To be honest this is a post I never thought I would be writing….actually advocating that people fly Southwest.
Before my first ever Southwest Flight last month, I was in the camp that Southwest was just another low-cost airline that didn’t really benefit me.
Why would I fly Southwest in the United States when United also flies to almost all of their destinations?
Additionally since Southwest doesn’t currently fly any International Routes outside of North America, I always thought is was better to rack up United or American miles to use on International Award Tickets.
With that thinking, I avoided Southwest like the plague and never even considered signing up for the Southwest 50,000 Personal and Business Credit Cards that many people got in on.
Million Mile Secrets points out that both offers are back, so you could potentially earn 100,000 Southwest Points.
If you can earn 110,000 Points, you earn a companion pass that basically allows a companion to fly with you for free.
Only thing to remember is that Southwest Cards are issued by Chase, so if you recently applied for Hyatt Card, then I’d hold off a month.
Why Southwest Is Not As Bad As You Think
While most people think of Southwest as a low cost airline in the leagues of Spirit Airways, I am going to beg to differ.
Southwest certainly does have some funny practices like not assigning seats and corralling passengers like animals before boarding, but after flying United and American, I have come to the conclusion that the Legacy Airlines are actually far worse than Southwest.
Southwest is cheap and they wear it as a badge of honor.
Legacy Airlines are cheap but act and charge you like they aren’t.
Basically there are 4 major reasons I have changed my tune to Southwest.
1. Free Changes On Tickets
One thing I have never understood is why Airlines are so stingy about changing tickets.
They way they act, you would think that when each ticket is issued, they have someone carving your name into a block of stone.
With almost all Airlines, after the federally mandated “24 Hour Free Cancellation Window”, if you want to cancel or change your Revenue Ticket, it will cost you $150 or more.
Can you imagine if Hotels started implementing such a dumb policy?
In recent weeks, the one thing that I have come to admire about Southwest is that they allow you to cancel or refund a ticket for free.
In the event that you cancel your ticket, they will either refund your points or give you credit on Southwest that is good for 1 year.
To me this is HUGE because my plans seem to change on a whim.
For example, I have a Free One Way to LA from my recent Europe Trip and I am planning on using that to get to San Francisco for the domestic part of the MegaDO in November.
Since the Free One Way is booked on United, there is no way to change the city (I’d change it direct to SFO) without incurring a hefty fee, so I decided to instead take advantage of Southern California for a few days.
However I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in LA with some friends for a couple days, go down to San Diego, or visit my cousin at Berkley before the start of the MegaDO.
Normally, I would have had to base my plans around the Airlines because if I commit to buying a LA to SFO ticket, then my plans are basically set in stone.
However with Southwest, you can change your plans as you would like.
So originally I thought I was just going to connect in LA, so I bought a One Way from LAX to SFO and was planning on spending the weekend in Berkley.
However then my Friends said they wanted to meet up in LA and go down to San Diego, so then I simply canceled my Southwest ticket for free and rebooked it as San Diego to SFO.
If my plans change again, I can simply switch it to another ticket free of charge!
If you are crafty, you can really use this as an easy hedging tool.
Say you need a ticket from Chicago to Seattle but the prices are extremely volatile and you think the price might drop some more.
You can purchase a ticket on Southwest, and then monitor the prices for United, AA, Delta, etc with Kayak.com’s free daily alerts.
If the price drops on the other Carriers, you can book with them and simply cancel your Southwest ticket for free.
If the prices never drops, then you have a Southwest Ticket you can use.
2. Southwest Price Based Awards
I have talked many times before about how Southwest’s program is not based on a fixed mileage value (ie. 25,000 Miles = free domestic ticket), instead it is a variable system that calculate the amount of Points needed based on the current price of the ticket.
So for Wanna Get Away fares (the cheapest ones), every Southwest Point you have is worth $0.016.
If you want to find out the cost of a fare in Points, simply multiply the Base Fare (excluding taxes and excise fee) by 60 Points per $1.
So a $300 base fare on Southwest would only cost 18,000 Points!
That is a full 7,000 less points that with United or American for a similar flight.
The best part is that if the flight is really cheap, say only $150, it would only cost you 9,000 Points!
Also for One Way tickets, you can get it down to as little as 4,000 Points which is a steal when you factor in the next point below.
3. Southwest Is An Ultimate Rewards Partner
Southwest being an Ultimate Rewards Partner is really what converted me over.
The reason I had never looked at Southwest before is because I never had any Points with them.
However once I realized that Southwest was an Ultimate Rewards Partner and that you can get Award Tickets with Southwest for more than 1/2 off what United and American charge, it was a no brainer.
The reason for this is that with Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer to Southwest, United, and British Airways at a 1 UR Points = 1 Mile.
That being said, if you need to get from say Chicago – Los Angeles, on United an Award Ticket would cost at a minimum 25,000 Miles (25k UR Points) but with Southwest it is based on the price of the ticket, so you could hypothetically get it down to 15,000 Southwest Points (15k UR Points) or lower.
By flying Southwest and transferring your Ultimate Rewards Points to them, you can easily save thousands of UR Points over transfering your Points to United.
4. 2 Free Checked Bags
Although many people will laugh at this, I personally think having the ability to Check Bags is important when you factor in how much money Airlines make off of this bogus charge.
Obviously most of us now just try to cram as much stuff as possible into our Carry On bag, but it can get annoying because you can’t take large liquids, etc.
Sometimes if you are a Family and traveling with young kids, there is no way you can avoid checking a bag because you have to bring their strollers, toys, diapers, etc.
The average airline charges $25 each way for the 1st checked bag and $35 for the 2nd checked bag.
So 2 checked bags round trip would cost you $120.
If the average domestic airline ticket is $300, you are paying 40% more to check 2 bags!!!!
So your $300 ticket just became $420.
Even just checking 1 bag round trip is an additional $50 on to the price of your ticket.
What is really nice, is that even Skis and Golf Clubs can be checked free on Southwest!
1,000 Point New Account Sign Up Bonus
If you don’t have a Southwest Account, I highly suggest you create one and see how much you can save especially on Award Tickets.
Gary from View From The Wing points out that you can get 1,000 Free Points if you open a new Southwest Rapid Rewards account.
Given how low in satisfaction surveys Airlines consistently rank, when an Airline goes above and beyond to not price gouge its Customers with ridiculous Baggage Fees, Close-in Ticketing Fees, or Ticket Change Fees, I really think the Airline should be commended.
I strongly think that many in the Frequent Flyer Community have been accustomed into thinking that you have to stick with 1 airline to get the most miles.
But in today’s day and age, most of the miles non-Elite Flyers earn are primarily from Credit Card sign ups.
I know this is 100% true for me, so it makes no sense for me to go out of my way to fly United or American on my Domestic Trips.
I don’t have Elite Status and the 2,000 or 4,000 Miles I might earn are just a drop in the bucket compared to the 55,000 Miles I can get for signing up for a Credit Card and using it once.
That being said, outside of Frequent Flyers that have top tier Elite status with American, United, or Delta, I have never heard anyone say that they absolutely love a certain any of those Airlines.
In my case, I prefer United over American Airlines, but that is only because I find United less crappy than American, aka Winner By Default.
If Chicago was a Delta Hub, I certainly would consider them but then again Delta’s SkyMiles are named SkyPesos for a reason…
Basically the point of this post is to remind everyone that you do have a choice when you fly (for the most part), and don’t let the idea of earning Miles blind you into having a particular allegiance to an Airline when they haven’t really done anything to earn it.
Personally, since United has canceled 2 of my last 3 flights, next time I fly in the U.S, I am going to go out of my way not to fly United and will either go with Southwest or Virgin Atlantic.