Can You Book Southwest Award Tickets and Change Dates After The March 31st Devaluation And Still Retain The Same Pre-Devalued Rate?
TPG reader Cynthia tweeted me this week to ask:
"@thepointsguy - Regarding the Southwest devaluation: since Southwest doesn't have change fees, could I buy award tickets now and change dates later to get a better rate? Or will I end up paying the higher post devaluation fee anyway?"
Sadly, 2014 is the year of the airline devaluation. As of February 1, 2014 United increased the amount of miles it takes for an award ticket, especially for partner awards. Delta is going to devalue their program twice (as if once isn't enough!) this year, and Southwest, the supposed "flyer-friendly" airline, is even devaluing their program come March 31, 2014.
Right now with Southwest, you can get about 1.8 cents per point when you redeem for "Wanna Get Away" fares at a rate of 60 Rapid Rewards points per dollar. After March 31, 2014 it will go down to about 1.4 cents per point since you will then have to redeem 70 points per dollar instead, which is about a 15% devaluation.
We should give Southwest some credit, as they did email Rapid Rewards members to let them know about the devaluation in September of 2013. They've given a pretty big booking window to get your tickets before the devaluation occurs at least-and right now you can book tickets until August. However, even that amount of time might not be enough to get your travel plans in order, and it appears that that's the case for Cynthia.
Unfortunately for her, and the rest of us, any bookings OR changes made after March 31, 2014 will require that you pay the higher Wanna Get Away redemption rate if that's the kind of award you're booking. In fact, it's all about booking really - if you book before March 31, you can fly after the devaluation, but any changes you make or new bookings you make after these dates will reflect the lower point value. Unfortunately, Southwest only has their schedule open for bookings until August, so there's only so much you can do to get your future bookings in order. Hopefully they will extend it more by March 31, so that there are more opportunities for booking and getting those higher point values before the devaluation hits.
In conclusion, book now, or forever hold your peace. Or better said, forever lose those points!
Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on Facebook, Tweeting me or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.