Southwest Starts Flying International…But It’s Not all Good News…Yet!

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We’ve all been waiting for this!

You can fly to the Aruba, the Bahamas, and Jamaica on Southwest from July 1, 2014!  The Southwest schedule is open until August 8, 2014.  I’ll post an update when the schedule opens beyond August 8, 2014.

Southwest Starts Flying International But Its Not All Good News Yet

3 New Southwest Destinations From July 1, 2014!

And if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, you can bring your companion for free (pay only taxes)!

Southwest Flies to the Caribbean

Southwest and Air Tran are merging.  Air Tran used to fly to certain international destinations in the Caribbean, whereas Southwest only flew within the US and to Puerto Rico.

However, Air Tran will no longer exist by the end of 2014 and Air Tran planes will be converted to Southwest planes.

So from July 1, 2014, Southwest planes will start flying to 3 international destinations which Air Tran used to fly to.

Here are the departing and arrival cities:

From Atlanta to:

  • Aruba
  • Montego Bay
Southwest Starts Flying International But Its Not All Good News Yet

Southwest Will Fly from Atlanta to Aruba & Montego Bay

From Baltimore (Washington, DC Area) to:

  • Aruba
  • Nassau
  • Montego Bay (twice daily)
Southwest Starts Flying International But Its Not All Good News Yet

Southwest Will Fly from Atlanta to Aruba, Montego Bay & Nassau

From Orlando to:

  • Aruba (Saturday only)
  • Montego Bay
Southwest Starts Flying International But Its Not All Good News Yet

Southwest Will Fly from Orlando to Aruba & Montego Bay

What’s Next?

And by the end of 2014, Southwest should start flying their planes to other Air Tran destinations:

  • Cancun, Mexico
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Cabo san Lucas, Mexico
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

And by 2015, Southwest should add other international destinations.

Yes, You Can Use Your Southwest Companion Pass 

You can use your Companion Pass on these new international flights!

Link:   Southwest Credit Cards

Link:   Southwest Companion Pass

Emily and I love our Southwest Companion Pass because it lets Emily fly for free for up to two years!

With the Companion Pass, when you fly Southwest, you can bring a companion for free!  Even if you pay for your flight with points!  You only pay the segment taxes (~$10).

Southwest Starts Flying International But Its Not All Good News Yet

Emily Can’t Wait to Use Our Southwest Companion Pass on an International Flight!

To get a Companion Pass, you have to earn 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points within 1 calendar year (January 1 to December 31st).

Which can be done very easy since the 50,000 point bonus from the Southwest credit cards count towards the companion pass!  Here are 10 ways to earn the extra points needed for the Companion Pass.

All 4 versions of the Southwest credit cardsincluding the Southwest Premier card, currently offer 50,000 Southwest points after spending $2,000 within 3 months.

50,000 Southwest points are worth ~$710 to ~$850 in Southwest flights or $500 in gift cards!

Southwest’s schedule is open through August 8, 2014,  so you can book most of your summer travel.

Other Ways to Get Southwest Points

You can instantly transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, (no longer offered) Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Plus to Southwest Airlines on a 1:1 ratio, if you’re running low on Southwest points.

Note that  transferring points directly from Ultimate Rewards to Southwest do NOT count towards the Companion Pass.  But you can use them for Southwest flights

Ok, But What’s not Good About Southwest Flying Internationally?

1.   You Can Only Depart From 3 Cities

For now, you can’t fly non-stop to the Caribbean unless you depart from Baltimore, Atlanta or Orlando!

Or if you are departing from Boston or Pittsburgh and connecting in the 3 international departure cities.

For example, if I search for a flight from Austin to Aruba, I get a message asking me to choose another destination.

Southwest Starts Flying International But Its Not All Good News Yet

Southwest is Testing Their Reservation System so You Can’t Fly Internationally on the Same Ticket Unless You leave from Baltimore, Atlanta, or Orlando

But I can book a flight with my Southwest points (and add a Companion) from Atlanta to Aruba!

Southwest Starts Flying International But Its Not All Good News Yet

I Could Book a Flight from Atlanta to Aruba With my Southwest Points

And  I can book a flight from Boston to Aruba with a connection in Baltimore for only 9,600 Southwest points and $15!  

Southwest Starts Flying International But Its Not All Good News Yet

But You Can Book Intenational Flights from Boston (or Pittsburgh)!

At their press conference, Southwest explained that they are still testing out their new reservation system for international passengers.

But they expect to let folks book international flights from most Southwest departure cities soon.

They also mentioned that they see certain destinations as “over-fared” and hinted at offering ticket prices lower than what was currently available!

I can’t wait for this to happen!

No Cancellation Fees & Save Points

You don’t pay a penalty to cancel a Southwest flight paid with points (the points go back to your account when you cancel), so you can book your summer travel before you confirm your plans.

You can use fewer Southwest points if you redeem your points before March 31, 2014 for flights on Southwest after March 31, 2014.

Southwest Starts Flying International But Its Not All Good News Yet

Book Before March 31, 2014 to get More From Your Points!

That’s because the cost of using points will increase for flights booked after March 31, 2014.  So your points will be worth ~15% less if you book a flight on, say, May 1, 2013 AFTER March 31, 2014.

But you will pay fewer points for the same flight if you book them with points BEFORE March 31, 2014.  And you can cancel and rebook your ticket without a fee if the number of points required for the award drops or if your plans change!

Bottom Line

You can book flights to the Caribbean on Southwest for flights departing after July 1, 2014.  However, you can’t (yet) book flights from all Southwest departure cities.  But you should be able to do so soon!

And you can use your Southwest Companion Pass on these new international flights!  The schedule is open until August 8, so you can plan international travel for only 1 month.

All 4 Southwest cards, including the Southwest Premier card, are currently offering a 50,000 point sign-up bonus which is worth about $710 to $850 in Southwest flights or $500 in gift cards!

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42 responses to “Southwest Starts Flying International…But It’s Not all Good News…Yet!

  1. This is fantastic news. But another thing to consider is that taxes from some of these international airports is considerable (ie: leaving from Nassau is $90 usd instead of the normal $2.50 within the USA). Doesn’t seem to be anyway around that.

  2. I have a bunch of AirTran credits. I know I could convert them to Southwest credits, but think I’m waiting until I have to in order to extend the expiration. On the other hand, if I could get a nice Aruba flight on Southwest I might jump sooner. What is the process for searching award space on Southwest with credits? All I see at the Southwest website is the method for redeeming points, not credits. Dumb question, I know, but it seems that information is well hidden somewhere, and I haven’t been active in the Southwest program.

  3. Airtran credits convert at a certain rate outlined here:

    convert, then use the southwest points to pay for the flight you choose.

  4. This link is more helpful.

    a airtran credit = 1200 sw points

  5. Great news! At last, my “companion” will need to get a passport.

    On a related note, the southwest reservation system seems to have gone a bit odd over the weekend, as multiple itinerary possibilities from east coast airports to the west started indicating that I can’t book direct to this or that westcoast airport later in the spring/summer. (such as SLC, PDX, SFO, etc.) (e.g., using I think what were airtran flights, available via the southwest web site. Perhaps this will all shake out this year, as the “slowest airline merger eva” finally moves forward.)

  6. I have the pers prem visa already. Will I get the bonus on reg. pers?

  7. Has anyone recvd bonus for both premier and plus (pers) cards?

  8. Am I misunderstanding one of your posts?

    In this posting last October, I believe it said that we could transfer points from ultimate rewards via chase sapphire to southwest and have them count toward the companion pass……but in this current post it said you could not.

    Thanks for your help.

  9. I can fly from FLL to the Bahamas in only 6 hours! Just have to fly from FLL to Atlanta and then backtrack. LOL!

  10. Great news! I am six months into this game, but I just received my companion pass on January 21 and i am so excited at the continued increase in possibilities on Southwest. A million thanks to you, Darius, for ask your great blogs and direction! You have changed my travel life forever…in the best way possible! I

    • @dyhppy – That’s true, but you usually have to pay the airport and foreign taxes on all redemptions.

      @DaveS – Login to your account and click on “My Rapid Rewards” and then “What Happened to my Awards” to see your Southwest credit awards.

      @will – I suspect that you’re right and this will get better as they integrate the two airlines.

      @AmyP – The linked post explains that you can only transfer Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt or Marriott and then to Southwest to get them to count for the Companion Pass. Direct transfers will NOT count towards the Companion Pass.

      @scott – LOL!

      @Tina mccomber – Thanks for sharing your success. These are my favorite kind of comments!

  11. So, In order for somebody from, say STL, to do this….I would need to fly STL to ATL; recheck baggage and hop on ATL to Aruba? Not totally a deal breaker, especially considering the companion pass; but might be long layover.

  12. Personally I don’t think it will be good news until they fly somewhere besides tourist destinations. I guess these places are fine if you want to go hang out with other Americans who think they are getting culture in a foreign country. Mexico City will be exciting though.

  13. Daraius,
    Great info, thanks.
    Waiting for the CP to come in the next couple of weeks.
    How do you book Airtran flights using RRs? I tried searching from Southwest site, and it redirects to AirTran site, but shows prices in $ only. Don’t see an option to book with RRs. Thanks for the help.

  14. Remember that if you like to use Early Bird Check-in and you are forced to create multiple reservation to get from say Kansas City to Aruba on Southwest that you will have to pay the Early Bird fee for each reservation. Until this issue is fixed Southwest cannot claim that their merger with AirTran is complete.

  15. @Nick Summy “Mexico City will be exciting though”.

    Yeah, a thrill a minute as you keep an eye out for armed robbers, drug cartel shootouts, and kidnappers posing as taxi drivers. Other locations you might want to check out are Damascus Syria, and Islamabad Pakistan. 😉

  16. I’ve always had trouble with routing SWA and Jetblue from AUS, so I’m glad we now have an expert in town! I hope the new international gate we are getting will mean more direct international flights.

    I just got approved for the two Chase SWA cards thanks to your excellent advice on how to handle a reconsideration call! Now I just need to figure out a few destinations so I can decide which hotel points to go after.

    Thanks for your excellent blog!

  17. I can’t seem to find it on Southwest’s website, but what is the policy for infant (under 2 years) on an international trip booked with points?

  18. @Robert Hanson, I’m rather surprised, as you seem to be a knowledgeable traveler. Mexican border towns are not a great place to visit right now, but Mexico City is a fabulous destination. Like in most places, it’s not a good idea to get into drug deals in Mexico City, and you’re better off using a cab you (or your hotel) call. But the exaggerated stereotypes are far from the reality of a spectacular place with so much to see and do. It’s no more dangerous for a tourist than any big city in the U.S. would be.

  19. Book those tickets while you can. You never know when SW will simply pull the plug on a destination. FYI, they’re discontinuing service to Key West from Tampa, Orlando and New Orleans effective June 2014. We routinely fly nonstop NOLA-KW on SW and the flights are always packed. This is only one example of destinations axed by SW effective June.

  20. Let Robert Hanson and other people who have no clue what they are talking about talk bad about Mexico City. That way it will continue to be the affordable destination that it is. I just got back and felt safer walking around there than I do in many American cities. The food is amazing and very affordable. The people are kind, the murals and archaeological sites are awe-inspiring, etc etc.

  21. Just booked my trip to Aruba using points, but had to call in to add my wife to the reservation via her Companion Pass since the International Flights require gender information which presumably isn’t stored with the Companion Pass. The CSR had to pull in her supervisor and it took about 15 minutes, but they were able to successfully get her added to my flight. They informed me that I would not be able to add Companion Pass flights via the online/web reservation system to International Flights and would need to continue to call in for these reservations until the systems were fully integrated…. A small price to pay for a cheap flight to Aruba!

  22. Are you only able to get the 50,000 on this one personal and one business or can you get it on both the personal cards and both the business cards. How long would you have to wait if you can get those to apply

  23. Pay careful attention to the tax amounts. I am assuming that the taxes will also apply to the Companion with the Companion pass.

    Jamaica has ridiculous taxes for traveling there. I looked up an American Airlines ticket and it was over $84 in 7 different taxes. Aruba charges about $48 in 3 different taxes. This excludes the US taxes that are also thrown in there.

  24. This article inspired me to start looking at an Aruba trip out of ATL. Since I don’t live in ATL, I would take a non-stop flight to there and another flight to Aruba. Does anyone know what the international check-in process is going to be like flying on Southwest/AirTran in ATL considering I have to buy two separate tickets (one domestic to ATL and the international ticket back). Can we check the bags all the way through and not be forced to walk past security to check in again?

    Just wondering if anyone has tried this on a SW/AirTran international combo ticket.

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  33. Do you know when reservations can start being made on Southwest to Cancun in April 2015

  34. My mom would like to get the SW credit cards with the 50,000 point bonus and go for the companion pass. My daughter and I had one the past 1 1/2 years and it was great. But now I am trying to figure out if my mom gets the CC’s but we put in my frequent flyer number can I get the points instead? and could I then get the companion pass once we get the 110,000 miles? She is willing to put me on as an additional card user but the acct would be under her SS#.

    She does not fly and wants to do this for us. We homeschool and love to use traveling as part of school.

    I thank you in advance for your help with this.

  35. The reservation system is still very clunky as of January 2015. I tried to book from Islip, NY to Aruba (going thru BWI) but instead have to book separate flights, Islip to BWI landing around 7:30 am and BWI to Aruba taking off around 9 am. You would think someone at Southwest would have considered this before opening up the international market for reservations.

  36. We have flown Southwest many times but wish they would at least go through the summer months including August. Why the cut the service off after July is Crazy! Either you fly to a destination or you don’t!

  37. Jeffrey Beardsley

    As of this morning, 03/17/2015, Southwest still does not offer service from MCO to MBJ (Orlando to Jamaica). I have to go back up to Baltimore. Ain’t gonna happen. Bummer. And they profess not to have any information as to when it will start. Oh well.

  38. Hi Daraius and all, I’d like some advise if any one can help- I have the Southwest Premier Rapid Rewards Visa Signature card in good standing which I’ve had for three years. I’d like to get a Southwest Air Companion Card (starting January of next year- 2016) so it would be good for almost two years- 2016 through 2017. As the Rapid Rewards miles (I would need 110000 miles to get the Companion Card) need to be collected in one calendar year- I would need to apply for two new SWA Cards (in January) and that accumulate 10000 more miles? Getting 10000 miles is not a problem but should I close my present SWA Visa Signature Card now (September of 2015) to have a better chance of getting two new cards and then apply for the two new cards in January or should I just try and get two new cards from SWA (actually Chase Bank). My credit scores are 800’s but I think they (Chase) would question why I need three SWA branded cards. Any and all reponses are greatly appreciated. Right now I have 15735 points in this year (2015) towards Companion Pass status.
    Sent in September 22, 2015

  39. Flying from Atlanta to Jamaica with a lay over in Orlando. Do I check in international