Does Southwest Airlines Offer Discounted Award Flights?
TPG reader Paul emailed me with a question about Southwest Rapid Rewards:
“Is there a trick to booking award flights on Southwest that would save points? I know some American Airlines cards offer award discounts to cardholders; does Southwest have anything similar?”
Many airlines offer discounted award flights that can help you get more out of your miles. Paul mentioned the reduced mileage awards from American Airlines, which are only available to co-branded Citi AAdvantage cardholders. Air France and KLM offer Flying Blue Promo Awards, which can get you a huge discount on flights between select cities. You can also find the occasional award sale, like the one that just ended for United flights to Hawaii.
Southwest doesn't offer discounted awards in the same way, but there are tricks to saving on redemptions with Southwest Rapid Rewards. The airline makes hay on the fact that it doesn't charge change or cancellation fees, and that policy extends to its award flights. Southwest doesn't have a set chart — the cost of awards is based on the going rate for airfare. That means you can book a flight at one price and then rebook later with no penalty if the price goes down. The difference in points will be instantly credited back to your account.
The only downside to that strategy is that you have to keep checking to see if prices have gone down. However, changing flights online is easy once you find a lower rate. Any time you book travel on Southwest, it's worth keeping an eye out for fare sales later on because you can still take advantage of the lower price whether you used cash or points.
One other great way to save on Southwest awards is with the Companion Pass, which lets a designated companion travel with you on any Southwest flight so long as there's an available seat. That also works on both paid fares and award flights, so you can effectively save 50% of your points when you fly together.
There are no route restrictions, and Southwest continues to add service around the Caribbean and Central America, so there are plenty of opportunities to use the Companion Pass. That flexibility and value is a big part of why it came out on top in our 2015 Travel Rewards Tournament earlier this year.
In short, while Southwest doesn't offer conventional discounts, these strategies can help you stretch your Rapid Rewards points even further.
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at email@example.com.