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You can now book paid and award tickets on Southwest and AirTran through March 6, 2015 (instead of January 5, 2015). So if you’re planning a winter break vacation with the kids, or a Valentine’s getaway with your sweetheart, you can book those flights now!
Southwest started flying to international destinations like Mexico, Aruba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas on July 1, 2014.
Most airlines open their schedule ~11 to 12 months in advance, but Southwest only opens their schedule ~6 to 8 months in advance.
Southwest Companion Pass
With the Southwest Companion Pass, your companion will fly with you for almost free, on BOTH paid and award tickets!
You can book a seat for yourself, and add your companion later if you don’t currently have a Companion Pass.
Here’s all you need to know about the Southwest Companion Pass! You get the Companion Pass after earning 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points in a calendar year.
Note: The easiest way to earn points for the Companion Pass is to wait until the Southwest 50,000 points credit cards come back! These cards come around every few months, so if you missed them last time you should be able to get them again soon.
Ways to Earn Southwest Points
1. Paid Flights on Southwest
You’ll earn points when you fly Southwest on paid (NOT award) flights. Southwest calculates points on the base fare and excise taxes, but NOT the government taxes and fees.
- Business Select Fares: 12 points per $1 you spend
- Anytime Fares: 10 points per $1 you spend
- Wanna Get Away Fares: 6 points per $1 you spend
2. Southwest Credit Cards
Link: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
Link: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Business Credit Card
I’ve written about the Chase Southwest credit cards and how you can use them to earn LOTS of Southwest points.
All 4 versions of the Southwest card are currently offering 25,000 Southwest points after meeting the minimum spending. This isn’t the best offer for these cards, because Chase increases the sign-up bonus to 50,000 points several times a year. So if you can wait a few months, you’ll get a better deal with the 50,000 point offer.
You can earn 1 point per $1 you spend on regular purchases, and 2 points per $1 you spend on Southwest, AirTran, and certain hotel and car rental partners.
25,000 Southwest points are worth ~$355 in Southwest flights or $250 in gift cards. There are no blackout dates when you redeem points on Southwest, so you can book as many seats as Southwest is selling!
3. Transfer Points From Chase Ultimate Rewards
Note: Transferring points directly from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest does NOT count towards the Companion Pass.
I prefer earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points and only transferring the points to Southwest when I need them. That’s because I can earn 2X points on all travel and dining with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and 5X points on wireless, telecom, and office supply stores with the Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus.
4. Earn Bonus Points
There are lots of other ways to earn extra Southwest points. You don’t need to have a Southwest credit card to earn bonus points from shopping, dining, participating in partner promotions, or by transferring hotel points.
For example, I earned 1,750 extra Southwest points on Valentine’s Day just by ordering flowers through 1-800-flowers.com.
AirTran Schedule Also Open Through March 6, 2015
You can also book flights on AirTran up to March 6, 2015.
Southwest and AirTran have connected their networks, so you can usually book AirTran flights (within the US and NOT to international destinations) on the Southwest website. But flights after November 1, 2014, must be booked on the Southwest website.
If you book AirTran flights from the Southwest website, you’ll get 2 free checked bags and you won’t pay a fee for cancellations!
Book on the AirTran website if you want to pay for the privilege of getting an assigned seat, but you’ll also pay for your checked bags. I’d personally prefer saving money on checked bags than getting an assigned seat.
- You have to call AirTran at 800-247-8726 and request a credit (less the cancellation fee) when you cancel a paid flight.
- You have to call at least 1 hour prior to departure
- AND you will pay a $150 fee per passenger
You’ll be issued a credit for the remaining balance valid for up to 1 year after the booking was made. But if you don’t call at least 1 hour prior to departure you’ll lose your airfare.
Southwest and AirTran schedules are open through March 6, 2015.
It doesn’t hurt to book your winter break travel now, even if you’re not 100% sure of your plans. That’s because if you cancel a paid Southwest flight, they will issue you a credit for the amount, good for 1 year. Or if you book Southwest flights with points, you’ll get your points refunded.