Tips for flying Southwest Airlines
There are plenty of reasons why Southwest Airlines is my choice to fly, but mostly because of the value I can get with cheap fares and easy Rapid Rewards earning opportunities.
There are a lot of things to know about Southwest that can make your booking and flight experience much smoother and save you time and money in the future, especially if you’re flying them for the first time. Here are some tips for flying Southwest.
1. GET THE SOUTHWEST COMPANION PASS
If you want to maximize value with Southwest, look into getting the Southwest Companion Pass. This allows a companion to fly for free with you on any Southwest flights for up to two years! The Companion Pass can easily be obtained by getting two credit cards from Chase. The Chase Southwest cards come with bonuses with as much as 80,000 Rapid Rewards. Since you only 125,000 Rapid Rewards (or 100 one-way qualifying flight flights) for the Southwest Companion Pass, this allows you to instantly obtain the Companion Pass! That pass can be worth well over $3,000 so if you’re looking to save money with Southwest, definitely consider this.
2. DOWNLOAD THE SOUTHWEST AND AIRTIME PLAYER APP
Downloading the Southwest app is a must. From this app, you can Book, Check-in, change or cancel flights. Once you have your flight booked, you also have your digital boarding pass on the go. Just open the app and scan in before boarding. Thanks to a partnership with Lyft, you can now arrange airport pickup and dropoff via the app. Download the Airtime Player app to access the Southwest inflight entertainment portal offers free live and on-demand TV and music. An all-day internet package will cost $8 per device, or you can purchase a movie for $5 per device per day, or spend just $2 for messaging capabilities. This app is a must for travel with Southwest.
3. BOOKING YOUR FLIGHT
Wanna Get Away fares are the cheapest Southwest fares and don’t allow you to cancel them and get a cash refund (though you still get a credit for the originally ticketed passenger only). These fares can be dirt cheap, especially when Southwest runs flash sales. These flash sales come around a few times a year and offer some exceptionally low fares as low as $40 one way. Keep an eye out for these fares because they can save you tons but they require you to act fast and are often limited to flights on certain days of the week (that aren’t very desirable like Tuesday or Wednesday). One important tip for flying Southwest is that last minute flights on Southwest can be very expensive. It’s somewhat dependent on the route but it usually pays to book Southwest flight well in advance. Unlike many other carriers, Southwest does not allow you to book flights a year out in advance. Instead, you may only find flights for about 7 months in advance. Southwest will publish their release dates and you should be able to start making bookings early that morning (though sometimes technical difficulties require you to wait).
4. LAST MINUTE CANCELLATION
Regardless of the type of fare that you purchase, you can cancel your fare 10 minutes prior to departure. If you’ve purchased an Anytime fare or Business Select, you’ll simply get a refund but if you purchased an Anytime fare you’ll be issued travel funds.
5. UNDERSTAND THE SOUTHWEST BOARDING METHOD
You do not select or get assigned a specific seat for Southwest flights. They will have you check-in at exactly 24 hours before the flight and then you are assigned to a number in either Group A, B, or C. Starting with Group A, each group will board the plane in order based on the number each passenger received at check-in. This method is an efficient process but can cause some people to stress that they can’t select their seats ahead of time. Southwest does offer EarlyBird Check-In as a low-cost option ($15-25 per ticket) giving you the convenience of automatic check-in before our traditional check-in. You'll have the benefit of an earlier boarding position.
6. YOU DON'T NECESSARILY NEED THE EARLYBIRD.
For an extra $15 per ticket, EarlyBird will automatically check you in 24 hours before the flight allowing you to more easily secure a good seat. Unless you’re going to be away from a computer or your phone 24 hours before your flight, you won't need to purchase the EarlyBird. Just make sure to download the Southwest app and set an alarm to remind you to check-in. If you’re traveling with kids 6 or under, you’ll be able to board during Family Boarding which is right after Group A and before Group B. If that’s the case, you really won’t need EarlyBird.
7. SAVING SEATS
There are some cases where a family or group would need to save seats to get your group together on the plane. I think it’s acceptable to save seats within reason, it’s something you typically want to avoid if you can. If you need to save seats for several passengers, I would suggest going further to the back of the plane. Trying to save a large number of seats at the front of the plane is practically asking for an argument. Flying tends to bring out the worst in some people, especially business travelers. Just be respectful of others and you'll be fine.
8. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FREEBIES
Southwest allows each passenger two free checked bags. If you want to check the third bag, it will cost you $75. If you’re considering flying with low-cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit, be sure to factor these savings in! On Southwest flights, you’ll be given free snacks like pretzels and peanuts (on longer flights you might get Nabisco crackers/cookies). You’ll also be given free non-alcoholic drinks on your flight.
Despite not offering premium services, Southwest Airlines does have a lot to offer in terms of cheap flights with quality service. You know exactly what you’re going to get with Southwest. If you are diligent at looking for deals, then you will fly cheaply and have a great experience. We love Southwest. If you need help booking your next flight or vacation, we are here to help. Let us do the work while you reap the benefit. Message us today to get started.