Same Perks, New Airline: Southwest Is Leaving Newark, But Alternative Options Exist
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
With the news that Southwest is ending flights out of Newark airport in November, many New Jerseyites are wondering about alternative airline options. This was definitely a surprise and I'm sure many Newark-based Southwest fliers are not thrilled. The airline offers many perks that are hard to find at other carriers. From flying BOGO (Buy One, Get One) with the Southwest Companion Pass to bags fly free to no change/cancellation fees, flying Southwest has many benefits that are hard to give up.
Flying out of LaGuardia, Islip and Philadelphia might not be an option due to the further distance, increased traffic and lack of public transportation options. If you are one of the many travelers affected by Southwest's decision to exit Newark, here are some alternatives to get you some of the same benefits.
You Can Still Fly BOGO
One of the best perks of Southwest Airlines is its Companion Pass. Of course it has to be earned, but once you are a Companion Pass holder, it allows another passenger to fly with you for free (plus taxes) an unlimited number of times during the life of the pass.
Related: The Best Credit Card Pairings to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
If you are still looking for that BOGO perk, Frontier Airlines might be a great option. While the airline does not fly out of Newark (EWR), it does fly out of Trenton-Mercer Airport (TTN) in southern New Jersey. This airport is further away than Newark for those in Northern New Jersey, but it will still save you at least 30 to 45 minutes over flying Southwest out of LaGuardia or Philadelphia. Although there is no easy public transportation service to get from most of New Jersey to Trenton-Mercer Airport, on-site parking is only $8 a day.
With Frontier Airlines, as long as you purchase a Discount Den membership, you can automatically take advantage of its Kids Fly Free or Friends Fly Free promotions. Right now the Kids Fly Free offer is ongoing whereas the Friends Fly Free offer is touch and go. (We will make sure to let you know when the Friends Fly Free offer is running.) Unlike the Southwest Companion Pass, you do not need to "earn" the BOGO pass. You simply pay the $59.99 fee for the year. Unfortunately, though, there are limitations, such as route restrictions and blackout dates.
Your Bags Can Still Fly Free
Southwest is known as the "Bags Fly Free" airline. All passengers, regardless of ticket type or status receive two checked bags for free. For a family traveling round-trip, this is a huge money-saving benefit, especially when many other airlines charge around $30 per bag. Fortunately, many of these airlines allow you to check a bag for free if you have status or a cobranded credit card.
Related: How to Avoid Checked Baggage Fees on Major Domestic Airlines
Out of Newark airport, you'll still be able to fly United, American, Delta, Alaska Airlines, Spirit, JetBlue and Allegiant. Out of those seven, five offer free checked bags simply by being a cardmember: United, American, Delta and JetBlue.
United has the largest presence at Newark, so it might be your new favorite airline to accrue miles. This means having one of its four cobranded credit cards is quite important:
- United Explorer Card: First checked bag is free for the primary cardholder and one companion on the same reservation
- United Explorer Business Card: First checked bag is free for the primary cardholder and one companion on the same reservation
- United Club Infinite Card: Two checked bags are free for the primary cardholder and one companion on the same reservation
- United Club Business Card: Two checked bags are free for the primary cardholder and one companion on the same reservation
To receive your complimentary checked bag, you must purchase your ticket with your United credit card. On top of that, the credit card must also be open at the time of check-in for your flight.
The information for the United Club Business has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
There are four American Airlines credit cards that will grant you a free checked bag:
- AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard: First checked bag is free on domestic flights for the primary cardholder and up to four traveling companions on the same reservation
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: First checked bag is free on domestic flights for the primary cardholder and up to four traveling companions on the same reservation
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: First checked bag is free on domestic flights for the primary cardholder and up to four traveling companions on the same reservation
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: First checked bag is free on domestic flights for the primary cardholder and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Unlike United Airlines, you do not actually have to use your American Airlines cobranded credit card to pay for your ticket. However, your account must be open with your AAdvantage number attached to your reservation at least seven days prior to travel.
Delta Air Lines
Delta offers six credit cards that extend the free checked bag benefit. All its cards have the exact same policy: The first checked bag is free for the cardholder and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation:
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
- Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express
- Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card
JetBlue has two different credit cards that offer free checked bags. Both allow you to check your first bag for free and the first bag for up to three traveling companions on the same reservation.
- JetBlue Plus Card
- JetBlue Business Card
Similar to American Airlines, you'll need to make sure to have your TrueBlue number attached to the reservation at least seven days prior to your departure. And similar to United, you technically need to use your JetBlue credit card to pay for your reservation, although many data points show that it is actually not a requirement.
Alaska Airlines offers both a personal and business credit card that offer a free checked bag benefit. The first checked bag fee is waived for the cardmember and up to six other guests on the same reservation.
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card
- Alaska Airlines Visa Business® card
Just make sure your MileagePlum number has been entered into your reservation.
Related: Must I Pay With My Airline Credit Card to Get a Free Checked Bag?
You Can Still Have Flexibility With No Change Fees
Although Southwest is the best in the business when it comes to changing and canceling a flight, JetBlue is a close second. If you have Mosaic status, you can change and cancel your flight for no fee. You can also get your flight repriced if the fare decreases (for both paid and point reservations). While this is limited to Mosaic members, instead of all passengers like Southwest offers, there is one pro: When you receive a voucher for paid reservations (if you cancel your flight or change your flight to a less expensive option), the voucher can be used for any passenger. On Southwest, the voucher can only be used by the original passenger.
You can earn JetBlue Mosaic status two ways:
- JetBlue Fliers: Earn 15,000 base flight points or fly 30 segments plus 12,000 base flight points, both within a calendar year.
- Credit Cardholders: Spending $50,000 in a calendar year on the JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business Credit Card
Losing Southwest is definitely an unfortunate situation for those in the tri-state area, but there are some alternatives to get you where you need to go with similar perks. Almost all of Southwest's 10 current nonstop destinations from Newark will be covered by the other airlines:
- Chicago: Southwest flew into Chicago Midway, but you will be able to fly Frontier, American and United into Chicago O'Hare.
- Oakland: There will no longer be any nonstop routes to Oakland, although United and Alaska Airlines fly into San Francisco; Alaska Airlines also flies into San Jose
- Denver: Fly nonstop on United.
- San Diego: Fly nonstop on United and Alaska Airlines.
- Phoenix: Fly nonstop on American and United.
- Austin: Fly nonstop on United.
- St. Louis: Fly nonstop on United.
- Nashville: Fly nonstop on Frontier and United.
- Orlando: Fly nonstop on Frontier, Spirit, United and JetBlue.
- Baltimore: There will no longer be any nonstop routes to Baltimore, although United flies into Washington, DC.
This story has been edited to add Alaska Airlines. The story also originally stated that Frontier and Delta fly nonstop from Newark to Nashville; in fact it is Frontier and United. We have corrected the mistake.