13 Hacks for your Southwest Airlines Flights

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When you’re an airline loyalist, you tend to know more than those of us who are airline free agents. I’ve been asking people who are Southwest Airlines aficionados what their best hacks are for Southwest Airlines.  So what are the best Southwest Airlines hacks? Here’s what people had to say!

1. First class seats on Southwest Airlines? Many people think the equivalent of a first class seat on the plane is the second row aisle on either side. This is because your time in getting on and off a Southwest Airlines flight is what’s important, not legroom. Some people DO prefer legroom above other advantages, like deplaning quickly. They say the first class seats on Southwest Airlines are the emergency exit seats on the right side as you walk down towards the middle of the plane. These seats usually go first, but if you see anything open, even the middle seat, take it! They are the best seats on the plane and have almost twice the amount of leg room.

2. Not all overhead bins are created equal. Using a roll-on whose shape tapers towards the top, makes stowing wheels out in the very front overhead bins easy. Have you noticed that the very front passenger overhead bins are slightly less deep than the rest of the plane’s stowage as the plane’s nose begins to curve inward just ahead of row 2? This affects the size of the bins. Behind rows 3 or 4, the overhead bins get even smaller.

3. Don’t miss any promotions.  Be sure to register for all Southwest Airlines promotions. If you can handle the cash flow, having Southwest Airlines hold some of your money, check all of your booked flights when new promotions occur. You will save money when you rebook. (Read PSA: Check Existing Southwest Airlines Flights for Price Drops, then Rebook)

4. Save your points.  Resist the urge to use Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward Points for flights early in the year, instead, use them for end of year holiday travel. There are rarely blackout dates, even at the holidays, but the fares are much higher.

5. Earn points when you shop and eat.  If you eat at restaurants a lot, make sure to join the Rapid Rewards Dining Program. This helps get you the points to more quickly place you on the A-List. Along those lines, join the Rapid Rewards Shopping Program. You’ll get up to 10 points for every dollar you spend at partner stores. There are hundreds of restaurants and retailers in the programs.

6. Check in for your flight… twice.  Always check in twice, even if you’re A-List or A-List Preferred. Check in once on your smartphone via the app and again when you arrive at the airport via the ticket kiosks. When you do that, click on the Upgrade button to check to see what they want to upgrade. You can often jump into Business First for as little as $11, getting you a drink and a better boarding position.

7. Park close to the gate.  One person told me that if you fly in and out of LAX, she found parking at WallyPark the best combo of time-to-gate and cost-per-day, even with all the “specials” that you can get at various websites. In case you haven’t noticed, in almost every Spirit magazine, WallyPark always has an ad that you can tear out that’s good for 25% off your total parking bill, not just one day’s worth. And the coupon is good even for outside and rooftop parking. Even if you’re not flying out of LAX, clip the ad for future use. Discounts vary, but WallyPark is at many airports, so you never know when that coupon will come in handy.  Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for frequent parker programs.

8. Waived change fees for schedule changes.  If your flight is delayed by more than 10 minutes, and you try to reschedule ahead of their efforts to get you on another flight, be sure to remind them not to charge you any fare difference, since it’s ultimately Southwest Airlines’ fault. One friend uses this line: “Don’t you sometimes waive the fare difference when the delay isn’t our fault?”

9. Keep your kiosk receipt.  Be sure to double check your kiosk-printed receipt so you don’t miss or throw away a free drink coupon or free WiFi code that may be printed on the receipt.

10. Take the first flight out.  Take the first flight out if you can, or fly during peak hours like 6pm. Flights in and out of LAX, SFO, etc. are often canceled or delayed. I think Southwest Airlines combines not full off-peak flights to save money. One frequent flyer told me over half of her mid-day or off-peak flights are delayed or canceled.

11. Earn points for past flights.  Always add your flight to your Rapid Rewards account. This can even be done months after the flight was taken.

12. Get A1-15 boarding spot.  It’s almost always cheaper to take the Anytime Fare and upgrade at the gate to a A1-15 boarding position.

13. Want an empty middle seat next to you?  If you’re aiming for an empty seat next to you, if the flight is going out with a few empty seats, your best odds are around row 8-9. People in group C push past there to the back of the plane looking for a “good” seat, and then settle for whatever’s left back there. So sitting midship in a non-exit row is a good bet.

So there you have it. Some Southwest Airlines hacks from people who are Southwest Airlines loyalists. Do you use any of these hacks? Share some of your own… I promise not to tell anyone else :))

14 thoughts on “13 Hacks for your Southwest Airlines Flights

  1. Elijah

    I respectfully and completely disagree with #12…if I understand what you are saying.

    Upgrading your boarding position if you are not on Business Select is $30-40. With that said, I don’t recall every seeing a Business Select fare that was more than $31 more expensive than an Anytime fare. If you don’t change the fare and just upgrade your boarding position, you are missing our on additional points and a free premium beverage.

    Now, if you are on a Wanna Get Away fare, what you said is more true: it is cheaper to pay for upgraded boarding than to move to a Business Select fare.

    Reply
    1. Shelli Post author

      Thanks so much for adding to the conversation, Elijah. As I mentioned, these hacks were from SW flyers who seem to know the ropes. I’m just getting to know SW! I’m sure others disagree with some of these as well, so no worries. I would think choice of seats and fares depends a lot on the flyer. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  2. Liz

    My favorite seat on a Southwest plane is actually the exit row aisle … leg room for days! 99% of the time I am traveling by myself and in the late A or early B group, and I get that seat … or at the minimum, an aisle seat.

    Interesting about the checking in twice tip. Also, does Southwest even have business seating? It always looks like just 1 plane ‘cabin’ to me, which I like more than Delta.

    Reply
    1. Shelli Post author

      Good question, Liz. I asked Grant, who is a SW frequent flyer, and he confirmed that indeed, SW does have Business Select tickets which include some extras, but all the seats on the plane are exactly the same. Hope this helps explain it. Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  3. pat

    #4: don’t you get the same value per mile whenever you redeem since each mile is always worth the same (certain) number of cents?

    Reply
    1. Shelli Post author

      Yes, that’s true, Pat. I think what my friend was saying is that if you’re either paying cash or points, cash outlay will be more at the end of the year during the holidays so spend cash when it’s less expensive and save points for the peak season to save some cash. For instance, OAK-SAN one way right now is $134 and in March only $67. Hope this makes sense. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  4. tassojunior

    Great to make cancellable tickets ! Time of year doesn’t matter; SW rewards are money-based.

    Rewards are fully refundable and you can cancel right up to flight time. Even if you just no-show all points and fees are automatically refunded after a couple days. SW Rewards are excellent cancellable tickets—points’ best use.

    I always find the back rows have the most empty seats. Never seen rows 8 & 9 empty more often.

    Points are worth about 1.5 cents but on super-low Wanna-Get-Away fares they fetch 2 cents per point.

    Reply
    1. Shelli Post author

      Thanks for chipping in your 2 cents! You make good points. It’s true that most of the hacks are usable no matter where you live, and some seem to be more local to the hub. As a new SW flyer since finally getting a SW credit card, I’m sure I’ll experience all this first hand! Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  5. Elijah

    I think Companion Pass is worth mentioning here as well. It’s arguably the most valuable perk of any airline. With Companion Pass, you can bring a companion on any flight the Companion Pass holder desires. It works for flights booked on points or paid for with cash. The companion only has to pay taxes ($5ish each way). You can also change your companion up to three times. A Companion Pass is good from the time you earn it through the end of the next calendar year.

    It’s truly invaluable for us. Since my daughter is under 24 months old, she, my wife, and I all fly on one ticket. If they want to join me for a work trip, it basically costs us nothing.

    Companion pass is also relatively easy to achieve with Chase SW Credit Cards because spend and the initial bonuses count toward the 110k points required to earn the pass.

    Also, for us, another most valuable perk of SW (that you mentioned above) is the ability to rebook tickets. Lots of folks would rather not have to re-check their bookings, but five minutes of my time every time a new sale is announced (almost weekly) is worth it. We have save COUNTLESS points and lots of money by rebooking to a cheaper ticket during a sale. The process is simple: 1) sign in and find the reservation, 2) click Change, 3) search the exact same flights you originally booked, 4) select and submit. If you booked with points, they get re-deposited immediately. If you bought a Wanna Get Away fare, those moneys will be held for future use under the original reservation number.

    Finally, it may not be a hack, but one of the best things about SW is the people. I cannot tell you how many times they have bent over backwards when things inevitably go wrong. I know no other airline that is more customer-focused.

    Reply
    1. Shelli Post author

      100% right, Elijah. Great additions to this post. Thank you! I totally should have mentioned the companion pass. I’m looking forward to seeing how they work for me. And your point about the people who work for SW is well taken. We focus on price and route availability, but when it comes down to it the people make all the difference.

      Reply
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