Initially a regional airline known for its unusual seating policies”first come, first served” Southwest has transitioned over the years into one of the main domestic airlines, especially after its recent integration of AirTran.
Another way Southwest stood out from the crowd was with its award pricing. It was one of the first airlines to tie the cost of award seats to the cash price of the same flight, taking into account factors such as demand and fare type.
Since pricing is tied to the cost of the flight, you won’t see the standard rounded number of points when booking awards, like 25,000 for a domestic round-trip flight. You’re also probably better off booking as far in advance as you can. Southwest doesn’t charge change fees, so you can always rebook if you see a lower redemption rate.
When Should You Use Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards?
Southwest’s route map and lack of partner airlines means that Southwest points are mostly restricted to domestic flights, in economy class to regional airports. However, certain program perks like the lack of fees on everything including bags, makes it a great option for many situations.
Because Southwest ties their award redemptions to the cost of the flight at the time of booking, its points function like the no blackout date credit card programs of Barclays Arrival and Capital One Venture. You can use your points for any flight at any time. This makes Southwest awards ideal for people who don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to find an available award seat.
Southwest also has no change or cancellation fees, so you can make sure you are getting the absolute best flight you possibly can. If you know you want to fly Southwest, just book your flight as soon as possible. You can then change it or cancel and rebook if you see a better deal.
Southwest’s rejection of the traditional hub-and-spoke system means that it serves many lesser-known airports. Direct flights between regional airports will be more convenient for some, and another program perk.
Partners bookable online:
Partners bookable by phone:
When to Book by Phone
- To use the Southwest Companion Pass on last-minute flights
See below for phone booking tips.
How to Search for Southwest Rapid Rewards Seats Online
Begin your award search on the Southwest homepage by entering your desired arrival and departure cities, dates and number of passengers. Select points rather than dollars from the radio buttons in the upper right of the search box and hit search.
Since you can cancel and rebook your Southwest awards as many times as you want, its better to book each leg of your journey separately as one-way flights. If you want to book a flight that is more complicated than a one-way or round-trip flight, you can click advanced search to find and view your whole itinerary at once. Then you can go back out and book each portion one-way.
This is the advanced search screen:
On the results page, you’ll see prices for Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select fares on your preferred dates. Wanna Get Away and Business Select fares are limited capacity, but you can always find Anytime fares if you want to pay a premium for the availability.
Business Select offers many of the typical amenities of business class, such as priority boarding and a free drink, but without the actual seat being different. With priority boarding, though, you will be among the first passengers to choose a seat when you get on board.
You can see the flights available for the five days before and after your preferred dates by clicking on the dates listed at the top of the results page. You can also click the flexible dates button:
That pulls up a calendar showing a whole month and the lowest fares on each day:
How to Confirm and Book a Southwest Rapid Rewards Award Flights Online
Before you confirm and buy your flights, we recommend that you back out and purchase each flight separately as a one-way ticket to make it easier to cancel and rebook your award if the price drops.
Select the flight you’re interested in from the list, and confirm that the pop-up displays the correct fare type:
Confirm your flights and scroll down to the bottom of the page and hit continue to purchase your flights.
If you haven’t already, log in to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account to access the payment screen:
Since Southwest seats are first come, first served, there is no option to select seats during the booking process, and since the first two checked bags are free, there is no need to purchase add-ons either. One option you do have at this point is “EarlyBird Check-In.” For $12.50 one way, you can automatically be assigned an earlier boarding position, giving you more seat choices once on board.
If you want to travel with a companion using the Southwest Companion Pass, go to my travel in your Rapid Rewards account, find the flight you just booked, and click the button to add a companion.
Southwest Award Booking Phone Number: 1-800-435-9792
As Southwest Airlines doesn’t have any airline partners, booking awards online is easy, comprehensive, and generally the way to go. You can even add your Companion Pass holder to a paid ticket online. It does take a day or so to process, so it’s better to do that by phone if time is short or you’re worried the flight will fill up.
Since the Southwest customer service line doesn’t get too many award booking requests, it’s easy to get through. The agents, like Southwest’s ground staff and crew, are known for being friendly and knowledgeable.
Important Award Booking Considerations
- No blackout dates on award bookings
- No booking, change or cancellation fees
- One-way awards available
- No partner airlines means that international awards are restricted to Mexico and the Caribbean
- Additional points may be required when changing award reservations if the cash price of the itinerary has changed
- No stopovers allowed