Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
Southwest has such great deals on flights, it’s smart to book your tickets early, because if you wait too long the dates you want might be gone!
And starting tomorrow, July 7, 2016, you can book paid and award flights on Southwest through March 7, 2017.
Because Southwest has a generous refund policy, there’s limited risk in booking before prices go up or seats sell-out.
Here are the details about Southwest’s change and cancellation policies and ways to earn more Southwest points for your trip!
Book a Trip in Early 2017 With Southwest
Most airlines open their schedules ~11 months to 1 year in advance. But Southwest flights are only available to book ~6 to 8 months ahead of time, and they can sell-out fast!
Tomorrow, Southwest will open its schedule for flights through March 7, 2017. So, if you’ve been waiting to plan a getaway early next year, it’s time to book your tickets!
These dates could line up for winter break if you have kids in school! For example, folks who teach or have children in New York City Public Schools have mid-winter recess between February 20, 2017, and February 24, 2017, so they might also be able to find a deal!
You could even book tickets to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, on February 28, 2017.
It’s a good idea to book early because if your plans change, Southwest has a great refund policy!
Southwest’s Change and Cancellation Policy
Paid Southwest tickets can be cancelled within 24 hours of booking for a full refund. And refundable (Business Select and Anytime) fares are fully refundable within 1 year of the date of issue. Or you can apply the value towards another ticket.
You can cancel non-refundable tickets (Wanna Get Away fares) without a fee, as long as you cancel at least 10 minutes prior to departure. And the value of the ticket can be used towards another flight within 1 year of the original ticket’s date of issue.
There are no fees for changing or cancelling an award ticket. And the points will be immediately returned to your account.
If you fail to cancel but don’t fly on the ticket, Southwest will redeposit your points within 3 to 4 days after the date of the last flight in your reservation.
The Southwest Companion Pass
You must earn 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year to get the Southwest Companion Pass. Then a friend or family member can fly with you for (almost) free for up to 2 years. You could save thousands of dollars!
Read my post about tricks for quickly earning the additional points you’ll need for the Companion Pass. But be sure to avoid these 3 common mistakes!
Need More Southwest Points?
The quickest way to earn (almost) enough Southwest points for the Companion Pass is with the sign-up bonuses from the Chase Southwest credit cards.
Southwest Credit Cards
You can quickly earn lots of Southwest points with the Chase Southwest cards. All 3 versions of the Southwest cards are currently offering 50,000 Southwest points when you meet the minimum spending.
Other benefits that come with these cards include:
- 2 points per $1 you spend on Southwest flights and certain hotel and car rental partners
- 1 points per $1 you spend on everything else
- 6,000 Southwest bonus points (Premier cards) or 3,000 bonus points (Plus card) on your card anniversary each year
- No foreign transaction fees
The $99 annual fee for the Premier cards ($69 for the Plus card) is NOT waived the first year.
There are no blackout dates when you redeem points on Southwest, so as long as there are seats available for sale, you can use your points!
Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
You can transfer the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold (no longer available), or Ink Plus directly to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. But they will NOT count towards the Southwest Companion Pass.
Tomorrow, July 7, 2016, Southwest will open its schedule through March 7, 2017. The schedule is NOT yet extended, but check tomorrow!
It’s a good idea to book before the dates you want are gone or prices go up, especially during busy travel times or big events, like Mardi Gras. Because if your plans change, you change or cancel your flight without penalty.
And if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, a friend or family member can join you for (almost) free anytime you fly Southwest for up to 2 years!