to travel. For example if WN publishes service "x6" on your route, the "no published service" rules govern your attempts to build a custom connection on Saturday, whereas the more restrictive rules apply Sunday through Friday.
- If WN does have "published, scheduled service" between your origin and final destination the following rules apply:
- If you exceed the maximum connection time (4 hours) the connection will be treated as a stopover and you will be charged two coupons.
- Your itinerary will be limited to a maximum of two flight numbers. In other words, you can always combine two direct flights, regardless how many stops each makes; if either step of the two-step contains a connection (two flight numbers), you cannot "add on" another flight for "free," even a non-stop flight.
- Before ATA ceased operations it was possible to have three flight numbers on a custom connection flight to Hawai'i (which of course required a full award each direction) without having to consume an extra award.
- You must choose a "valid" connecting city. Any city that serves as a mid-point for scheduled WN service (published or unpublished), should always be a valid connecting city. Other cities may also be allowed. Sometimes it will be obvious that a connection is not valid: LAS would not be a valid connection for service from PIT to PHL, for example, due to excessive backtracking. In other cases only trial and error will reveal whether the server considers a connection point valid.
- If WN does not have "published, scheduled service" between your origin and destination, the restrictions on booking standard awards are significantly relaxed:
- You do not have to comply with the 4-hour maximum connection time rule, even if flight pairs that do meet the rule exist. (An overnight stay, of course, will cost an additional flight coupon.)
- You may be permitted to have up to three flight numbers on your custom connection.
- You can choose any connecting city without regard to the excessive backtracking rule. For example, you could fly BWI-LAS-PHL on a single award coupon if you are able to meet the minimum connection time. A routing such as SAN-LAS-SNA would also be treated as a valid single-coupon itinerary. So what about planning a day trip to Vegas by flying OAK-LAS-SFO and using public transportation to and/or from the Bay Area airports? Sorry, that won't work. Because OAK and SFO are co-terminals, the booking system recognizes that you are building a round trip itinerary, which requires two award coupons.
- If WN does have "published, scheduled service" between your origin and final destination the following rules apply:
What is DING! and how can I make best use of it?
- DING! is a computer program that provides real-time notification of fare sales. You can download a copy at http://www.southwest.com/ding/ for Windows or Mac.
- When you register, be sure to enter your Rapid Rewards number. You only get that one chance to do so. There was a 2-credit bonus for installing DING! by March 15, 2005, and a second bonus period in June 2005, but no one has reported getting any bonus credit since then.
- Originally DING! sales tended to appear once or twice per day. Until early 2008 each sale tended to last for only several hours. Southwest then started offering fewer DING! specials (less than one new offer per day) but with longer purchase windows (somewhat more than 24 hours). After several weeks the longer window DING! offers were discontinued.
- For the first few years in the life of DING!, specials between any given pair of cities would repeat frequently. If you missed a particular sale, that market would likely go back on sale within a week or two; the next sale fare may be the same but it could be higher or lower. That no longer seems to be the case.
- DING! has exhibited several different "personalities" during its existence -- understandably so, given that it is relatively new and still (presumably) an experimental product. As an example of the varied nature of DING!, there have been periods of frequent good deals and periods of very few good deals. As of summer 2008 DING! appeared to have decided it wanted to stick with the "relatively few good deals" persona.
- For the first year of so of its operation, DING! offered the same list of sales to all users. It was a long, long list. Once a month or so DING! would offer different sales to users depending on the user's home airport. In 2006, DING! was reconfigured to allow users to select up to 10 airports for sale notification. DING! now notifies you of sales for flights departing from the airports on your list. This makes the list shorter and more relevant.
- You will not be notified if there is a one-way DING! fare inbound to an airport on your list without a corresponding outbound special -- although that rarely happens. Inbound and outbound DING! fares and associated day-of-week restrictions, however, sometimes differ. For these reasons, when you have a specific destination in mind it can be useful to (temporarily) add that destination to your registered airports list.
- DING! has the latent capability to target offerings to individual users. This is because DING! identifies your specific installation when it polls Southwest's server every half-hour for sale headlines.
- Here's how DING! works, as related by FT member curbcrusher. The DING! application polls the WN server every 30 minutes for new offers. When a new offer is available, its details (start and stop time, URL, etc.) are downloaded (pulled) by the application and you are DING!'d when the start time rolls around. When you click the offer, you are then sent to the URL from the offer detail download.
- DING! will poll the WN server immediately upon loading (booting your computer or restarting the application). If the poll attempt was successful, the bottom left of the DING! window will read "Ready." "Connect Now" (available if you right-click on the tail in your system tray) will be grayed out. If it was unsuccessful, the tail will be covered by a red exclamation mark and the bottom left will read "Communication Error" and "Connect Now" will be enabled. If this happens, make sure Internet Explorer is not set to "Work Offline" (look in the File menu) and that you can reach the Internet through your browser. If you can, right-click the DING! icon in the system tray and then click "Connect Now." If the poll is successful the red exclamation will disappear almost immediately.
How can I access DING! sales for cities not on my list?
- You might think that you need to add the new cities to your list, but actually you don't. The reservation process at southwest.com passes through several pages: Plan Trip, Select Flight, Price, Purchase, and Booked. This path is shown in an orange and gray line near the top of each page, with the current step highlighted in red. Once you get to the Select Flight Page for a DING! sale offering, FT member curbcrusher has discovered that you can back out by clicking "PLAN TRIP" and book any DING! fare for any city pair you like.
How can I use DING! on a PC at work where I cannot install software?
- If you are able to install DING! on at least one Windows or Mac computer (at home, for example), you can create a "portable DING! URL" that you can use to view your DING! offers on a different computer. See the portable DING! URL instructions on FlyerTalk for more information. Now you never need to miss a DING! sale!
- You can also use your portable DING! URL on other non-supported platforms, for example your Linux PC or netbook, or a Blackberry or other web-enabled device. Again, you must first install DING! on a Windows or Mac computer to be able to create the portable DING! URL.
- Southwest now has an iPhone app that includes DING!
Which airports are considered co-terminals?
For "roundtrip required" fares, the following airports are considered co-terminals:
- BWI/IAD (and DCA while the ATA codeshare existed)
- LGA/ISP (usually)
Because Southwest normally only has "roundtrip required" fares in connection with an occasional short-term promotion, the co-terminal rule is rarely relevant. Furthermore, promotions are generally only valid for online purchases. Unfortunately southwest.com can only book A-B-C open jaw itineraries, not A-B/C-A open jaws. While phone reservation agents can book A-B/C-A itineraries, they generally cannot book promotional fares. The end result is that during a promotion like the 50% off Denver special if you want to fly, say, DEN-OAK/SFO-DEN, you probably won't be able to use the 50% discount promotion unless you are willing to book back-to-back fares and reuse the leftover funds later. In other words, the co-terminal rule is typically only useful if you are originating and terminating at one of the co-terminals, not if you are traveling to an area that has co-terminal airports.
Most of the Southwest co-terminal airports are listed twice in the cities/airports lists on the southwest.com booking page under an "area" heading (e.g., [Los Angeles Area:] for the four airports near LA.) PBI, a co-terminal for FLL, however, is not listed in the peculiar [Miami Area] "grouping", which contains just the single airport FLL. If you are traveling to or from a multi-airport [Area] group, the "Modify Your Search" portion of the Select Flight page will present a drop down box allowing you to modify your search to any of the co-terminal airports, so you don't have to back up to modify and resubmit your search. In the case of PBI and FLL, the drop down box will contain only FLL.
Note: SAT-AUS and SAN-SNA are not co-terminals, even though the distance between co-terminals PVD and MHT is about 25% greater than the distance between SAT and AUS, and about 10% greater than the distance between SAN and SNA. Similarly, TPA and MCO, which are marginally closer than PVD and MHT also are not co-terminals.
Can I buy a senior fare or youth fare online? Why would I want to buy one of these when other fares are lower?
- You can purchase a senior fare online by specifying the number of seniors in the "How many are traveling?" section of the PLAN TRIP page.
- Youth fares cannot be purchased online.
- The advantage of a Senior and Youth fares is that they are fully refundable, have no advance purchase requirement, and do not require an upgrade to full fare for standby. Senior and Youth fare seats are, however, capacity-controlled.
- Seniors and youths are both allowed to travel on WGA fares, which are usually less expensive than Senior or Youth fares. The WGA fares of course lack the advantages listed above.
- Senior and youth fares, unfortunately, earn RR points at the same 6x rate as WGA fares.
- If you have previously mailed in proof of your age as described at http://www.southwest.com/html/customer-service/unique-travel-needs/seniors/index-pol.html or http://www.southwest.com/html/customer-service/family/children-pol.html you will have the ability to check in online with a senior or youth fare ticket. Otherwise you are likely to get the dreaded "C" at the airport.
What's all this I hear about "Customers of Size" having to purchase a second seat?
- Many details of the CoS policy are discussed in Q&A form at: http://www.southwest.com/html/customer-service/faqs.html?topic=extra_seat_policy.
- You can buy the second seat online, as described on blogsouthwest.com: Just buy the first ticket with your full name and second with your first initial and last name. Then, after you get back from your trip, you can call Customer Relations at 214 792-4223 and request a refund on the second seat if the flight wasn't oversold. It's a very easy process.
- Like other idiosyncratic Southwest policies, this one is annoying if you fight it and remarkably friendly if you instead learn how to work the system. Specifically, if you go ahead and purchase the extra seat you will get refunds most of the time and you will be seated comfortably all the time. You qualify for a refund if the flight is not oversold, and very few flights are oversold. Apparently, filling the flight with standbys does NOT count as an oversell, so you still get a refund then.
- FT member MarshB reports: "In the past two years I've flown no less than 100 segments and I have received a refund 100% of the time. Call 214-932-0333. The agent will look up the flights on the spot and get the credit process started."
- If you have earned a Companion Pass, you can name yourself as the Companion so your second seat is always free except for the security fee. This is a special privilege for Customers of Size. It is not permitted if you are not large enough to require a second seat.
How do I use an electronic travel voucher (LUV voucher)?
- Southwest no longer issues paper travel vouchers, which required the person named on the voucher to go to the airport in person. Electronic vouchers work like Southwest gift cards, entering the voucher number and code when purchasing a ticket.
- The traveler name does not need to match the holder of the travel voucher.
I can't change my reservation online. Why is that?
- The most common cause is that the reservation was made, or has been modified by, a Reservation Sales Agent (i.e., over the phone). Once a reservation has been made or changed by an RSA, all further changes to that reservation can only be done by an RSA. FT member SWAVictor explains "This is because there are certain scenarios that the website is not currently programmed to understand (ie: circle trips, multi-city, and special fares - infant, child, youth, military, government, etc). To protect the website from getting into a state that it cannot handle, we simply check the history of the pnr and stop you if an offline modification has been made."
- The Change Reservation system formerly was unavailable each night from approximately midnight through 2:30am (Central Time). Note: this is not the same outage as the former (pre-May 2009) view/apply TTF system outage. This outage appears to have been eliminated.
- The Change Reservation feature sometimes works on an award or companion reservation and sometimes it doesn't. This behavior is mysterious. When it happens, the only solution is make the change by phone, or cancel and make a new reservation.
- You should be able to make as many changes as you like prior to any travel occurring. This is not a guarantee, just a statement of how it is supposed to work.
- Once you have flown the outbound you can make only one change to the return online. This is due to system limitations. FT member SWAVictor says "Trying to explain why this is the case will result in me getting a migraine, and you not really having any better understanding of why. It has something to do with our websites parsers trying to reconcile a new one-way farestore with the original roundtrip."
- This is another reason that it's advantageous to book your trips, including award travel, as one-ways. You will be able to change your trips online as many times as you want to (provided you don't bump into the mysterious behavior cited above).
- If the same fare or award seat is still available, you can cancel the reservation and book a replacement online using the funds from the old reservation.
Differences between Southwest and other airlines
Why doesn't Southwest offer assigned seats?
- Gate agents at legacy carriers seem to spend most of their time dealing with seat assignments, first-class upgrades, and standby requests. Southwest eliminates the first two and gets extra revenue for doing the third one (full-fare only). Eliminating assigned seats also provides an incentive to show up early rather than crush the gate counter at the last minute.
- The main check-in lines (for passengers with baggage) move MUCH faster because there is no need to choose a seat. Southwest's lines move at least twice as fast as any other airline's. Curbside check-in lines may look shorter but the longer lines inside are likely to serve you more quickly.
- Seat assignments on multiple-stop flights are a challenge for the airline to deal with. If you assign seats based on seats open for both flights, very quickly all the seats are "taken", even though there are seats open for both flights, just not the same ones. If you have different seat assignments, you have to get up and move to the other seat during the layover. With a 25 or 30 minute turn, there isn't much time for a bunch of people to play musical chairs between deplaning and boarding.
- Southwest's quick turn around system reduces costs and therefore fares. For a long time this boarding process was an undesirable experience. However, on November 8, 2007 Southwest changed to the letter+number system that eliminates any need to stand in line. Your boarding pass letter and number hold your place for you.
- Many WN passengers have learned how to play the open seating game, and strenuously objected to a change to assigned seating. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Why doesn't Southwest interline with other carriers?
- It comes down to cost. Interlining also adds complexity, and therefore even more cost, to operations. Southwest certainly thought long and hard about costs before committing to the interlining agreement with the now-defunct ATA.
- In 1997 Southwest began an interlining partnership with Icelandair that lasted a few years, allowing connections at BWI, probably with Southwest handling all the ground operations.
- Interlining with one airline at a handful of airports is hard enough; trading baggage with multiple airlines systemwide makes rapid connections almost impossible. Ticketing software would need to be further upgraded, and the returns from all this investment would probably not even cover the additional costs. Interlining is a great feature of the legacy airline system, but one that adds more cost than most customers want to pay.
- On July 8, 2008, Southwest announced "its intention to build a codeshare partnership" with Canada's WestJet, an airline that extensively copied the Southwest model. This agreement was canceled on April 17, 2010. Southwest has operating authority to fly to Canada should it choose to do so.
- On November 10,2008, Southwest announced "its intention to build a codeshare partnership with Mexican carrier Volaris," a low-cost airline that began operations in February, 2006. The partnership details were announced on October 28, 2010. Baggage will be transferred and ticket purchases can be done in one transaction, although one tickets will be issued for each airline.
- Southwest has also repeatedly stated that it is working on future codeshare arrangements with other carriers for additional International destinations.
What are the standby rules? When do I have to pay extra to standby for a different flight, and why?
- Standbys can be cleared starting 10 minutes before scheduled departure time. That means you are taking a chance of losing your seat if you show up 2 or 3 minutes before flight time. If you get to the gate before all the seats are gone, the gate agent will give you a boarding pass ahead of any remaining standbys. If not, you are out of luck.
- Internet check-in has improved this situation. Once you have a boarding pass, your seat is held until the gate agent removes you from the flight (reversing your check-in). This gives you a few extra minutes before you lose your seat.
- Note that if the flight is delayed and you decide to delay your arrival at the gate correspondingly, you are risking losing your seat unless you already have a boarding pass. Sometimes the gate agents will clear standbys 10 minutes before scheduled departure, and sometimes they will wait until shortly before the actual departure. If you have a boarding pass, you are safe until boarding is complete and the gate agent determines that you have not boarded. Online check-in saves the day again!
- To standby for a different flight, you will have to pay the difference between what you already paid and the full fare that a walk-up passenger would pay. Once you pay up, you are in the same boat as a walk-up passenger. In particular if the normal departure time is less than an hour away, you cannot buy a confirmed seat: not on the phone, by Internet, or in person. You can only standby. But if the flight is not overbooked, the gate agent will probably give you a boarding pass immediately anyway. Otherwise you have to wait until they clear standbys starting 10 minutes before departure.
- There are two exceptions to the requirement to pay full fare to standby:
- Your original flight is delayed 30 minutes or more. You can often use this excuse when the delay is upstream (at the preceding airport), even if the delay at my airport is not yet posted for your flight.
- You miss your original flight by 2 hours or less. You may be able to stretch this time limit a bit, but that would be at the discretion of the gate agent. This is called the "flat tire" rule.
- Regardless of whether or not you pay the full fare on an outbound flight, you get to keep any discount fare you have on your future return flight.
- Of all the differences between Southwest and the other majors, charging for standby is one that makes the least sense to most people. But Southwest is just thinking ahead to the consequences. If you were able to standby free for any earlier flight, you would book the Internet Special for the last flight of the day but show up for the peak hour flight. What would be the results?
- The peak flight would have far more standbys than could be accommodated. Currently almost all standbys get on the first or second flight. With free standby, there would be chronic huge wait lists. At least until...
- Southwest would stop selling cheap seats for any flights on peak travel days. Then...
- Flights at off-peak times on peak days would have many empty seats, representing lost revenue relative to the current rules.
- This is why changing this seemingly bizarre policy would be a lose-lose proposition. The only reason the other airlines can allow standby for free is that their fares are essentially the same for all times of the day. Southwest gets more revenue and a higher load factor its way, keeping average prices down.
- If the low fare you want is available both earlier and later than your desired flight time, book the earlier time. If you miss the flight you booked by less than 2 hours, you will be able to standby and keep your low fare.
- You can easily book a Rapid Rewards award reservation on the SWA website with a 3 to 3.5 hour connection. Although it won't be a "published" connection, you can use all 3 columns on the reservation page (Depart, Arrive, and Return) to book this via www.southwest.com as explained above. Combine this with the "flat tire" rule and you might be able to get a layover of up to 6 hours.
- Standbys are normally accommodated first-come, first-served. The gate agent may, however, give priority to people for whom the current flight is the only way to make a connection to their destination over people who can get where they're going on a later flight. Beginning March 1, 2011, A-List Preferred members and A-List members, in that order, will have standby priority over other passengers.
Why doesn't Southwest allow me to book 11 months ahead like the other majors do?
- By limiting its schedule horizon, Southwest virtually eliminates the need to cancel or reschedule flights before the date of travel. Those changes cost the other airlines a lot of money to handle, and they annoy customers. Once Southwest publishes a schedule, it is nearly cast in stone. Even after the 2001 terrorist attacks, Southwest did not immediately drop flights as the other majors did.
Why is there no gate number on my boarding pass?
- As of May 2006, gate assignments are shown on boarding passes printed at airport kiosks, but not those printed at home or at the counter where an agent is supposed to tell you the gate number. All boarding passes now show the scheduled departure time.
What is the Wright Amendment? What is (or was) the Texas two-step?
- When Southwest started interstate service from Love Field in Dallas, the DFW people had a cow. The Wright Amendment was a compromise, prohibiting most long-distance commercial flights from Love Field but allowing the kind of short-haul flights that Southwest was known for during its early days. See http://www.fact-index.com/l/lo/love_field.html for more.
- Because of Wright Amendment restrictions in effect before December 2006, travelers who wished to buy tickets from Dallas to points beyond the bordering states or Mississippi or Alabama (added by the Shelby amendment) had to purchase two trips: one to the border state or Houston Hobby and another between there and the actual destination. This was the Texas two-step. For passengers checking bags, this was a major pain.
- As described at http://www.setlovefree.com the major parties (Southwest, American, the Dallas airports, and local government) negotiated a compromise in 2006. Congress enacted it into law, and Southwest Airlines began offering through ticketing from Love Field on October 19, 2006.
- On March 11, 2007, Southwest Airlines began additional service to cities that were previously restricted by the Wright Amendment, for a total of 43 cities beyond the Wright Amendment area. The new schedule offers additional one-stop service to destinations such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Baltimore, Orlando, and Tampa.
- Under the new law, the Wright restrictions disappear in 2014.
Why doesn't Southwest fly to Hawai'i?
- WN cannot afford the costs that a Hawai'i operation would bring under their current cost model, unless they flew something like 40 flights per day there, which is not realistic. Another problem with Hawai'i is that you need heavy over-water equipment (ETOPS and life rafts). WN wants all of its planes available for use anywhere in the system.
- The biggest problem with Hawai'i is logistics: you need enough flights to justify having a maintenance base and other ground staff. Because of its isolation, Hawai'i cannot easily accommodate flights spread out over the day. (737s can reach Hawai'i from only a limited subset of current Southwest cities.) Another challenge from a business perspective is the high fraction of leisure vs. business travelers. But that didn't keep WN out of Orlando.
- Southwest generally doesn't add airports unless they can justify at least 10 flights a day from that airport, spread over several destinations, typically a mix of the closest ones outside of 3 hour driving time and one or more of their semi-hubs (Baltimore, Chicago, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orlando, etc). So it's unrealistic to just look at whether Southwest could fly to somewhere from Hawai'i or Alaska, but whether they could fly often enough to enough different destinations from there to make starting service there (on their point-to-point model) practical.
- Southwest's partnership with the now-defunct ATA provided connecting service to Hawai'i. Lack of awards to Hawai'i was a deal-breaker to a significant percentage of frequent fliers. The new program's option to redeem points for off-network travel at approximately 1 cent per point addresses this in a way that is inferior to other airlines' capacity-controlled awards but probably better than their double mileage awards.
Why doesn't Southwest fly red-eyes?
- We can only speculate. Perhaps demand is not adequate, or long overnight flights do not fit Southwest's business model. Also, maintenance planning is easier when aircraft have several hours of down time each night.
Why doesn't Southwest offer an airline lounge?
- There would probably be insufficient demand for a Southwest airport club. Airside space is expensive, and Southwest's business travelers spend very little time at the airport unless there is a flight delay. With Internet check-in, there is no need to get to the airport an hour early, even for a long-haul flight.
Is assigned seating in our future?
- Southwest has decided to retain open seating for the foreseeable future. On November 8, 2007, Southwest announced a priority boarding system in an attempt to provide better seating for its frequent flyers and for premium farecustomers.
- Southwest seriously considered implementing some form of assigned seating. At http://blog.southwest.com/2006/06/21/a-message-from-our-ceo-open-season-on-assigned-seating/ you can read Gary Kelly's musings and hundreds of customer comments. FTers were fairly confident that Southwest would not change to first-come, first-served assignment of seats months ahead of travel. Open seating has a major advantage for full-fare business travelers who book within a few days of travel: they have the same opportunity as everyone else to get a good seat.
- The implementation challenges of assigned seating are numerous, including handling connecting flights and irregular operations (delays and cancellations). Also, assigned seating practically forces an airline to implement an Elite status program for its best customers so that they can depend on getting a good seat.
Are there other differences I should know about?
- Southwest does not permit "last flight in, first flight out" overnight connections.
- As of Friday, May 29, 2009, Small Pets are allowed on Southwest. The cat or dog must be small enough to fit in a carrier below the seat in front of you, and must be vaccinated.
Tips for Flying on Southwest
Before you leave for the Airport
How can I reach Rapid Rewards by telephone? Is there an elite number?
- If you need to phone SWA reservations, call 1-800-248-4377. This is the Rapid Rewards priority phone number. That puts your call in line ahead of everyone who calls 1-800-IFLYSWA. You will get a real human being real fast. Southwest long ago made a corporate decision not to use voice response systems that so many us find annoying. If the phone lines are extraordinarily busy, you may be offered the option to have Southwest call you back. That option reportedly works quite well.
- As of March 1, 2011, A-List members are allowed to use an exclusive A-List phone number. A-List Preferred members have another exclusive phone number with higher priority.
- There is a voice response system for Rapid Rewards at 1-800-445-5764. The voice response system is useful if you are on the road without Internet access, or if you want to check the number of credits you have accumulated toward your initial or renewal Companion Pass.
- If you need to talk to a human at Rapid Rewards, the 800 number no longer works. You have to phone 1-214-932-0333 and press 2 at the prompt for Customer Relations and Rapid Rewards. For Refunds, call the same 1-214-792-4223, and press 1 at the prompt.
What is Early Bird Check In?
- Early Bird Check In (EBCI) is a new serivce introduced in late summer of 2009. For a $12.50 fee per one-way flight, you can be automatically checked-in at 36 hours before your scheduled departure. Southwest is marketing this as a way to avoid having to check in on your computer or mobile device, so no need to be waiting for the T-24 mark to check in.
- EBCI does not guarantee you a low boarding number. Southwest is not limiting the number of EBCI purchases per flight. It is therefore theoretically possible that every person on the flight could purchase EBCI.
- EBCI can be purchased at the time of booking, or any time up to 25 hours before your flight (via the Travel Tools link on Southwest.com). If you purchase EBCI between 36 and 25 hours before your flight, your Boarding Position will be assigned at T-25
- All A-List passengers will be checked in before EBCI passengers. Then all EBCI passengers who bought an Anytime fare will be checked in, in order of who purchased EBCI first. Finally, EBCI passengers who bought a Wanna Get Away or DING! fare will be checked in, in order of who purchased EBCI first.
- The fee is non-refundable. You cannot get the $12.50 back if you are unhappy with the Boarding Position you were given, nor if you decide to cancel, or no-show your flight. If you decide to change your flight (at least 25 hours before original departure) to a flight (at least 25 hours in the future) with the same confirmation number, the EBCI fee will transfer to the new flight, but you will not retain the same boarding position as you would have for the original flight.
- The EBCI fee must be paid with a Credit Card. Southwest Ticketless Travel Funds are not accepted.
What determines what boarding letter I get? How do I get an "A"?
- "A" boarding passes are given to all BS passengers (maximum of 15 per flight leg) plus the next 45 seats to successfully check in (whether manually or via the automatic check in for "A-Listers" and EBCI passengers).
- EBCI purchasers and A-Listers who were automatically checked in at the 1.5 day mark and all BS passengers can, therefore, completely skip the race to complete OLCI as soon as possible.
- If Southwest expects the flight to have a high number of through passengers, Business Select will not be offered and there will be 60 A's available for A-list, EBCI, and OLCI passengers.
- Note that a customer of size who has pre-purchased two seats on a single PNR consumes two boarding passes when checking in.
- The next 60 seatholders receive a "B" boarding pass, and the remainder (if any) receive a "C".
- Each boarding pass shows your check-in sequence number, up to 137 (the number of seats on all but the oldest Southwest airplanes) in addition to the letter.
- If a non-BS boarding pass holder is removed from the flight (e.g., he cancels his BP or ticket, or catches an earlier flight), that sequence number is put back in the pool. If you happen to be the next passenger to check in, you may draw an "A" or "B" even though the person ahead of you got a "C".
- If you have a ticketless reservation, whether paid or using a Rapid Rewards award, you can print your own boarding pass at southwest.com starting at your departure time on the day before your flight. That normally equates to "24 hours before departure," but it may be 23 or 25 hours if you are flying on the first day that DST begins or ends. (Before November 9, 2005, OLCI opened at 12:00:01am on the date of your flight, in the departure time zone.)
- You are most likely get an "A" boarding pass if you complete OLCI reasonably promptly (with the possible exceptions of Orlando and Las Vegas, which have plenty of larger groups, and sold-out holiday flights). With the advent of EBCI, however, this is far from a guarantee.
- You get boarding passes for all your outbound segments when you check in, whether online, at a kiosk, or at a counter.
- Note that you cannot check in online later than 60 minutes before your scheduled flight time!
- If you don't have a printer, never fear: you can get a replacement boarding pass at a kiosk or from any counter agent at the airport and it will still have the same letter and sequence number, with an "r" appended. If you plan to do this, you may wish to print a Security Document the day before travel so that you may get your replacement boarding pass beyond the security checkpoint to avoid the baggage check-in line. Ability to print a replacement boarding pass at the airport kiosks was available system-wide as of March 30, 2005.
- If you want to check in at the earliest possible moment, you can create a URL to take you directly to the online check-in form. Just right-click the URL below to copy it, paste it into the address line of your browser, edit the record locator and names, then press enter.
- You can even bookmark the link if you like (after following the above steps, or by right-clicking on the link and editing the bookmark after saving it). You can test your pre-built URL by using it ahead of time:
- If you are early you will see the big red "Oops!" message page with a "too soon or too late" error and (SW900001) at the end of the two paragraphs of explanatory text.
- If you entered the name or PNR incorrectly you will receive the big red "Oops!" message page with a "name mismatch" error and (SW301007) at the end of the single paragraph of text. If this happens be sure to fix your URL before your check in window opens!
- Once you have a valid OLCI URL, either use it only if you are within 15 minutes of the correct T-24 check-in time (unless you can refresh the page (by pressing F5 or ctrl-R, or using a browser utility) every 10 minutes or so to keep the server session active). When T-24 strikes, refresh the page to display the OLCI form; check the box by each passenger's name (or click the "select all" link, if present), and click "Submit" to secure your boarding position(s). Note that web site changes have made the former Back button method unnecessary, so the former one second (five or take) advantage of this pre-built URL technique has been diminished.
- If you have multiple passengers traveling on separate PNRs, you'll need to enter the pre-built URLs in different browsers (not just different browser tabs/windows), or enter the second and subsequent URLs in a new tab/window without pressing enter until after completing OLCI for each prior passenger.
- After a late May, 2009 overhaul of m.southwest.com, it appears there is no longer a mobile phone equivalent for the above link. As with the later revision of the main southwest.com OLCI page, submitting the form early leaves the OLCI form visible with the data fields intact, so you can just "click" the form button to retry.
- According to a FT post by SWAVictor, iPhone users were better off using the full version of southwest.com instead of m.southwest.com when using the "web form" for OLCI. That may no longer be true in light of the May, 2009 site overhaul. If you want to pre-build the OLCI URL your only choice is to use the link for the full version of the site. Or just use the new Southwest Airlines iPhone App.
- Kiosks at the airport can print your boarding pass any time you are eligible for online check-in, even the day before your flight. If you are passing through the departure airport early in the day, for example on the outbound leg of a day trip, stopping by the kiosk to get your evening boarding pass is a great way to get an A. Another trick is to stop off at the kiosk before parking your car. Kiosks can reprint your boarding pass right up until the flight time, and perhaps later. If you have not yet checked in online or otherwise, the kiosk will not give you a boarding pass later than 20 minutes before the originally scheduled departure time.
- You cannot, however, check bags at the kiosk more than four hours before your scheduled departure.
- If you are checking in for a flight out of a focus city (what everyone except Southwest calls a hub), be aware that connecting passengers have first shot at the A's. Why? Their 24-hour window for online check-in is based on the departure time of their first flight, probably an hour or two before your flight departs.
- If you have a same day round trip booked as such (on one record locator), online check is initially available for only your outbound flight(s). However you can check in online again 24 hours before your return flight and get those boarding passes, provided that you avoid the blocked time starting one hour before the original departure and ending some time after that flight lands.
- If you have a same day return booked as a separate reservation, you can check in online separately for the outbound and the return. This is another advantage of booking one-way trips rather than round-trips. If you booked a same day round trip, just stop at the customer service counter near the gates when you arrive at your destination and pick up your return boarding pass. Try a kiosk if you like, but it may not give you the return boarding pass if your outbound flight was short. The kiosk may tell you that you have already checked in for your outbound flight, and not give you the option to check in for the return.
- If your reservation is for more than one person, you are now able to print the boarding passes online. The former workaround of phoning SWA to have the reservation split into two (or more) records is no longer necessary.
- If you have been tagged for random secondary security screening, you will not be able to check in online or print a security document, and Southwest will not be able to tell you what the problem is.
- If your ticket requires that you are a certain age (senior fare, youth fare), you may not be eligible to check in online. Proof of age is required before check-in. Once Southwest has verified your date of birth as described in the next paragraph you'll be eligible for online check-in from the convenience of your own home, as long as you have entered your Rapid Rewards account number into the reservation.
- To get your date of birth verified and to take advantage of these new enhancements on future reservations, submit a copy of your state's official drivers license or other government-issued identification indicating your date of birth along with your Rapid Rewards account number to: Southwest Airlines Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards, P.O. Box 36662, Dallas, TX 75235. Please allow 4-6 weeks for age verification. For verification status, please log in to your MySouthwest account and visit "account details" to confirm whether verification has been completed. You will be notified by letter once the verification process is complete.
How can I estimate how long the security lines will be?
- If it's a holiday peak travel day, you just have to play it safe and allow extra time. If it's a normal day, consult the TSA's Waiting Time estimator, which will be reasonably accurate.
- Check Southwest's schedule to see when the next flights are to your destination. Check seat availability by searching for the maximum of 8 seats on the reservations pages. If seats are open, the flat tire" rule (see numbered item 2) will allow you to standby for those flights. Southwest's high-frequency service between some city pairs limits your risk, allowing you to cut it close when catching your flight.
When there is a flight delay, the departure status rarely lists the delay before I leave for the airport. How can I better determine whether my flight will actually be delayed? Also, how can I determine the intermediate stops of a particular flight?
- The Flight Status information page at southwest.com has been overhauled, making it possible to request information for the previous day. Unfortunately the new page no longer allows user to to track an arriving flight without knowing what city it is coming from. For that functionality you need to use other web sites.
- On http://www.flightaware.com you can enter Southwest and the flight number to see that flight's entire itinerary over the past few days. Note that the segments read upward; that is, the last segment is at the top. It takes some interpretation to see that a flight was diverted on a previous day. Note that Saturday schedules are completely different from other days.
- You can also search http://www.flightarrivals.com . You can enter a flight number and see its full itinerary. If you want to know on an earlier day whether the flight is originating or continuing (which could influence your boarding strategy), you'll need to check this on a day when the flight follows the same schedule as on the day of travel, and while that flight is in progress or close to it. That is, if you're flying on a Saturday morning, you may need to search this on a Saturday morning.
- http://www.flightstats.com has an iPod/iPhone-friendly interface. If you aren't taking a continuing flight, you can use flight status by airport to see what flight is arriving at the gate from which your flight departs, and see if that flight shows a delay.
- If you're interested in seeing the intermediate stops for a future date, possibly after a schedule change, you can go to http://www.southwest.com/cgi-bin/requestSchedule (you can also get there from southwest.com, Travel Tools, Schedules), select Download Schedules for the city in question, then the date range for the date that interests you. You get all the flights to and from that airport; you can either look it over for the flight number, or do a search in the PDF reader for the flight number. You can also use this to determine if the flight is continuing from someplace else.
- flightlookup.com redirects to http://www.eskyguide.com , another place to look up itineraries of flights on future dates.
- http://info.flightmapper.net/search : enter Southwest and the flight number. The first results page shows listings for that flight number on all dates, but you can fill in the date that interests you in Select Flight Date. That will give you the routing of that flight for that date.
What if my flight is canceled?
- If you signed up for phone or text notification of changes when you made the reservation, you will likely get a message containing a phone number to call for rebooking. You may be able to avoid that wait by going to southwest.com/rebook or southwest.com/rebook2 and entering your reservation information. If your flight has been designated for free rebooking due to cancellation, storm activity, or other disruption, the web page will offer you a one-time opportunity to rebook your flight within a specified date range with no additional charge. If your new flight is less than 36 hours in the future, you will lose your A-List automatic check-in. If it's less than 30 hours in the future, you will lose Early Bird check-in if you paid for it on the original flight. There appears to be no way around these limitations short of paying full price for Business Select.
Where can I get electronic and paper timetables?
- Until June 2009, Southwest was perhaps the only major US airline still publishing paper timetables. These were typically available at ticket counters and near the gates. In July 2009, Southwest announced that they would no longer publish paper timetables, because few customers were still using them and because the timetable book had grown rather large (the June 28, 2009 flight schedule had 261 pages.)
- For electronic timetables in pdf format, go to http://www.southwest.com/cgi-bin/requestSchedule and click Retrieve Schedule, either using the default of "--Retrieve All Cities--" or after selecting a single city of interest.
Where can I find official airline rules?
- Travel policies are available at http://www.southwest.com/assets/pdfs/corporate-commitments/contract-of-carriage.pdf (Contract of Carriage) and http://www.southwest.com/assets/pdfs/corporate-commitments/customer-service-commitment.pdf (Customer Service Commitment)
What services are available for children?
- Southwest's policies are described at http://www.southwest.com/travel_center/children.html and they are similar to those of other airlines.
- The fee for unaccompanied minors, age 5 to 11, increased to $50 (from $25) on April 23, 2010.
At the airport
What are Fly By Lanes?
- Fly By Lanes are Southwest's version of priority security screening lanes for elite program members. They were introduced in October 2008. Show your orange A-List card or your Business Select boarding pass and you can bypass a long screening line.
- Southwest's 2007 and 2008 changes to boarding and security screening make it clear that Southwest wishes to reward paid travel, just as every other airline's elite program does. Companion Pass holders who earned their passes through massive credit card purchases or points transfers are not eligible for these benefits.
- Travel companions, including designated CP companions, are not eligible to use Fly By Lanes. You can try it, but don't be surprised if it doesn't work.
- Here is the city by city status, compiled by FT member 6Strong:
- MDW: Open for use, sometimes monitored, but not valuable as a time saver as there are many places for general public to cut in line.
- BWI: Lanes almost always open and monitored by TSA, who actively ask to see A-List card or Business Select boarding pass. Concourses A&B. Great time saver.
- LAS: Located at old C gate and saves lots of time; though typically not monitored.
- SAN: Monitored. It's on the right side of the checkpoint.
- DAL: Monitored and great time saver.
- OAK: Monitored. Enter on the right. Count the number of TSA ID checkers before choosing your line: Sometimes A-list shares a checker with the right non-status lane. In those cases the left non-status lane can be your fastest option.
- LAX: Enforced at all times. Show your A-List or BS info at the top of the escalator for access to the right lane.
- PHX: Sometimes monitored, shorter line than the regular security line in peak times
- MCO: No Fly By Lane
- SMF: Lane exists, but seldom enough traffic for it to save any time.
- JAX: No Fly By Lane
- BNA: No Fly By Lane
- SEA: Monitored by Horizon Air agents. Works great. It's at the main checkpoint.
- MCI:Lane exists, contractor staffed, but cards aren't ever checked.
- STL: Not monitored. It's on the right side of the checkpoint lane by the WN counters. It has it's own WTMD lane, too.
- ABQ: Not monitored.
- SLC: Shared with other elite programs, monitored by TSA. WN signage identifying lane is at bottom of sign for elite/first class lane.
- DEN:Shared lane with other airlines. Staffed by TSA. Card required for entry. Great time saver.
- PHL: Shared lane with other airlines on the far left of security checkpoint.
- MHT: No Fly By Lane
- PIT: shared with other airlines. No WN staffing and no TSA monitoring. No benefit using this lane.
- PDX: Monitored by QX folks. You can also use the D/E checkpoint on the other side of the airport and use that elite line. It's usually a lot faster.
- TUS: Monitored by the TSA. Can clear security in under a minute when the lines are long in the early morning. Excellent addition.
- ELP: Monitored by TSA. Use the elevator to get upstairs if the ID check line is long.
- SFO: Intermittently open. It dumps you into the stroller/family line. Will help when ID check lines are long.
- SNA: Monitored by the TSA. Works great. Sometimes the other checkpoint by the AS counter is quieter.
- FLL: Always monitored by TSA, always shorter.
- BOS: No Fly By Lane (none needed at this time).
- ONT - Monitored by a TSA ID checker. No signage as a FlyBy.
- SJC - shared Lane with shortcuts on each side of the regular lane. Excellent lane, saves a lot of time to the ID checker but gets congested after this to the WTMD's.
- BUR: No fly by lane (still using old "expert", "casual" system). :
- AUS: No Fly By Lane, but A-list users may use the Premium Passenger lane.
- TPA: One of best around. Get to go right to the front of the line to get ID checked.
- SDF: No Fly By Lane
Where are the priority lanes for baggage check-in?
- Southwest has started introducing priority bag check-in lines for A-list members and those with Business Select tickets. This link shows which airports have priority check-in lanes.
- Some airports have two lines for baggage check-in: one for customers with electronic tickets and one for customers with paper tickets and customers who need ticketing or other services.
What if I check in online and miss the flight?
- If you print a boarding pass and do not show up the agents know that you are a "missed flight" passenger. You can still fly standby that day or re-use the funds after the end of the day.
- Check your bags inside, not at the curb. The inside lines are served by many employees, and they move much faster than the shorter outside lines. It's strange that passengers haven't figured this out. This varies by airport; at SAT and LAX it appears the skycaps are in fact SWA employees.
- At OAK the Terminal 2 security checkpoint has been expanded, making the security lines there significantly faster than the lines at Terminal 1. Both terminals are connected on the secure side, so you can use the Terminal 2 security checkpoint even if your flight departs from Terminal 1. The Fly By Lane is at the right, closest to the SWA check-in counters. At peak hours (6:00 AM Monday is very bad) the lines extend to the left, all the way to baggage claim. Even the Fly By Lane can take 20 minutes under these conditions. Kiosk access may also require waiting in a line. After the ID check you may select any line. The old-style magnetometer is in the center, with body scanners on all the other lines.
- AUS has two well-known security lines and a third, lesser known line at the west end. The security line closest to the WN counter is frequently the longest around WN departure times. You can often save time by using the second of the two primary lines. If you are checking bags or using the WN counter or kiosk for any other reason, a detour to the third line at the far west end would very likely consume more time walking down and all the way back to the WN gates than could be saved by any shorter line. If you don't need to check bags or use the WN counter or kiosk, however, entering the airport at the extreme west end and beginning your "hunt for the shortest security line" there could prove effective.
- At LAX, there is an extra screening area next to Gate 1 that is open at peak travel times. To check this, stop halfway between the bottom of the escalator and the outside doors. Look directly to your right and two floors up. The double doors will be open if and only if the extra screening area is open. If you see a line up there, forget it: the wait there will be longer than for the regular screening area. The Fly By Lane is at the front downstairs (if there is a line downstairs) and at the right upstairs. The Family lane to the left is often just as fast as the Fly By Lane, and it has two X-ray belts with the old style magnetometer rather than a body scanner. If you have A-List status, flash your Boarding Pass to the line monitor and duck under the tape into the Family lane.
- At LAS, FT Member Red Raider LV reports that "The Las Vegas shortcut (mini-checkpoint for security) upstairs adjacent to the D gate entrance is open, usually has a short line, and even has a dedicated 'Fly-By' lane."
- DAL has a "secret" TSA line. The main line moves pretty quickly, but when you need to rush, head towards the baggage claim and take the escalators up. There is a second security checkpoint upstairs that almost never has a line.
- At SEA you can use the 'Elite' Security line using your Rapid Rewards plastic membership card at some of the security lines.
- If transferring at MCI, be aware that by default when you deplane you go straight ahead a few steps, past a glass wall, and you've left the secure area; as of February 2010 all Southwest flights are in the same sterile area, with gates 37-45. There are small monitors listing gates, but you may be advised to find the gate numbers for your arriving and departing flights beore you start your trip at http://www.southwest.com or http://www.flykci.com . As you deplane, gate numbers to the right are higher. The sterile area has restrooms and a few concessions.
- At PDX, the express lane for security shows a bunch of airline frequent flyer cards that will let you in. One of the pictured cards is a Southwest Rapid Rewards card. (The sign does not say whether the frequent flyer card has to match the boarding pass.)You can also use this line, with some explaining, if your Rapid-Rewards number is printed on your ticket.
- At SNA, you can use the "First-Class" security line if you have an A-List Membership Card, or an "A" Boarding Pass.
- At DEN the WN baggage claim is at carousels six through nine, in the southeast corner of the terminal. For quickest access to baggage claim, choose a car toward the back of the train from the gates, and exit toward the rear. Note that while shuttles for hotels in the immediate airport area generally stop at both the east and west doors, other hotel shuttles do not. For example, Stapleton-area hotel shuttles pick up only the west side (opposite side from WN baggage claim). As the shuttles for the remote hotels are less frequent, being prepared in advance by knowing which side to exit can avoid a long wait for the next shuttle.
- If you need to refuel a rental car before returning it at DEN, you can save fifteen to twenty or more cents per gallon by avoiding the high priced gas at the single station between E-470 and the airport. The best bet is probably the Flying J on E. 32nd Ave in Aurora. Use your GPS or this online map for driving directions. Example from August 2010: $2.499 at Flying J; $2.859 at Circle K. It is about ten miles from the Flying J to the rental car return area, so don't skimp on the fill up. If you are returning from the mountains, another option is to fill up at the cheaper stations on the west side of town and just buy a small top off at the last gas station before the airport.
- If taking a rental car or hotel shuttle to DEN and you are in a hurry, tell the driver your airline is United. You'll save time getting off the shuttle at the first stop and walking about 1/3 the narrow width of the terminal, versus sitting on the shuttle as it makes the congested drive from the southwest corner, around the north end, and down to the southeast corner of the terminal.
Which Southwest airports have free WiFi? What security precautions should I take?
- The answer to that question changes frequently! Southwest does a good job of keeping their city information pages up to date with airport WiFi information. Unfortunately they don't actually use the word "free" so you have to read between the lines. Compare these three examples:
- The Albany page states:
- Wi-Fi: Available throughout airport
- The Burbank page states:
- Wi-Fi: Available throughout the terminal via AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon
- The Cleveland page states:
- Wi-Fi: Available at gates B2, B7, and in the Airport Wireless store on the B Concourse
- High-speed Internet: Available
- Interpretation: Albany has free WiFi, Burbank does not; Cleveland has some free WiFi, but not throughout the entire airport.
- Note that "High-speed Internet: Available" does not mean free high speed Internet.
- To go quickly to the city information page for a Southwest airport, copy, paste and edit this sample URL, substituting the appropritate three letter airport code:
- Interpretation: Albany has free WiFi, Burbank does not; Cleveland has some free WiFi, but not throughout the entire airport.
- Another place you can check for airport WiFi information is TravelPost.com's "definitive guide." If you note a discrepancy between Southwest.com and TravelPost's list, try a Web search for [city] airport WiFi. In many cases you'll quickly find the airport's WiFi information page. Example: Southwest.com appears to report free WiFi at BUF, but TravelPost reports fees. A Google search for "buffalo airport wifi" found the airport's WiFi information page, which indicates there are fees.
- A FlyerTalk poster or an editor of this Wiki has reported learning of free WiFi at the following airports: Albany, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Birmingham, Boise, Columbus, Denver (fee eliminated November, 2007; service is filtered), Ft. Lauderdale, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Harlingen, Hartford, Kansas City (became free July 2006), Las Vegas, Lubbock, Manchester, Midland, Oakland (became free late October 2008), Omaha, Philadelphia (free on weekends or anytime for college students, otherwise fee required), Phoenix (started summer 2006), Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle-Tacoma, Tampa, Tucson, and West Palm Beach. Additional notes reported here or on FT about airport free WiFi: Tulsa has signs announcing free WiFi. Cleveland has free WiFi in some areas. Coverage at ABQ does not appear to reach the entire SWA gate area, but it covers the food court and bar nearby. Boingo has started giving thirty minutes of free limited-bandwidth service at AUS (OK for Email, too slow for much else).
- The list above should not be considered to be a definitive guide!
- LAX changed to free Wifi in Summer 2012. OAK has had free Wifi since 2008, but they changed providers in 2012.
- Please take adequate security precautions when using public wireless networks. See http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9008399 and http://www.microsoft.com/atwork/stayconnected/hotspots.mspx and http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-6028_7-5509931-1.html for specific instructions and an explanation of the threat.
- Do not connect to any peer-to-peer service, especially ones called "Free Public WiFi" or "Free Internet Access". Those signals (viral SSIDs) are broadcast from infected laptop computers, and your computer will become infected the first time you connect to one of these. See http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=602 for an explanation.
- Very important to note: Due to security issues it is highly inadvisable to log in to MySouthwest over public WiFi, even though logging in to most bank sites is relatively safe!
What are the weight and number limitations for checked baggage? What happens if the bag was delayed, or if Southwest loses my baggage?
- Effective January 29, 2008 Southwest cut their free checked bags allowance from three to two. Large or heavy items (described below) do not qualify to fly free. Up to seven additional bags may be checked for a fee of $50 each (one-way). Additional bags are $110 each (one-way).
- Bags that weigh 50+ to 100 pounds or that measure 62+ to 80 inches are charged $50 each (one way).
- Note that WN's length + width + height measurement system is different from the girth + length system used by shippers such as UPS, FedEx, and USPS.
- Bags that exceed 100 pounds or 80 inches are prohibited, except as noted in the Contract of Carriage.
- Your bag will get a Late Check-In Tag if you check it less than 30 minutes before scheduled departure, or 45 minutes at DEN, IAD, LAS, LAX, MCO, MDW, or PHX and 60 minutes at BWI. Late-checked bags might still make your flight, but if they don't Southwest will not cover the cost of delivering them to you at your destination.
- FT member PTahCha writes: "If your bag was delayed and arrived late, you can either have Southwest deliver the bag for no charge, or pick it up at the airport in exchange for a $50 voucher, provided that it was not checked in late."
- FT member RockHounder writes: "If you've never been through the lost baggage process, you'd be surprised to know that you have to wait 5 days before you can even request a claim form. Once they mail that to you, they want to know the item, color, material it is made from, manufacturer, where you bought it, size, is it for a male or female, when you bought it and what you paid. In addition, you have to have the form notarized. After waiting two weeks to get the form, they give you 45 days from the date of the flight to get your claim in the mail but they say evaluation and resolution of your claim takes a minimum of 3 days. I understand they also depreciate everything, even it is new and unused."
- FT member Buffaloflyer reports that he was denied curbside checkin less than 30 minutes before departure. This risk is another reason to use the inside lines (see Airport Navigation Tricks) if you're running short of time.
How do I check my bags for a connection on another airline?
- No can do. You have to pick up your bags and hoof it over to the other airline. This means that you had better allow plenty of time for connections to international flights. Furthermore, if your bags are lost or delayed on the way to your international flight, you may not see them until you get home again.
If my flight is delayed or canceled, will Southwest sign my ticket over to another airline (Rule 240)?
- No. You may have seen a couple cases of this on A&E TV's Airline, but this is another departure from everyday reality in that "reality" show. To put you on another airline, Southwest would have to buy you a full-fare ticket. This step is not taken without an exceptionally good reason for which Southwest and not the passenger is clearly to blame.
How much compensation will I get for being bumped?
- For voluntary denied boarding (VDB), the compensation offer is either $100 or $300 plus the face value of your ticket, all in the form of a travel voucher. Normally, if the customer is confirmed on an alternate flight scheduled to arrive within two hours of their original arrival time, they receive $100 plus the face value of their ticket. If the customer can not be placed on a flight scheduled to arrive within two hours of their original arrival time, the compensation is increased to $300 plus the face value of their ticket.
- If a person traveling on a Rapid Reward or Companion Pass volunteers their seat, the new policy is to assign a $100 ticket value to the compensation voucher (in addition to the $100 or $300) per FT VDB award/CP thread. Note, with the conversion to Rapid Rewards 2.0, it's not clear what monetary value would be assigned to the ticket as part of the voucher package if the fare was paid with points.
- In the unlikely event that enough people do not volunteer and Southwest denies you boarding involuntarily, your compensation is twice the fare you paid to your next destination, up to a maximum of $800. This amount is cut in half if Southwest gets you on a flight estimated to arrive less than 2 hours later than the flight on which you were denied boarding. If you are bumped involuntarily, you are entitled to cash compensation (actually a check) if you prefer that to a voucher.
- Compensation vouchers used to be paper, not usable for online purchases. This drastically limited their usefulness, as the best fares are not available by phone. Also, paper travel vouchers are non-transferable. The person named on the voucher needs to go to the airport in person to redeem the voucher, but the traveler can be anyone you like.
- As of September 2006, bump vouchers are electronic travel credits called LUV vouchers, fully usable online.
- You get the PFC waived if you're purchasing with paper vouchers, but once you introduce ticketed funds and/or cash, you've got to pay the added tax. (wiki readers please report whether or not this is the case for electronic vouchers)
Does Southwest cancel flights when they are too lightly loaded?
- Yes, sort of. More precisely, given that a flight needs to be canceled (equipment shortage), Southwest typically selects the least loaded flight as the one to cancel. They would be foolish to do otherwise. All airlines do this, but Southwest is much more likely than other airlines to shift the cancellation to a lightly loaded flight, because on Southwest all the planes are interchangeable.
- Customers accurately perceive a tendency to cancel lightly loaded flights. What they fail to notice is the resulting lower percentage of cancellation on heavily loaded flights.
Does Southwest offer priority boarding to its best customers?
- This topic came up regularly on FT until November 8, 2007. Back in the stone ages, getting a good seat required arrival at the gate approximately an hour before departure and standing in a long line for a plastic boarding card numbered 1 to 137. You might stand for 30 to 45 minutes before getting your boarding card, then you could either sit down or join a disorganized mob ready to assault the gate when the agent called for the first, second, third, and sometimes fourth boarding group (30 per group).
- When Southwest introduced kiosks, A/B/C group boarding, and Internet check-in, the check-in and boarding process became incomparably more civilized. Savvy customers checked in online, getting an A boarding pass almost every time. Then they could have a seat until most of the A's were already boarded. There was no need to wait in line unless you wanted an extra-special seat.
- On November 8, 2007, Southwest introduced the A-List, offering priority boarding for frequent flyers, and Business Select, offering priority boarding for a premium fare.
- On September 2, 2009, Southwest introduced Early Bird Check In (EBCI), offering the ability to automatically check-in at T-36 (and thus secure the lowest available boarding position at the time of purchase) for $10 per one-way flight.
How does priority boarding work?
- On November 8, 2007, Southwest began offering priority boarding for A-List frequent flyers, and Business Select customers.
- Business Select customers get boarding passes A1 through A15, in order of T-24 check in. (If Southwest expects the flight to have a high number of through passengers, Business Select will not be offered and there will be 60 A's available for A-list, EBCI, and OLCI passengers.)
- The Business Select boarding slots are held until departure, so you can get one of them any time until boarding starts or until they are sold out. If a flight is expected to carry a large number of through passengers, Business Select may not be offered on that flight. Southwest's rationale is that early boarders may not have a sufficient choice of good seats.
- Business Select customers board after pre-boarders but before everyone else. Because families no longer pre-board, and because pre-boarders are not allowed to sit in the exit rows, you will have some excellent seats to choose from.
- Customers on the A-List are automatically checked in for their flights ahead of everyone else, receiving boarding passes A16 and up (i.e., starting at end of the group of boarding pass numbers allocated to Business Select). Most flights can be expected to have fewer than 5 A-Listers.
- On September 2, 2009, Southwest introduced Early Bird Check In (EBCI). For a $12.50 fee, customers can be automatically checked in immediately after A-Listers, before those using T-24 OLCI have the opportunity to secure a boarding position.
How does Business Select boarding work?
- On November 8, 2007, Southwest introduced Business Select, offering priority boarding for a premium fare.
- Business Select fares allow you to board in one of the first 15 slots. The earliest T-24 check in boards first. These slots are held until departure, so you can get one of them any time until boarding starts or until they are sold out.
- If a flight is expected to carry a large number of through passengers, Business Select may not be offered on that flight. Southwest's rationale is that early boarders may not have a sufficient choice of good seats.
- Business Select includes two other benefits: a free drink onboard and more Rapid Rewards points per dollar of fare. The drink coupon that prints with your Business Select Boarding Pass is only valid for the day of travel. As of August 1, 2010 you can no longer save the drink coupon for use on a later date.
I already have a B or C boarding pass. Is there any way to get an A?
- Each boarding pass shows your check-in sequence number, up to 137 (the number of seats on all but a few of Southwest's planes) in addition to the letter. If someone is removed from the flight (e.g., catches an earlier flight), their sequence number is put back in the pool. If you happen to check in immediately afterwards, you may draw an "A" or "B" even though the person ahead of you got a "C".
- On routes where there are many flights (probably won't work for you on MCI-DAL), there is a trick to "upgrade" to an A. Starting around 15-20 minutes before a flight before yours on the same route is scheduled to take off (although really you can try it anytime, but it seems like the largest chance of movement is right before an earlier flight takes off), open up two browsers and in one cancel your boarding pass and in the other re-check-in. If it is a route where there are often many full-fare tickets purchased, there is a good chance that a handful of people will standby/change to an earlier flight and thereby opening up their (possible) A boarding pass for you to snag.
- There is a slight risk that someone else could come in and snag your B or C during the seconds that you cancel and re-check-in. But that has never happened to me and I've upgraded to an A on 2 of the 4 times I've been stuck with a B or C.
- Don't try this once you get to an hour before your flight, as you won't be able to re-check-in on-line anymore. You can, however, go to a gate agent and have your boarding pass cancelled and re-issued, possibly snagging an A.
Do I qualify for pre-boarding?
- As of October 2004, you qualify for pre-boarding if you require physical assistance from a WN employee or have a qualified disability. Examples of qualified disabilities include, but are not limited to, Customers who require the use of a wheelchair, mobility device, cane, walker, etc. One other person can pre-board with you.
- You qualify for mid-boarding (between the A's and the B's) if your party includes at least one child under 5 years old. Until October 2, 2007, these families were allowed to pre-board. Flights out of Orlando often had dozens of pre-boarders, causing complaints from people who made the effort to obtain "A" boarding passes. The advent of Business Select made a change absolutely necessary. The change to mid-boarding created much consternation, but after people experienced the new process the complaints died down.
- Effective August 1, 2005 no Customer who accepts preboarding will be permitted to sit in the Emergency Exit Row. When the first "Non-Preboard" passenger is boarded...the ops agent will scan their boarding card and then return it with the instruction to give it to the "A" Flight Attendant upon boarding. This will signal the F/A that general boarding has begun and passengers may choose exit row seats. Board the flight before that boarding pass comes down and you will not be permitted to sit in the exit row.
How do I play the open seating game? Where is Southwest's "Secret First Class"
- With the new boarding system that began November 8, 2007, you don't need to stand in line. Just check in online if you can, then have a seat until boarding starts. Any "A" will get you an aisle or window seat if you don't need to be in an exit row or in the front of the plane.
- On Southwest you can choose your seat on board either by location or by neighbor. If you are boarding late in the B group or early in the C group, you can choose to avoid sitting next to a particular person or you can choose to sit next to someone who interests you. People have met their future spouses on Southwest, as Colleen Barrett wrote in the February 2004 Spirit Magazine:
- "We are truly blessed to have Customers who are much more than passengers; they are supporters, friends, and fans. Those Customers consider Southwest as an extension of their personal and/or corporate family. Our low fares and frequent flights allow them to attend college in another city; to commute daily between home and an office in another city; or to provide clients with a personal visit in lieu of a phone call or e-mail. We also hear from Customers telling us that Southwest played Cupid by bringing them together with their future spouses, whom they met during one of our flights (thanks to our "open seating" policy), and our Employees have even been known to be "conspirators" in helping with surprise onboard wedding proposals."
- Open seating is great if you have kids on a long flight. During boarding, the kids can find other kids their age to sit next to, leaving both sets of parents in peace.
- What seat locations are the best? If you need to exit quickly, for example for a short connection, you will want a seat near the front. If exit speed is not important to you and if the plane is not going to be full (see next paragraph), you can increase your chance of having an empty middle seat by sitting farther back in the cabin.
- Southwest's "Secret First Class" is located just aft of the exit row. Selecting a seat in that area (rows 13 through 17 on most Southwest airplanes) gives you the highest probability of having an empty middle seat. Why? Passengers wanting an aisle or window seat or overhead bin space will walk all the way to the back of the cabin, hoping for success. If they don't find what they are looking for, they will turn around and take the first decent middle seat. Only rarely will they walk all the back to row 15.
- Knowing the expected number of empty seats on flight can influence your seating strategy. If you can find out the passenger count you can calculate the expected number of empty seats. Although you can ask a gate agent, ops agent, or the flight attendant at the door how many people are on the flight, the answer will generally be too vague (or too stale) to be useful. A more reliable approach is to read the monitor used by the person scanning boarding passes. The four columns on the screen are: Boarding Passes Issued, Through Passengers, Local Passengers, and Total on Board. The last two columns count up as the boarding passes are scanned. The number you want is the sum of the first two columns. (For an originating flight it's just the first column, because the second column is zero.) Subtract the expected number of passengers from either 137 (most flights) or 122 (in the case of a flight utilizing one of the 25 737-500 aircraft) to come up with the expected number of vacant seats.
- If you are a very attractive female, your chance of having an empty middle seat on a nearly full flight is approximately zero. If your flight has more than 110 passengers, you might want to delay boarding until the middle of the B's, then select a middle seat. This way you, not they, control who you sit next to.
- On a full flight there are three sections for drink service, starting at rows 1, 9, and 17. Those are the best rows if you need a drink quickly.
- When the aisle seats are all taken, it's time to play "Unite the Couple". As you walk down the aisle look for what appears to be a couple in the aisle and window seats. When you ask for the middle, most of the time you will end up with the aisle. This will not work 100% of the time, but is a good tactic to avoid a middle seat in the back. As you scope it out you can usually figure out the couples that are travelling together and trying to protect the middle.
- While many people like to board as early as possible, it may be better to board at the start of the B group, particularly for "fuller" flights. First, if you don't want to sit near kids, it's better to board AFTER the kids, so you can see where they are seating. Second, if you are flying solo and the flight is close to full (but not full), you can play the "look for the worst middle seat" game. This game involves looking for another solo flyer in the aisle or window. If that person is relatively large or otherwise less than desirable as a seat mate, then grab the open aisle or window seat (it works best if they are in the aisle). Then, when the C group boards, they will be less likely to sit in the middle seat between you and your new friend. Note that this can backfire on you if the flight is completely full, so ask at the gate or listen for the oversold announcement if you're not sure!
- Prior to August 2006, the overhead bins would often fill up early in the C group, forcing later boarders to check their carry-ons. The new restrictions on liquids in carry-on bags have largely eliminated this problem. So you need not panic about your carry-on if you draw a C boarding pass or if you are flying standby after missing your flight.
What are the aircraft types and what are the differences between them?
- According to their undated published data (retrieved 04-Apr-2011), Southwest's fleet of 548 aircraft consists of 25 Boeing 737-500s, 171 Boeing 737-300s, and 352 Boeing 737-700s.
- On December 15, 2010, Southwest announced that it was switching 20 of its 737-700 orders for 737-800s, with the first delivery scheduled for March 2012. These will be equipped for Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards (ETOPS), making them suitable for flights to Hawaii. The 737-800 is longer than the 737-700 and can hold up to 189 passengers in single-class seating. Southwest's 737-800 aircraft seat 175 passengers.
- The 2011 acquisition of AirTran added 86 Boeing 717-200 aircraft, which can be configured for about 110 seats in single-class seating.
- The 737-300s (sometimes listed as 733) serve Southwest's short-haul routes and have 137 seats with 32" seat pitch. The "infinite legroom" seat is 12F, and seats 12ABC all have extra legroom.
- The 737-700s (sometimes listed as 73G), which are a few feet longer than the 737-300s, also have 137 seats in the same arrangement as the 737-300s. The 737-700s serve long-haul flights, but may also appear on short segments just before or after a long haul leg. All 737-700s have winglets that provide net fuel savings on longer flights; winglets are being added to older aircraft during scheduled maintenance cycles. With the same 137 seats, the 737-700s provide about 34" seat pitch, roughly equivalent to United's Economy Plus on most of their aircraft. At row 11 you can tell the difference between types: 737-700s have clear plastic covers over the exit window handles, and 737-300s have no covers on the window handles.
- The 737-500s (sometimes listed as 735) have only 122 seats. In these aircraft the exit rows are reversed, with the "infinite legroom" seat being 10A. Seats 10DEF all have extra legroom.
- Seat recline was standardized at 3 inches at the end of 2006.
- All 737s have flap "canoes". The -700s have theirs painted red, or a different color if on a logo jet. All 737-700's have winglets. Some 7737-300's and all 737-500's do not have winglets.
- The 737-700s have N numbers in the 2XXs, 4XXs, 7XXs, 9XXs and a few 55X. N501-N528 are 737-500s. One can spot these numbers on the nose gear doors from the gate area, plus the full registration number back by the tail.
What are the features of the new "Evolve" seating?
- As explained at http://www.blogsouthwest.com/blog/meet-evolve-new-southwest-interior the new Evolve seats are thinner, allowing one extra row of seats to be added to the cabin. This is a 4% increase in seat count, hopefully keeping fares 4% lower than they would otherwise be.
- The new seats are used in all the 737-800's. They will be retrofit into all 737-700's by the end of 2013.
- Southwest claims that the new seats preserve knee room. Under-seat storage will naturally decrease according to the reduced (by about 1.5 inches) row spacing.
- The mesh seat-back pocket is the hallmark of the Evolve seats. Perhaps it will keep you from accidentally leaving a personal item behind.
Onboard Internet (WiFi)
- Southwest is installing satellite-based Internet service in its entire fleet over a period of several years. As of October 28, 2010, Southwest had equipped 32 aircraft.
- The service operates using WiFi inside the aircraft. Just turn on your computer or other WiFi-enabled device, view available wireless networks, select "Southwest WiFi," and connect.
- To see if your flight has WiFi, look for the sign saying "Southwest Airlines WiFi Hotspot" on the bulkhead as you enter the plane. Also, all WiFi equipped aircraft have a round "bubble" antenna enclosure on top of the fuselage just forward of the tail. The 737-700 aircraft will be equipped first, meaning that if you board a 737-300 or -500 it will not have Internet service.
- When the WiFi system is in service, a small green light will appear just to the right of the EXIT lettering on the ceiling-mounted sign at the front of the aisle. The presence of a small round indicator light on that sign is a another way to identify a WiFi equipped aircraft. Other aircraft have nothing in that part of the sign.
- WiFi service costs $5 per flight segment, payable using a credit card or debit card. The service is free for A-List Preferred members.
- For current official information, see http:southwest.com/wifi
What food will be served on my flight?
- On flights up to 600 miles: peanuts.
- These are currently honey roasted, but Southwest switches to dry roasted and back every year or so.
- You can have pretzels instead if you like.
- Southwest makes "every effort to make sure peanuts are not served on flights where someone with an allergy is traveling." If you are allergic they ask that you "please let a Reservation Sales Agent know, so the Crew will be notified." They also "suggest taking early morning flights before the plane has been in service and nuts have been served onboard."
- On nonstop segments from 601 to 1270 miles: a snack appropriate for the time of day (e.g., a cereal bar for breakfast, pretzels or crackers in the afternoon, etc.).
- On nonstop segments 1271 or more miles long: several options (such as small bags of peanuts or pretzels and Nabisco snacks such as cookies, cheese-filled crackers, etc.). These are now offered via a "Select-A-Snack" basket the FAs carry up and down the center aisle . Passengers are free to select as many of each type of snack as they like.
- If your flight is a series of short hops, you may be downright hungry by the time you arrive if you don't pack your own snack.
- Complimentary water, coffee, and soft drinks are offered on all flights. Alcoholic beverages may be purchased for $5. A list of available beverages is posted at http://www.southwest.com/travel_center/inflight.html
- For each quarter of the year, the drink menu in the seatback pocket lists some free drink days. They can be added to this list as they are known:
- Feb. 14
- March 17
- May 8 (Mother's Day)
- May 30 (Memorial Day) "for all of our Service Men and Women"
- June 18 (Southwest's birthday)
- June 19 (Father's Day)
- July 4 for service members.
- Aug. 11 for those who show the Chase RR Visa
- Oct. 31
- Thanksgiving Day
- As of April 1, 2010, drink coupons are no longer accepted for Monster energy drinks. However until August 1, 2011 there is an exception for the newest tan-colored coupons that specify "or specialty non-alcoholic drink". Although Flight Attendants have been notified twice of this exception (via their RBF = Read Before Fly memos), many FA's continue to believe that coupons can never be used to purchase Monster energy drinks. Therefore this is a Your Mileage May Vary policy.
What is the "pillow trick"?
- This has nothing to do with the Mile High Club, but it's still useful information. If the overhead bins are full or nearly full, you can sometimes fit your roller bag in endwise if you insert it wheels up. Then you stuff a coat or something soft under the bag to lift the bag an inch or two above the sill. The door will now close without obstruction. When the bins are totally full, look for a similar bag to turn endwise to make room for yours.
- Pillows were great for this purpose, but pillows and blankets were removed from Southwest's aircraft on April 29, 2009, ostensibly because of the swine flu scare. The removal was initially supposed to be temporary, but now it's permanent.
- You don't actually need anything underneath to elevate the bag. An especially savvy flight attendant (or passenger) can simply hold the bottom of the bag up a bit with one hand while lowering the door with the other hand.
- On the newest aircraft (737-700's) the bins are a tad deeper and will accommodate roller bags endwise without needing the pillow trick.
- Another trick is the secret release latch under the aisle-facing armrest on some rows of some aircraft. It's on the bottom of the arm toward the rear. Press this latch rearward and the armrest will be free to rotate upward, allowing you to make a quicker exit if you are in a hurry.
Southwest's Acquisition of AirTran
- On September 27, 2010, Southwest announced that it had agreed to acquire AirTran. This acquisition requires government approval before the airlines can begin the process of integrating their operations. The transaction was approved on April 27, 2011, with full integration not occurring until some time in 2012.
- Southwest has not revealed any specifics of how it intends to convert frequent flier points from AirTran's A+ Rewards program to Rapid Rewards. However given the similarity of AirTran's program to the old Rapid Rewards, one can reasonably expect the conversion process to resemble the transition from the old to the new Rapid Rewards.
- AirTran's fleet includes 52 Boeing 737-700's and 86 Boeing 717's (the newest version of the DC-9). The 86 smaller aircraft will enable Southwest to serve thinner routes efficiently.
- Routes served only by SkyWest using commuter aircraft are likely to be dropped or replaced by jet aircraft via Southwest hubs.
- AirTran has 31 gates at ATL. This acquisition will bring Southwest to Atlanta in a big way.
- On August 22, 2011, AirTran (A+ Elite) & Southwest (A-List/Preferred) began offering reciprocal frequent traveler benefits. AirTran will provide 365 days of Elite benefits (from date of activation) and Southwest will provide A-List Preferred Status expiring on December 31, 2012.
Glossary of abbreviations used on the Rapid Rewards forum
|BS||Business Select (an infelicitous initialism if there ever was one)|
|CP||Companion Pass (less frequently: Choice Privileges)|
|CSR||Customer Service Representative (Customer Relations department employee; may be used as a more generic term for RSA)|
|EBCI||Early Bird Check In|
|ECBI||Mistyping of EBCI|
|FA||Flight Attendant or Freedom Award|
|GA||Gate Agent (employee who works the desk near the gate)|
|IB||Internet Brands (owner of flyertalk.com)|
|LEFT||Common mistyping of LETF|
|LETF||Leftover Electronic Travel Funds (one of two categories of TTF)|
|OA||Ops (Operations) Agent (employee responsible for boarding the aircraft and more)|
|OLCI||Online Check In|
|PNR||Passenger Name Record|
|PRN||Common mistyping of PNR|
|RBF||Read Before Flying (FA advisories)|
|RSA||Reservation Sales Agent (Employee who answers the phone when you call the toll free number)|
|SAAS||Sabre reservation system used by Southwest for ticketing|
|SODA||Southwest Operational Disruption Accommodation|
|SST||Southwest Standard Time (the time to which WN's online (WWW) computers are synched)|
|SWA||The ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) code for Southwest.|
|TTF||Ticketless Travel Funds|
|UT||Unused Ticket (one of two categories of TTF)|
|uTTt||unused Ticketless Travel tickets (obsolete; see UT)|
|WGA||Wanna Get Away (marketing term for WN's discounted, non-refundable fares)|
|WUT||Wholly Unused Ticket (FT-proposed acronym for uTTt/UT)|
|WN||The IATA (International Air Transport Association) airline code for Southwest. WN is FT geek-speak for SWA.|
- Can't find the abbreviation in the list above? Try the glossary in FlyerTalk's help area.