Things to Know Before Flying Southwest
Information about Things to Know Before Flying Southwest
Southwest Airlines is a popular airline that flies to more than 100 destinations across the United States. Travelers rave about the brand’s low fares, generous free baggage policy and minimal fees. Southwest has an airline loyalty program known as Rapid Rewards, and if you’re new to flying with Southwest or have yet to join their loyalty program, you should know that it may be slightly different from other flying experiences that you’ve had with other U.S.-based airlines. That’s because Southwest operates differently. We’ve outlined the essential things to know before flying Southwest below.
Southwest doesn’t allow flyers to reserve seats in advance, and there are no assigned seats. Instead, Southwest has a unique boarding system. Each traveler is assigned a boarding group and a position upon check-in. Boarding groups are A, B or C. Positions are numbered and range from 1-60+.
Your boarding group and boarding position will dictate what order you get on the plane. For example, A39 will board much sooner than C12. You can check in to your flight beginning 24 hours before departure. The sooner you check in, the closer you’ll be to the front of the line. When the gate agent calls your boarding group, you can get in line in numerical order. Then, you’ll be able to get on the plane and choose where you want to sit.
If you want to board the plane early without rushing to check-in, you have four options:
Does it matter when you check in on Southwest? Yes. As mentioned above, the sooner you check in to your flight, the better your chance of getting a boarding position closer to the front of the line, thus giving you greater flexibility to choose where you’d like to sit after boarding the aircraft. You can check in starting 24 hours prior to departure.
If you know that you won’t make your flight as planned, you can without penalty. If you booked with a Business Select or Anytime fare, you can choose to receive a method-of-payment refund, or you can obtain travel credit. For travelers who booked Wanna Get Away fare, you can cancel and get travel credit.
To cancel without penalty, you’ll need to call and cancel your reservation at least 10 minutes before your scheduled departure time. If you don’t do this, and you purchased Wanna Get Away fare, your tickets won’t be refunded. If you don’t cancel at least 10 minutes before departure and you purchased Business Select or Anytime fare, you’ll receive travel credit.
Southwest Airlines is one of the most generous airlines when it comes to baggage allowance. All travelers, regardless of ticket type or status, can check two bags at no extra cost. Bags must meet the size and weight requirements to be free. Each bag must not be more than 62 inches (height, width and depth combined) or 50 pounds. Otherwise, additional fees will be charged.
When flying with Southwest Airlines, snacks and nonalcoholic beverages may be available at no extra cost. However, unlike other airlines, Southwest Airlines doesn’t serve full meals or sell additional snacks. Southwest normally offers alcoholic beverages for purchase, but due to COVID-19 safety protocols the airline has suspended this service. Southwest currently offers a limited selection of snacks and nonalcoholic beverages, when available, on flights greater than 250 miles.
If you have a long journey coming up, you may want to pack some snacks so you’re not hungry.
When flying with Southwest Airlines, you won’t need to pay for entertainment. All entertainment is free and doesn’t require Wi-Fi access. To access this free entertainment, you’ll need to bring a personal device, like a cell phone, tablet or notebook. With that in mind, Wi-Fi access is not free and costs $8 per day per device for an all-day pass.
Some frequent flyer programs are spending-based, while others are distance-based. In the , you’ll earn based on the dollar amount you spend, not miles flown.
The fare type purchased will dictate how many points per dollar you earn as a Rapid Rewards member.
As a basic member you will earn:
In addition to the type of fare purchased, you’ll earn more points if you’ve achieved through the Rapid Rewards loyalty program. Basic members will earn at the rates noted above, but A-List and A-List Preferred members earn more. A-List status flyers will earn 25% more points, while A-List Preferred status flyers will earn 100% more points.
Additionally, elite status members get more perks.
A-List members get the following:
A-List Preferred members get the following:
Unlike some other airline loyalty programs, Southwest Airlines’ . You won’t have to worry about having account activity to keep your points. However, the points in your account will be terminated if you choose to close the account.
For those who earn a Companion Pass, traveling is more affordable. That’s because you can choose one companion to join you for nearly free travel. You’ll need to pay only taxes and fees for your companion’s ticket. Here’s how it works:
If you fly on 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, you will earn the Companion Pass. Once earned, a Companion Pass lets you pick someone to fly with you every time you purchase a flight or redeem points for a flight. All you’ll do is pay for your companion’s taxes and fees. Companion Pass status remains valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which the pass is earned and for the entirety of the subsequent calendar year. You can also change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year. If you regularly fly with others, this could result in significant money savings.
When redeeming your Rapid Rewards points for travel, there are no blackout dates. Book your trip for whatever dates work best for you.
These are the things to know before flying Southwest. Since this airline is so friendly, flexible and accommodating, it’s no wonder why so many travelers prefer to fly with Southwest Airlines.
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the , including those best for: