New Jack City: Southwest Airlines Holiday Booking & Rapid Rewards Alert

rapidrewardsbirthday-sweeps[1]It goes without saying that Southwest Airlines provides the biggest lift out of KCI

Yet despite what you may believe, Southwest is not necessarily the lowest ticket in the market anymore. It all varies by where you are flying to.

However that price differential is often determined by the fact that you can still check TWO FREE BAGS with Southwest. Try doing that with other carriers where a pair of checked bags can set you back $120.- on a round trip flight.

And God forbid you have to reschedule your already ticketed trip on another airline. You are looking at a ticket-change fee of $200.- PLUS the difference in the price of the new ticket.

There are no ticket change fees with Southwest though. The full value of the old ticket is applied to the new one. All Southwest hits you up for is the difference in price between your original ticket and the new one.

If there’s a hitch with Southwest it’s that you often cannot book quite as far in advance as you may like.

6b0800c84426028b_4917942655_14f3e48c8c_b.previewWhere most legacy carriers open their inventory for booking up to a year in advance, Southwest doesn’t go out that far.

For example, up until earlier last week you could only book a Southwest flight or vacation through August 8 of this year.

Later last week however they opened their booking window through October 31, 2014.

That’s still not far enough out to book this year’s all important Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday trips—travel periods in which the lowest priced tickets sell out extremely fast.

So WHEN will Southwest’s Thanksgiving and Christmas travel inventory become available for booking?

That’s not highly publicized–YET!

However all indications now point to Monday, May 19th!

That’s when Southwest will reportedly open its schedules and inventories for booking clear through January 4, 2015.

oSo if you’re planning to visit grandma over the holidays remember, the early bird gets the worm.

And the nice thing is that if you have to change the date of the trip all you pay is the difference in the price of the new ticket. No change fee!

Or should you need to cancel the trip altogether you’ll have the full value of the ticket on file with Southwest for future travel. It’s good for one year from your original date of ticketing.

Note that the credit stays in YOUR name. Name changes are no longer permitted.

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Finally, an alert to members of Rapid Rewards,  Southwest’s frequent flyer program.

If you’re planning on using your points for travel during the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday period I suggest you mark the May 19th inventory opening date on your calendar.

You will still be able to book seats for that period as long as they remain available.  However the amount of points NEEDED to get them will probably increase steeply the closer you get to Turkey Day or Christmas.

Remember, if you have to cancel your free awards tickets, the FULL POINT AMOUNT flows back into your Rapid Rewards account. No penalties.

tiggerAnd if you like me still hold an older Standard Award round trip credit from the now bygone era of Southwest’s original Rapid Rewards program, you better use it for travel soon before it goes bye-bye forever.

The airline allowed us to renew those Standard Rewards ONE TIME at a cost of $50.- which makes my newly extended expiration date November 14, 2014.

After that NO MORE extensions. Total credit value AND the $50 cost of the extension will be lost forever.

You can be sure I’ll be making use of my God given free ticket before then. Even if it’s for just a quick trip to Chicago and a great roast duck with potato dumplings and red cabbage dinner at the Chicago Brauhaus in Lincoln Square.

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5 Responses to New Jack City: Southwest Airlines Holiday Booking & Rapid Rewards Alert

  1. jon says:

    Thanks for the tip. At the high price of air travel these days it’s appreciated.

  2. the dude says:

    Trains, until the TSA manages to mangle the train experience like they have flying I will stick to driving or going by train.
    Screw airplanes, seriously.

  3. Stephen Pack says:

    You didn’t even mention a great benefit of the no-rebooking penalty: arbitraging the same flight due to a drop in fare. That is, book today for $300, come back in a month and see that it’s now $250, cancel & rebook and have a $50 credit good for a year from purchase date.

    Also, I assume this is what you meant by “all indications now point to,” but for anyone who doesn’t know, this site always has the official estimate for opening the next booking window: http://www.southwest.com/html/travel-tools/index.html

  4. jack p. says:

    Thanks Steven,
    to my way of thinking the ‘no change fee’/cancellation clause would be another way of looking at what you’re pointing out.
    In your example of the $300.- ticket with another airline would leave you with a mere credit of $100.-. Therefore the $50.- saving would be worthless.
    As you correctly point out at Southwest it would be a real $50.- saving.

    As far as Southwest’s booking window openings go could be somewhat of a rocky road as they try to intigrate AirTran’s into their system by late in the year.

  5. Rainbow Man says:

    I am glad you wrote about this and I think someone needs to keep writing about air travel on KC Con. Yesterday I watched a wheelchair bound woman get pulled aside for the pat down… and they took their time… it looked humiliating for her. Southwest is rapidly becoming just like all of the other airlines. I absolutely dread air travel and the experience is so terrible I actually try to travel less for both business and pleasure… and not because of cost… but because of the absolute ridiculous experience that it is.

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