36 Southwest Airlines Tips and Tricks (Promos Codes and Discount Deals)
Southwest is my favorite airline for flying with a family on a budget. I find more promo codes and discount deals than any other airline I travel. They have those fun and quirky singing flight attendants and loving commercials. You know the commercials that have the ding sound. They just do things a bit different than their competitors. Southwest is different, but in a good way, actually a great way. I’m going to show you how I maximize all the Southwest promotions and deals.
I’ve qualified for the free Southwest Companion Pass promo for over 5 years in a row. My wife has flown for free with me for over 5 years. Take my advice on how you can potentially become an A-Lister or get free buddy pass flights with friends and family.
We’ll dive into the details below. First, take a look at this awesome Southwest Airlines infographic I put together.
36 Tips and Tricks –Maximizing Southwest Airline Promos Codes and Deals (An Ultimate Guide)
Southwest Airlines Rules are Different Than Much of the Industry
They allow 2 free checked bags per person. Two bags fly for free!The baggage restriction has a 50-pound weight limit and a maximum baggage size of 62 inches per piece of luggage. Items surpassing this baggage restriction are subject to an overweight or oversize charge of $75 per bag. How does two free checked bags on Southwest compare to the competition?
There is no Southwest baggage limits, per se. Excess baggage within 62 inches (L+W+H) and 50 lbs or less cost $75 per item each way. Oversized or overweight will be charged additional fee.
Why is Southwest the Best Airline?
I live near Midway airport in Chicago and have many friends and family who go out of their way to fly Southwest. The primary reasons to fly Southwest:
- Budget prices – if I book a flight early enough, I can get one of their “Wanna Get Away” fares
- Friendly employees – every time I either call Southwest Airlines reservations or fly the airline, everyone is so terrific. I’d also be happierif my job let me wear shorts as uniforms.Southwest Airlines history is known as having some of the best employees and customer service in the airline industry. Nearly all the Southwest reviews gloat about how the airline’s values its customers. Their flight attendants are only required a high school diploma. They believe a great attitude can’t be taught but skills can be learned.
- Two free check-on bags per person is huge! No baggage fee. For a family of four with two bags each, the average savings would be around $240! Anyone who travels with young kids knows the kids have more stuff and gear than the adults.
- No change fee to change a flight reservation. However, tickets are subject to any fare difference. Though, there have been many times I’ve actually gotten money back for changing my flight.Calling customer service to book a flight is free. There are no fees for talking with a representative.They also have a special number for Spanish speaking guests. Southwest airlines en Española call: 1-800-VAMONOS – toll-free number
I’ve made a list of Southwest travel tips and tricks to help save you even more and provide a better experience. This guide will help you maximize the Southwest benefits.
36 ways to start saving money while flying Southwest Airlines.
1. Join Southwest Rapid Reward Program
Rapid Rewards accounts are free. It allows you to earn and redeem points for over 90 domestic and international destination flights. In addition to your ticket, you can purchase:
- Vacation Packages
- Book travel points for other passengers
What’s the best feature of Southwest Rapid Rewards? There are NO BLACKOUT DATES! Yes, you heard me correctly!
Tip: When enrolling, I used my personal email so I get flight status notifications on my mobile phone vs my work address.
2. Get the Southwest Credit Card 50,000 Miles Deal
The Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is the only card I use. I concentrate all my buying power on this one credit card to reap the best rewards. What are the perks with the Southwest Premier Credit Card?
- 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on credit card purchases within the first 3 months of opening the account. No promo code necessary.
- Earn 2 Points per $1 when you purchase a flight directly from the Southwest Airlines either online or via telephone
- Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
- 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points toward A-List and A-List Preferred status for every $10,000 spent on the card, up to $100,000
- Redeem your points for cruises, hotel accommodations, car rentals, gift cards, and Southwest International flights
- No foreign transaction Fees. The upgraded Chase Premier has no international fees.
- Annual cardholders receive free drink coupons for Southwest Airlines
- Unlimited SWA Rapid Reward points that don’t expire as long as your card is open
- Annual fee is $99 but you also get 6,000 free Anniversary Points every year to help offset the cost
50,000 Rapid Reward Points offer after you spend $2,000 in 3 months is huge. Depending on the day of the week, lead time in booking your flight, and select destination, your 50,000 points could be 2-4 flights! Chase doesn’t offer a Southwest credit card no annual fee option, but the free anniversary points help offset the cost.
Credit Score Needed for Southwest Credit Card application? The best article I’ve seen about credit card score and application status is at MoneyUnder30. If you want to daydream about your next vacation, here’s the Southwest interactive route flight map.
Tip: Sign up today for the Chase Southwest Credit Card
3. Buy Southwest Airlines Egift Cards at a Slight Discount
I go to Raise.com for discounted gift cards. As of this writing, I see cards up to 2.5% off face value. Raise.com also offers a 1-Year Money-Back Guarantee on the Southwest Airlines gift card balance and free shipping for physical cards. Typically, I see discounts ranging from 2-4%. The gift certificate discounts are based on supply and demand.
A few percentage points may not sound like a lot, but it could cover your airport snack or in-flight texting.
Since I already have an established Raise.com account, they usually process and email the Egift card coupon codes immediately. Typically for new accounts, it could take a few days for the funds to clear to verify ownership of the credit card.
It’s a good idea to signup for their email list. Randomly, they will send out a promo code or discount for gift cards during holiday weekends.
Click here to purchase Southwest Gift Cards at a Discount from Raise.com.
Tip: Use your Southwest Premier Credit Card to purchase the Egift cards at a discount and earn points doing it! Establish a Raise.com account ahead of your purchase date.
4. Book Your Award Flights Early …and Often
There are never any cancellation or change fees at Southwest. That’s one of the best perks of the airline.
When you book a flight using your Rapid Rewards points, you’ll get all your points back in your account if you cancel. If you book a ticket in dollars, the funds are returned in your name in the form of an electronic voucher; there are no cancellation fees. You have one year to use your Southwest travel funds before they expire.
Tip: If you have a potential trip, book it early to save points and dollars. You can always cancel it later given their friendly cancellation policy.
5. Rebooking Airline Tickets to Save Points
I hate when I buy something online one day then find out it’s on sale and offered at a lower price the next. I always miss judge the promos. Ugh!
The Southwest airlines refund policy is amazing. Since Southwest has zero change fees, it allows you to book and rebook at a lower price without a penalty. Instead of waiting for the next Southwest Airlines 72 hoursale, book your flight today …now!
Over the last year, my favorite tip and trick for “saving” Rapid Reward Points is to watch their website and rebook tickets when they go on sale. I have saved well over 30,000 points in the last year with this technique for my family.
Once I book the flight, I randomly check the site to view the current price. I would say about half of my flights have actually gone DOWN from the day I booked them. I simply call Southwest customer service, provide my confirmation number, tell them what I paid vs the current price, and they credit my points instantly. It’s amazing! If it’s a revenue flight paid in dollars, they will give you an electronic voucher in the form of travel funds for the difference to use within the next year.
Instead of calling customer service, you can apply your travel voucher while booking online. For new bookings, select “Apply Travel Funds” during checkout. You will see the total price, including TSA fees, reduced by the voucher credit amount once you enter the required information.
I keep track of my voucher credits on my iOS contacts app. When I get a Southwest voucher credit, I enter the date, confirmation number, and passenger name under my “Southwest Airlines” contact. I also recommend inputting the date in your calendar six months from the date and a year from the issue date. Since I only have a year to use the credit, I want to be reminded before the cash voucher expires.
If you’re not technologically savvy, you can print off your Southwest airlines receipt with your confirmation number. I would suggest putting your respective receipts in a SWA folder on your desk. You will have it as a handy reference when you cash-in your voucher.
Southwest last minute deals are unpredictable. Last year I managed to book a flight back from Florida on a connecting flight for less than $100 around New Year’s. It’s always never a bad idea to search through the Southwest low fare calendar.
Tip: Sign up for Southwest email promotions and codes so you know when the sales start.
6. Check Southwest Group Sales vs Individual Ticket Prices
Last month I was booking a trip for my family. The search defaulted for “1 Passenger” and showed a one-way price of $111. Then I realized I needed to search for four passengers. Once I modified my search, it said my tickets cost $139 per passenger! Huh?
It turns out Southwest had limited “Wanna Get Away” fares…the cheapest fares. I then searched for “2 Passengers” and it said $111 per passenger again. Then I tried “3 Passengers” and it went back up to $139 per person. I could do one of two scenarios:
- 4 Passengers at $139 each is $556 + fees
- 2 Passengers at $111 each is $222 + fees and 2 Passengers at $139 each is $278 + fees
I saved $56 by booking 2 + 2 Passengers.
Tip: If you are traveling with children, book at least one adult ticket first. They will not allow you to book a child fare from the age of 5-11 without an adult confirmation number on the same flight. Unless the child is an unaccompanied minor, there is an additional $50 each way.
7. Pay Cash for your Ticket and Points for Family
I need 110,000 points to get a Companion Pass tied to my Rapid Reward Number. Lately, I’ve started paying cash for my ticket to accrued more Rapid Reward Points. When I use my Chase Southwest Credit Card, it’s actually a double win. I get Rapid Reward Points from Chase and I also get Southwest points when I use dollars for a ticket. I then use points for my family members since they allocate points on their site to the respective passenger. Buying my daughter, a Wanna Get Away ticket a couple times a year will take several years before it becomes worth anything. On the other hand, every point I get helps me with a Companion Pass, A-List, and A-List Preferred.
Tip: A-List status earns 25% bonus points on each flight and A-List Preferred status earns 100% bonus points on each flight when you pay with dollars.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Call a SWA Representative for Help
It seems like most call centers have “unusually long wait times” and unknowledgeable people reading from a script. Southwest Customer Service Representatives are helpful andcould not be any friendlier. They will try to help you with anything. Somequestions I’ve called and asked in the past:
- Flight was on sale and refunded me the difference
- Change flights
- Assist me in using my Companion Pass
- Southwest airlines lost and found inquiry
- Name change on a ticket after getting married
- Permanently enter my TSA Pre-check in the system for my known traveler number
I was only 900 points short of the 110k point target to get my Companion Pass. The representative was kind enough to put in a request that my Companion Pass to get approved even though I came up a bit short. In case you were wondering, yes, they approved my Companion Pass. It saved my wife from paying for four flights with me the following year. This may have been a lucky break and may not happen to you …buy it may!
Tip: Southwest offers A-List holders and A-List Preferred holders a dedicated toll free phone number at 1-888-737-1005. Have your Rapid Reward number available to verify your membership.
9. Join the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Program
Once you have the Chase Southwest credit card, register for the Rapid Rewards Dining. Do what you already do. Eat out at one of their 11,000+ participating restaurants, bars, or clubs and use your linked Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card. It’s free and easy to register your dining card.
You may earn up to an additional 1,000 bonus points in your first 30 days of the rewards program. Click here to see their current bonus program.
Sign up for email notifications from Rapid Rewards Dining to earn 3 points per $1.
Tip: Know your surrounding restaurants. When traveling to different cities, you maybe surprised a restaurant you’re considering pays points for dining.
10. Free Southwest Airlines Entertainment
Do you know Southwest entertainment offers free select television channel on most flights? On my last flight, the passenger next to me had no idea the airline offers this free entertainment. Either your itinerary or when you board the plane will tell you whether it’s a WiFi-enabled aircraft. Plus, my kids always enjoy following the plane icon with the Southwest airlines in flight tracker live.
It’s easy to connect using a laptop, tablet, or mobile device. Get Connected using the following steps:
- Select “Southwest WiFi” to connect
- Once you launch your Internet browser, type southwestwifi.com
- You likely must watch a quick commercial then you will be free to watch Southwest tv
The Southwest tv choices include 18 live channels and 20 TV series:
- Fox News Channel
- Fox 5
- Discovery Channel
- FX Channel
- Fox Business
- NFL Network
- Disney Channel
If Southwest tv isn’t exciting enough for you, they also have movies. Southwest movies only cost $5 per movie for relatively new rentals.
For full Internet access, they charge $8 a day per device on any WiFi-enable aircraft. The reason they say, “a day” is so you don’t get charged on connecting flights for WiFi. Warning: they limit the Internet bandwidth for streaming apps like Netflix, HBO GO, and VoIP. Only Southwest A-List Preferred passengers get free Wifi to surf the web.
Instead of using the Southwest WiFi to email and surf the web, you can stay connected with messaging access only for $2. The $2 allows you access to supported apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, and Viber for all-day messaging. Your texting and messaging app must be pre-downloaded on your device ahead of time.
The Inflight Entertainment also offers free information like:
- Connecting flight information – delays and gate numbers
- Flight Tracker map
- Destination Information
- Southwest Inflight drink menu selection
Tip: Don’t forget to switch to “airplane mode” once the door closes, otherwise your battery will drain fast searching for a cellular tower while in flight.
Tip #2: Bring your earbuds or headphones with you onboard to listen to Southwest’s Inflight free Entertainment.
11. Your Baby May Travel for Free
Southwest’s open seating policy is great for parents traveling with children under two years old. You can carry your baby on board for free. If the flight is not 100% full, your child will likely get a free seat, but if it’s full then your child must ride on your lap. To verify age, Southwest will require a birth certificate for boarding verification.
The FAA Federal Aviation Regulation enforces the age limit for lap children. According to 14 CFR 121.311 (b) “Except as provided in this paragraph, each person on board an airplane operated under this part shall occupy an approved seat or berth with a separate safety belt properly secured about him or her during movement on the surface, takeoff, and landing. A safety belt provided for the occupant of a seat may not be used by more than one person who has reached his or her second birthday.”
Tip: If you don’t buy a seat for your infant, be prepared to have him on your lap the entire flight if it’s a full flight.
12. Book One-Way Flights to Your Southwest Destinations
One-way flights are easier to book using the Southwest Rapid Rewards program. If you need to rebook or change a leg of the flight, you will only receive a cash voucher for that one-way trip vs a round trip. Unfortunately, booking two separate one-way flights will result in two reservation numbers.
Tip: While booking your two flights, use the same “Itinerary” title for both one-way flights to keep better track of your confirmation numbers.
13. Southwest Discounts for Seniors 65 if Age or Over
A nice perk for seniors citizens is Senior Fares are fully refundable for domestic and international flights. If you are traveling using a Senior Fare or infant ticket, you must present the travelers proof of age. A Southwest Customer Service Agent can accept a driver’s license, birth certificate, passbook, or government-issued photo ID that shows the traveler’s date of birth.
Unfortunately, in terms of discounts, Southwest Airlines bereavement policy or emergency fare does not exist. Their policy states they offer everyday affordable fares and your first two checked bags are free, instead of bereavement discounts. The best airline bereavement fares alternatives are listed here.
Tip: Perform the age verification for Senior Fares ahead of arriving at the airport. You will not be able to do online check-in or use the self-service kiosk until you are verified in the system.
14. Book Your Hotel and Rental Car Through Southwest
By booking your vacation packages, rental cars, hotel and flight through Southwest, you will earn Rapid Reward Points.
The reasons to book with Southwest Hotels? The site offers over 65,000 hotel offerings with their best rate guarantee. $0 cancellation fees with some exceptions. Earn Rapid Rewards with Rapid Rewards Preferred Partners and receive points with Best Western, Carlson, Choice Hotels, Hyatt, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Marriott, MGM Resorts International, and Starwood Preferred Guest. Click here to book a hotel package.
Be sure to visit their “Special Offers and Travel Deals” page with deals like earning up to 10,000 points per night.
Southwest Airlines Promotion Codes and Car Rental Deals
Booking rental cars through Southwest offers a great selection, competitive rates, $0 cancellation fees, while earning Rapid Reward Points. Many of the rental car companies offer deals as high as 35% plus earn up to 2,400 points. I always start with the promo codes for Southwest airlines rental cars that offer the best deal. Southwest car rental partners include: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National, Payless, and Thrify.
View the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards promo codes and discounts for current rental car deals, here.
Tip: Southwest offers the Best Rate Guarantee program for hotels so you feel comfortable knowing you get the best price. If your hotel reservation is offered at a lower rate on another website, contact SWA customer service immediately to match the price.
15. Join RocketMiles for Rapid Reward Points
RocketMiles allows you to book hotels and earn thousands of loyalty points per night. It’s simple:
- Book a hotel property throughout the world
- Earn at least 1,000 airline points per night
- Use those points to book more flights
Once you sign up for a free account, you just need to find and link your Rapid Rewards account number to start earning points going forward. RocketMiles will send your points within 2 weeks of your hotel check-out. The RocketMiles points will look like all your other Rapid Reward Points within your account.
Tip: Hotels in various cities can earn over 10,000 Rapid Reward Points a night. Compare dollars per night to points for the best deal.
16. Get the Companion Pass
There is no promo in the airline industry that’s better than the Companion Pass. Many people refer to the Companion Pass as their buddy pass or guest pass.
My wife has been my companion for over five years in a row! The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass lets you designate a chosen companion to fly with you for FREE. Yes, Free. Technically, you still have to pay the TSA fee, but yes, free. You can designate your spouse, your mom, your best friend, a co-worker …anyone you choose.
You can use your Companion Pass on personal or business trips, as long as you are both on the same flight. The pass is good for both domestic and international destinations.
This is not your typical buddy pass to be redeemed for “one free ticket” with blackout dates, limited seat availability, and additional fees. Unlike other programs, you do not have to trade in the miles for the buddy pass. All those points you accrued are in addition to the Companion Pass.
Once you qualify for the Companion Pass, it’s good for the rest of the year along with the entire following year! There is a benefit to getting your status as early in the year as possible. For example, if you qualify on March 20, 2017, the pass will be valid until December 31, 2018.
Here’s the catch. You need to either accrue 110,000 Rapid Reward Points in a calendar year or fly 100 one-way flights.
Getting 110,000 Rapid Reward Points isn’t impossible.
- Get the Chase Southwest Premier credit card which pays you 50,000 points. It has an immediate $99 annual fee and requires you spend $2,000 – takes you to 52,000 points immediately.
- If you have a business, also apply for the Southwest business credit card which offers a similar 50,000 point promotion when you spend $2,000 within 3 months. Be sure to link the card to your personal Rapid Reward number so the points stack.
- Put everything on your Southwest credit card such as business expenses, cable bill, property taxes, McDonald’s, etc.
- Southwest randomly offers double points on all their flights during slower travel months. It can add up quickly, especially for Business Select flights. Business Select is the equivalent to Southwest airlines first class. If you book a Business Select fare for 5,000 points each way (10,000 points round trip) during a special, it could add up to 20,000 points. A few years ago, I flew from Chicago to San Francisco in January and then Chicago to Los Angeles in February during a promotion and received over 25,000 points for EACH trip. Two trips alone were worth over 50,000 Rapid Reward Points.
Southwest Companion Pass program allows you to change your designated companion up to three times per year. Maybe take your other best friend on a trip with you? Be aware there is no double-dipping companions. When you change or add a new companion, all your existing reservations with your old designation will be invalid.
Tip: Know your credit card billing cycle. If your billing cycle ends December 5, then all your points until December 5 count toward THAT calendar year. Starting December 6, all new charges go toward the following calendar year’s companion points.
17. Check the Southwest Magazine for Coupons and Discounts
I didn’t know they had a magazine either.
They say Southwest: The Magazine is read by 5 million travelers for every issue. Within the articles, they have promotions, discounts, promo codes, and coupons sprinkled throughout the monthly Southwest spirit magazine. The coupons are often for restaurants at destinations and local parking and airport shuttles.
Just thumbing through the spirit magazine, I see offers like:
- SuperShuttle – 12% off airport rides
- Penn & Tellers Las Vegas show – 2-for-1 tickets for SWA passengers
- Charles Tyrwhitt promotions code – my favorite non-iron shirt I’ve worn for the last decade. These are terrific for traveling. When I get off the plane for a business appointment, my shirt looks fresh.
- TheParkingSpot – 10% airport parking coupon
- Multiple Southwest Airlines shopping suggestions in destination cities
Tip: Go online to Southwest: The Magazine to see past monthly issues for more coupons and discounts in various cities and online stores
18. If You’re Delayed, Let Customer Relations Know
If your plane was delayed due to a mechanical issue, send Southwest Airlines Customer Service your feedback. Typically, they will compensate you with a cash voucher for travel funds on a future flight. Also, if there are flight problems or delays, the flight attendants will give you a free alcohol in many cases.
Tip: If you are delayed more than 45 minutes, call Southwest or go to the customer service desk to rebook you onto another flight for free.
19. Earn Rapid Reward Points by Sharing Your Opinion
By filling out surveys and watching videos, you can earn additional Rapid Reward Points. Go to this Southwest survey page.
Tip: First time enrollees receive bonus points at e-Rewards
20. Southwest Shopping – Save While Shopping Online
Shop through the Southwest online shopping portal to accrue more Rapid Reward Points toward a Companion Pass or free flights. You don’t even need to have the Chase Southwest Credit Card to shop and earn. Simply:
- Search the portal for participating online stores, products, and offers
- Shop and purchase the item or offer
- Earn Rapid Reward Points in your account
As of this writing, Apple is offering 2 points per $1. If you buy a $1,000 laptop for your back-to-school student, that will earn you an additional 2,000 points.
Tip: If you are just shy of points, I’d suggest buying a gift card through the portal and sort from “Highest Earn Rate.”
21. Compare Neighboring Airports
Many Southwest airports are near multiple airports. Check the price for each of the Southwest Airlines cities. I like to use the Interactive Route Search Tool Flight Map to visually see nearby alternative airports. The flight map is also known as Southwest Airlines Where We Fly.
For example, instead of flying into Phoenix, it was much cheaper for me to book four tickets into Tucson, Arizona and fly out of Phoenix, Arizona. Also, when flying to the LAX terminal, consider Long Beach, Burbank, or Santa Ana too. An alternative to San Francisco is Oakland, California. Las Vegas tends to be a costly ticket on Southwest so flying to or from Los Angeles may save you money add a driving trip as part of your vacation. A different zip code may save you a ton of money.
Many of these airports are within 30-40 minutes of each other and cost hundreds of dollars less or thousands of points cheaper.
Tip: Before booking flights into and out of difference cities, check the price of using different rental car locations. Sometimes the prices are the same, but often, returning the rental car to a different airport can cost you hundreds of dollars more!
22. All Rapid Reward Points Are Not Created Equally
Besides a Companion Pass, the other coveted status is A-List and A-List Preferred. You need the following points in a calendar year:
- 30,000 points for A-List
- 70,000 points for A-List Preferred
- 110,000 points for the Companion Pass
Surprisingly, getting A-List has been harder for me to achieve than the Companion Pass. I am not considered a Southwest frequent flyer, though, I charge everything on my Southwest Premier credit card which gets most of my points. Plus I use their portal for hotel packages, cars, shopping, and dining rewards.
A-List status, on the other hand, is only achieved with “Tier-Qualified Points.” What are Tier-Qualified Points? (TQP) You will find that Tier-Qualified Points are tied to the price of each ticket multiplied by a multiplier. The multiplier is based on your fare type (Wanna Get Away, Anytime Fare, or Business Select).
The higher the tier and higher the price of the ticket, the more points. They are earned from either the Chase Rapid Rewards credit card bonus points or points earned from revenue flights. Getting A-List status also helps getting to your companion pass faster. A-List status gives you an additional 25% earnings bonus on all eligible revenue Southwest flights. A-List Preferred members get 100% earnings bonuses!
|Wanna Get Away||$185||*||6||=||1110|
The Southwest Airline benefits can add up quickly if you watch for email promotions and news.
A-List Status Benefits
- Priority boarding
- 25% earning bonus (25% more points on each revenue flight)
- Priority check-in and security lane access
- Standby priority
- Dedicated A-List member customer representative phone number at 1-800-435-9792
A-List Preferred Status Benefits
- Priority boarding
- 100% earnings bonus (100% more points on each revenue flight)
- Priority check-in and security lane access
- Standby priority
- Dedicated A-List Preferred member customer reservation phone number at 1-888-737-1006
- Free inflight WiFi – send emails and browse the web at no charge. On wi-fi enabled aircraft, you need to enter your Rapid Reward number to verify your A-List Preferred status information. Also, YOU must be on the plane for it to work. You cannot let your friends use your Rapid Reward A-List Preferred privileges on other flights.
Sign-up for the Rapid Rewards Report for your personalized monthly account e-statement. The monthly emails show your current Rapid Reward Point totals and your percentage level towards status, such as A-List and the Companion Pass.
Tip: For business travel, booking late will likely result in a likely Business Select ticket with a higher multiplier per dollar spent.
24. Be Flexible in Your Travel Schedule
For some reason, the earliest and latest nonstop flights tend to be the cheapest.
Tip: If you need to pick up your rental car early or drop-off late due to your flight schedule, be aware you are charged for every 24 hours of use. In many cases, if you go past 24 hours, you will be charged an a whole day of usage and taxes.
25. All Planes are Not Created Equal
Southwest Airlines keeps maintenance costs low and fares on budget because they only fly Boeing 737 aircraft. Though, not every 737 is the same. Most of their fleet is the Boeing 737-700 plane which seats 143 passengers. They also have about 100 of the 737-800 aircraft that seats 175. Compared to the 700 model, the 800 model offers a better interior and more legroom.
Currently, the Southwest seats are not the most comfortable in the industry. According to Lifehacker, JetBlue, Virgin America, Hawaiian Airlines, and American Airlines Economy had more comfortable seats. The Boeing 737-700 fleet has a seat width of 17.3 inches. This compares to the Southwest Boeing 737-800 and their upcoming Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in 2017 that boast 17.8 inch width seats. The new Southwest seats will be more comfortable with adjustable headrests and eLeather upholstery.
Tip: Try avoiding the older 300 and 500 Boeing models which lack the Southwest WiFi entertainment system, older interiors, and less friendly for carry-on luggage.
26. Buy Rapid Reward Points When Short Points
If you find yourself short a few points to purchase a flight, sometimes it is cheaper to just buy more Rapid Reward Points instead of using cash to purchase the full fare. Southwest offers deals up to 60% more points when you purchase Rapid Rewards. Watch your emails for rewards promotions!
Tip: Ask a family member or friend to send you the point shortage.
27. Don’t Oversleep – 24 Hours Ahead of Check-In
Unlike most airlines, Southwest Airlines does not have assigned seating. Pay attention if this is your first time flying Southwest. Though the Southwest boarding process is one of the fastest in the industry, it sometimes comes at a cost to the passengers.
How does Southwest Airlines seating assignment work?
Simply, everyone is assigned to boarding group A, B, or C then a corresponding number ranging from 1-60. It can be a struggle to get an entire family or group together but don’t give up. There is “Family Boarding” between boarding groups A and B for families with children ages 4 and under. This increases the likelihood you and your kids can sit together. If your family gets onboard late, the flight attendants will ask for volunteers to move so a family can sit together. Volunteers usually get compensated with a free alcoholic drink on the menu.
Southwest is known to be a bit more flexible with families traveling with young travelers and children. It’s much easier to get on during Family Boarding when the majority of passengers heading to Orlando.
FYI, Southwest recommends females not traveling at the beginning of their 38th week of pregnancy. Expected mothers are advised to see a doctor within 14 days of delivery.
You will not need a Southwest seating chart to check-in. The seats are generally assigned based on who checks-in online exactly 24 hours in advance. Once check-in opens, it’s based on first come, first serve. Missing your checkin is the single worst mistake a passenger can make on Southwest.
You can also pay the upgraded $15.00 for Southwest’s EarlyBird Check-In that automatically checks you in 35 hours before the flight. You will likely be in the “A” group, based on the amount of “Business Select” passengers, “A-List,” passengers, and EarlyBird passengers.
Purchasing the $15 EarlyBird Check-In upgrade is good for a single one-way ticket. You need to purchase two Early Birds for a round-trip flight.
Passenger boarding starts 30 minutes before the scheduled departure. Get to your Southwest gate at least 45 minutes before your take-off. Unlike airlines like American and United, there isn’t a fancy Southwest lounge. The waiting area generally has a tall counter with some charging outlets. If you get there early enough, many of the gates have plush leather chairs with multiple charging outlets for your mobile device and laptop.
Tip: If you don’t pay for the EarlyBird Check-in, go online and have the atomic clock open on a separate browser so you can check-in exactly 24 hours before your flight.
27. Arrive at Least 30 minutes Before Your Flight
If you arrive late just once at your Southwest gate, you will never do it again! There is no point in paying for EarlyBird Check-In or being A-list or Business Select, if you aren’t going to board early. Remember, every flight has open seating with no reserved seats.
The only exception is if it’s a connecting flight. In that case, you are just happy to make your flight, even if you need to sit between two football players with big muscles.
I recommend signing up for the Southwest flight status notification service. You can choose to be notified either via text or email when you make your reservation. This flight status notification system may alert you the plane is delayed which saves you from running through the terminal and jumping over suitcases.
Tip: Don’t be shy if you have an early boarding group and the plane is already boarding ahead of you. Step to the front of the line and show the ramp agent.
28. Find Out if the Flight is Full, Before You Board
If the flight is not full, I will grab a window or aisle seat leaving the middle seat open, hoping I get lucky with an extra seat between passengers. If I know the flight is full, I will walk down the aisle looking for a smaller person that won’t overcrowd our row.
My carry-on luggage also wants to know how full the flight is to my destination. It will give me a better sense of whether the overhead compartments will be full before I get on board. Especially if I am boarding with the C boarding group.
Personally, I like to put a bag within a bag. I usually board the plane with a large and deep camping backpack stuffed with food, reading, toiletries, and electronics. I put the backpack in the overhead because the bag is so big that I have little leg and foot room. Ahead of the flight, I will put my laptop in a soft neoprene case zipped with my earphones, a magazine, and a fiber bar or fruit (that won’t get smooshed). This easily fits under the seat in front of me and leaves adequate room for my feet and legs to stretch out. I suggest getting a slightly larger neoprene sleeve case with a zipper.
My family knows I make everyone squeeze everything into our carry-on luggage. Southwest Airlines lost baggage record has historically been horrible. Per Luggage Forward, in 2014, the airline lost 329.595 bags. It’s scary to know that was a lot better than losing 439,323 bags in 2013. Carrying my baggage guarantees I don’t lose it and eliminates waiting at the baggage claim area for an hour!
Tip: Knowing whether the flight is full is especially helpful for someone with a lap child.
29. How does the Southwest Refund and No Show Policy Work?
If you cannot travel for any portion of your itinerary, you must cancel AT LEAST 10 minutes prior to the SCHEDULED departure. If you have a Wanna Get Away fare and do not board the plane or cancel at least 10 minutes ahead of time, you will be considered a “No Show.” The No Show policy applies only to domestic cash tickets. You will forfeit your funds in their entirety. Also, if you fail to show up for any leg of the flight, Southwest will cancel the entire reservation including any remaining flights on your itinerary.
Always be courteous and cancel your reservation as soon as possible.
When you cancel a Wanna Get Away fare purchased with dollars, you will receive a travel funds credit that must be booked within one year. If you do not use the travel funds with one-year, then you will forfeit the credit. Keep close track of your confirmation numbers associated with your travel funds. Visit Southwest Travel Funds page to see your current balance(s).
Southwest travel funds are not tracked or displayed in one place. They are very generous in letting us keep “our” money in the form of a credit. Unfortunately, they require each passenger to keep track of those funds. They will not track our funds for us.
Tip: The No Show Policy does not apply when using Companion Passes, Reward Points, and Reward seats.
30. Overbooked Flight on Southwest – Volunteer or Bumped
Due to the generous Southwest refund policy, they tend to overbook flights to maximize capacity. Maximizing the capacity is what allows them to offer discounts and promotions as a budget airline. Overbooking is an opportunity for Customers to get free vouchers for future flights. SWA understand many Customers have some level of flexibility for arrivals and departure times.
Volunteers are offered $100 travel vouchers plus a coupon for an amount equal to face value of your one-way flight. If they cannot find a flight to get you within two hours of your originally scheduled arrival time, then they bump it to a $300 travel voucher.
If you are involuntarily bumped, then they issue a check or travel voucher at twice your one-way flight for a maximum of $675. If your alternative stopover or destination is more than two-hour difference, your compensation is bumped to four times with a maximum of $1,350.
Tip: If the Southwest customer service counter can’t find any volunteers, you can potentially negotiate better compensation. Providing you better compensation is better than involuntarily bumping a Customer.
31. Choosing the Seat that Makes Sense for You
Generally, families head toward the back of the plane to sit together and be near the bathroom. Older travelers, business people, and connecting flight passengers tend to sit toward the front. Taller people head toward the exit row. When traveling with my spouse, family, or group I go just past the exit row for the best odds. When the plane is nearly loaded, most people are either trapped in the back and grab that seat or the new people boarding grab the first middle seat they see in the front.
Tip: When middle seats are your only choice, look for couples because they will tend to slide over and give you the end so they can still sit together.
32. Download the Southwest App for iPad and iPhone
The Southwest App for iPad and iPhone is very friendly and easy to use. I particularly like it when I am checking-in 24 hours in advance of my flight. Once you initially login, it knows me and allows for a quick and easy check-in process without searching for my confirmation number. The mobile app will save you if you’re not near a desktop and need to check-in to save a seat. I’ve checked-in my flight while trapped in line at Disney World.
The mobile app can do the following:
- Book your flight, check in, change your flight, or cancel flight reservations
- Access your mobile boarding pass
- Check flight status information, view boarding position and gate information
- Book rental car reservations or cancel
- EarlyBird check-in can be added to an existing reservation
- View your Rapid Reward account
- Get weather and travel alerts
- Useful airport information
Tip: The app knows your confirmation number but will not have the confirmation numbers for other travelers in your party with different confirmation numbers.
33. Use Apple Wallet to Hold Your Boarding Pass
Once you check-in, use your mobile phone to retrieve your mobile boarding pass. After your Southwest boarding pass is loaded, click the “Add to Apple Wallet” icon and “Add” it. When you go to the airport through security and boarding, it will be quick to retrieve.
Tip: Turn your iOS location services for Apple Wallet. When you arrive at the airport, your boarding pass will automatically show on your home screen to display quickly.
34. Use the Southwest Airlines Low Fare Calendar
If you have any flexibility in your schedule, you need to review the Southwest Airlines Low Fare Calendar. The calendar lets you view the fares every day for an entire month of domestic and international flights. If you can leave one day earlier or come back a day later, it may save you hundreds of dollars. Maybe travel a different week to your getaway?
Generally, I find Southwest ticket prices to be very competitive. You can only buy tickets at Southwest.com and not on third-party travel site. This allows them to keep low prices without paying third-party commissions on airline tickets. Also, I live between Midway airport and O’Hare airport. Though Southwest doesn’t fly out of O’Hare, I would rather fly out of Midway due to less congestion and it’s a smaller airport to maneuver.
Tip: Review the Low Fare Calendar with a touch of skepticism. It shows the lowest fare which could be the first, last, or a connecting flight. The lowest daily fare may not fit in your ideal schedule.
35. Know the Southwest Carry-On Policy Ahead of Time
Carryon items are regulated by the TSA which limits each passenger to one bag plus one small personal item. The Southwest carry-on rules limits each bag dimension to 10 x 16 x 24 inches. “Personal items” are considered briefcases, camera, containers for food, purses, and laptops. TSA considers pet carriers as either a carryon or a person item.
I have seen too many people get delayed in the airport security checkpoint due to unauthorized items. Unlike common travel liquids, some items maybe more obvious than others. For example, many people like to knit while traveling.
Does Southwest Airlines allow knitting needles?
Knitting needles are allowed in your checked baggage. Though, to carry on board, they recommend plastic or bamboo circulars that are not over 31 inches in total length. To be like MacGyver, I’ve seen people use dental floss for cutting yarn. Ingenious! You can also bring nail clippers or scissors shorter than 4 inches. I would suggest blunt scissors to alleviate any problems with the Transport Security Administration. I’ve noticed that some airport security checkpoints are less sensitive than others.
Some travel items have unusual carry-on rules and exceptions. You cannot carry on a lacrosse or hockey stick but you can bring ice skates.That doesn’t make sense to me. You can also bring screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers that are less than 7 inches long through TSA and on the plane.
Does Southwest allow cremation remains?
Southwest does not allow human remains in checked baggage. However, they accept cremation remains as carry-on luggage but not as checked baggage. TSA allows maximum carry-on baggage of 22” x 14” x 9” in a scan-able container. Scan-able containers for an x-ray machine include plastic, transparent glass, wood, cardboard, fiberboard, and cloth. Metal, ceramic, and stone are non-scan-able. Be sure to request a x-ray compliant container for cremation remains.
Can you bring perfume or cologne on Southwest?
Liquids and gels must be in containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or smaller. All your bottles must be placed in a quart-sized Ziploc bag. If you don’t have TSA pre-check, then keep your Ziploc bag handy to pull out and put in the bin for scanning.
What’s Southwest Airlines Dog and Pet policy?
Southwest only accepts small dogs and cats in carriers that fit under the seat for domestic flights only.International routes do not allow animals to travel in the cabin. The Pet Fare is $95 each way per pet carrier. The dimensions for the pet carrier must be within 8.5” high x 18.5” long x 13.5” wide.
Southwest allows a maximum of 6 pets per flight and one pet carrier is allowed per paying adult passenger. Technically, two small cats or dogs of the same species can travel in the same carrier. The kittens or puppies must be at least eight weeks old.
You must call Southwest customer service when making a pet reservation. Customers can print their online boarding pass, use an airport kiosk, wait inline at the ticket counter, or use curbside check-in. Though, your pet must be checked-in at the airport ticket counter.
Feel free to call Southwest toll free number at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792). This is the general contact number for all customer service related questions and assistance.
See approved pet carrier chart for purchase.
Does Southwest allow emotional support animals and trained assistance animals?
Emotional support animals can travel on all domestic and international destinations except for Jamaica. Due to country-specific regulations, animals are not allowed to travel to/from Jamaica.
Emotional support animals help people suffering from emotion disorders and anxiety. With proper documentation, Federal Regulations allow emotional support animals.
What is Southwest Airlines Guitar policy?
Yes, it may seem strange but Congress passed a bill in 2012 to permit guitars.
Section 403 of the legislation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 says, “…An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other musical instrument in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that carrier may require for comparable carry-on baggage ….”
Surprisingly, it took an act of Congress for a guitar bill. Of course, there must still be available space in the overhead bins to place your instrument. I would suggest paying the $15 Early-bird upgraded fee to make sure your instrument gets overhead bin space. If it’s too big for the overhead bin, then you can purchase a seat for your instrument. There are still weight restrictions for your instrument. If it doesn’t exceed 165 pounds, you can also check it in as luggage.
How do Southwest golf clubs and ski bags travel?
You cannot take the golf clubs and skis onboard but you can check-in your baggage for free. The airline does not charge for your first or second checked bag. That bag can be luggage or a golf bag or a ski bag.
Tip: Go to TSA.gov for approved and unapproved items or Ask TSA on Facebook Messenger or Twitter for quick replies.
Do strollers and Child Restraint Systems and Car Seats Count as a Checked Bag?
Southwest allows passengers traveling with children on free stroller and one car seat per child or one free child restraint system. These will not count toward your two free baggage per passenger.
What is the Southwest gun policy?
All guns, including paintball guns and BB guns, must be declared at the ticket counter for the Customer Service Agent. Firearms must be hard locked container. The firearm box can still be placed within a soft unlocked suitcase. Unlike firearms, paintball guns are not required to be in a locked hard case container. Checked firearms will count toward your two-free baggage allotment for each passenger. Of course, there isn’t a baggage limit on Southwest, but it will cost you.
36. Don’t let your Rapid Reward Expire
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points and miles don’t expire as long as you are earning points through a Rapid Reward Partner or take flight every 24 months. SWA is as friendly as they come in the airlines industry.
Personally, I am trying to save my points for Southwest Airlines Hawaii tickets when they add that new route. To stay current, Southwest Airlines new routes will be updated if you’re on their list.
Tip: Link your card to the Rapid Reward Dining Program. Have a meal to earn points and prevent your points from expiring.
As you can tell, my family and I are huge fans of Southwest Rapid Rewards and the airline. I understand why their stock symbol is ‘LUV.’
Common Southwest Airline Questions
What does “Wanna Get Away” fare mean on Southwest Airlines?
Southwest Airlines airfare classes are in three easy fares. Unlike American Airlines who announced a new boarding process in nine different classes! Southwest has three fares:
- Wanna Get Away – is the lowest and most economically priced ticket. It is recommended you book this low fare in advance. Wanna Get Away fares are limited per flight. You will receive less Rapid Rewards points and doesn’t allow you to fly standby. To fly standby, you must pay any fare difference based on your purchase price to the new fare price. Unlike most airlines, there is no change fee charged for the economy ticket. But remember, you will be subject to any fare increases. Of course, you may be lucky enough to receive a fare decrease based on supply. Be sure to check-in as soon as possible so you don’t sit in a dreaded middle seat.
- Anytime – Unlike the Wanna Get Away fare, the Anytime fare is fully refundable. You can change your ticket with no penalties. You can fly standby at no extra charge. Plus, you receive a higher multiplier for your Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
- Business Select – Is the equivalent to first class on Southwest. The traveler will get priority boarding, priority screening with TSA, even more Rapid Rewards Points, and a free drink. With Business Select, your boarding seat should range from A1-A15. The biggest perk in my opinion is guaranteeing room in the overhead for my carry-on luggage.
When you print your Business Select boarding pass, it will get a drink coupon for that particular flight. Though, priority screening is different than Southwest Airlines TSA precheck. Priority lets you move in a faster line vs precheck that lets you keep your shoes on and laptop in your bag.
There are pros and cons to the Wanna Get Away, Anytime, and Business Select. You must weigh whether the money, points, or flexibility are most important to you.
Tip: I always suggest buying the Business Select vs the Anytime fare. For an incremental amount of money you get priority boarding and a lot more Rapid Rewards Points. It always makes sense!
Tip 2: Everyone gets a free drink on special holidays like New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day …if you’re of age.
Does Southwest offer redeye flights?
They don’t have regularly scheduled redeye flights. Their know-how and planes are meant for shorter one-to-two hour flights. Yes, they’ve added Caribbean destinations since acquiring Airtran, but they still focus on short-haul flights. On Quora, the Southwest Schedule Planning Department touched on several reasons:
- Customer Demand – there aren’t enough interested Customers to fill up the plane on a regular basis and make the flights profitable.
- On Time Performance – by not flying overnight, Southeast cleans the planes, catch up or fly the plane to its appropriate city, and get them ready for a new day. This allows them to increase their on-time schedule. We all know how important that is to everyone.
- Happier Employees – Most passengers aren’t happy to fly a redeye flight. Imagine how the Southwest employees would feel. The company prides themselves on the quality of passengers and employees.http://www.businessinsider.com/southwest-airlines-puts-employees-first-2015-7
Overall, sounds like a losing proposition for a successful airline.
What are Some of the Funniest Things Southwest Flight Attendants Have Said Onboard?
According to Reddit:
“We know you have a lot of other options when flying, and we are so glad you couldn’t afford any of them.”
“Please don’t smoke in-flight, because you’ll get an expensive ticket. If you wanted that,you could’ve just flown United.”
“Smoking is not permitted aboard. Please step outside to do so.”
“Please turn off all electronic devices at this time, including Apples, Blueberries, Blackberries, and Strawberries.”
How do I get an Emergency Exit Seat on Southwest Airlines?
Southwest seating is first-come-first-serve. Everyone boards the plane starting with A Group then 1-60, then B Group with seats 1-60, then C Group. Unless you are A-List or A-List Preferred, your best bet is to purchase an Early Bird check-in. The next factor in determine your Early Bird check-in order is how many other people paid $15 to get on early.
If you are traveling with kids, you need to be at least 15 years of age or older to sit in an exit row. Also, you cannot have any limitations that would prohibit your assistance in an emergency.
Do all Airports offer TSA Precheck for Southwest Passengers?
Unfortunately, no! I was so bummed when I was at LaGuardia Airport in New York last month. The TSA Agent kindly handed me a temporary pass saying I didn’t have to take off my shoes. Typically, TSA Pre-check allows the following benefits:
- Don’t take off your shoes – I don’t want my bare feet or socks touching that dirty floor
- Laptop in Bag – I can leave my laptop or mobile device in my carry on bag
- Wear my light outerwear or jacket – one less item to toss into a bin
- Keep my belt on – I don’t have to redress once through security
Most airports do have TSA Precheck for Southwest travelers, but not all. It can make a huge difference on how early you need to arrive before your flight and whether you catch your plane.
Here is the list of Southwest airports with TSA PreCheck, click here.
How Does Southwest Know if I Have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry?
If you have a Rapid Reward number, you can either call customer service so they can add to your profile or login on Southwest.com and add it to your profile. When I book a flight, I login and it automatically knows my Known Traveler Number.
If you are booking a ticket for someone without a Rapid Reward number, then you can add it while completing their profile during the checkout process online.
TSA Precheck allows kids ages 12 and under traveling with an eligible guardian to also participate in the expedited screening process. If your young traveler is 13 and older then they must go through standard security or apply for a DHS trusted traveler program.
Personally, I think it’s worth the $85 fee for TSA Precheck (or $100 for Global Entry) if you travel a couple times per year. It good for five years. If you travel twice per year over 5 years that’s $4.25 per leg of the trip ($8.5 per round trip). The expedited security, keeping my shoes on, not removing my laptop and liquids, and keeping on a light jacket is totally worth the hassle.
Click here to apply for TSA Precheck.
Tip: Occasionally, even TSA Precheck passengers are chosen randomly to go through standard security. It will be listed on your boarding pass.
How do I get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry for Free?
Unfortunately, the Chase Southwest credit card does not compensate holders for TSA nor Global Entry fees.
Though, there are several alternative credit cards that do. Maybe you already have one of these credit cards?
- American Express Corporate Gold Card
- American Express Corportate Platinum Card
- Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard (only Global Entry)
- Business Plantinum from American Express OPEN
- Centurion Cards from American Express
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
- Citi Prestige Card
- Expedia + Voyager Card from Citi
- Platinum Card from American Express
- Ritz-Carlton Reward Credit Card (only Global Entry)
- S Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express Card
You are already paying annual credit card fees, so might as well take advantage of them. Apply for Global Entry or TSA Precheck will help justify your fees every five years.
Tip: If you plan on traveling Internationally within 5 years, then I suggest paying the extra $15 for Global Entry vs TSA Precheck. See The Travel Sisters for more details.
How do I Initiate a Southwest Credit Card Balance Transfer?
Sometimes it makes sense to payoff credit cards with higher-rates or consolidate your balances. Personally, I’m a one credit card type of person. Given the benefits of the Chase Southwest credit card, I basically just use one to maximize my rewards. To do a credit card balance transfer, follow these steps:
- Sign-in and select your SWA credit card – check your eligibility
- Enter your desired balance transfer amount
- Complete your Southwest balance transfer – Accept Chase’s Terms and Conditions
Chase provides FAQ’s about balance transfers.
What is Southwest’s Address and Contact Information?
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
P.O. Box 36657
Dallas, TX 75235
1-800-445-5764 for Automated Rapid Rewards Service
Where Can I Report a Lost Item on Southwest?
Use this form to report lost items .
Does Southwest Have Social Media Channels?