Southwest Airlines will release its summer flight schedule for June 3 – August 14 this Thursday, January 5, 2017. This is a big release for summer vacation travel!
Why is this a big deal?
Unlike the legacy US airlines that release flights and schedules ~11 months in advance, Southwest Airlines releases its flight schedule four to seven months ahead.
Southwest flight details usually do not come up on travel search engines (like Travelocity, Google Flights, etc.). Checking Southwest flight times and prices vs. competitors requires going through Southwest directly.
If you’ve been waiting to book your summer vacation flights until you see Southwest’s flight schedule, wait no more!
When is the best time to book Southwest flights?
If you’re booking flights using Southwest Rapid Reward points and you have enough points for your flights, book as soon as flights are released. When the price goes down, you can get points deposited back into your account.
If you’re planning to book flights with gift cards or cash, the answer is not as clear cut. When you find a lower price, you can get the price refunded in the form of a travel credit. The travel credit must be used within one year of the date you booked the flight. If you’re not planning on flying Southwest to another destination within a year, the price refund is useless.
Sometimes, during peak times, the initial opening price is the lowest you will see. Especially for a peak travel day around a holiday, prices can skyrocket as the flight fills up.
However, I’ve seen many flights go down in price during a sale or around 2-3 months before the flight date. Every single Southwest flight I’ve ever booked has gone down in price at least once.
How can I fly for free on Southwest Airlines using miles and points?
Chase offers two Southwest credit cards that earn Rapid Rewards points. The public bonus on these cards is 40,000 points after spending $1000 in the first three months. However, if you apply through Leana’s referral link, you can get 50,000 bonus points on the Premier version after spending $2000 in the first three months. The Premier card has a $99 annual fee.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points convert to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. See this recent post on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and also this post on the Chase Sapphire Reserve. (Note: You must apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve by next Wednesday January 11 to get the 100k bonus. After that, the bonus drops to 50k for online applications).
You can also use a card with flexible travel benefits to offset the cash price of a Southwest flight. For example, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus comes with a bonus of 50,000 points that is good towards $500 in travel expenses. Just charge your flights on your card and use your points to erase the purchase. See this post for more information on the Barclayard Arrival Plus.
Who is looking to book Southwest flights this week?
P.S. On a related note, it looks like Southwest has reversed its decision on hotel points transfers no longer qualifying for Companion Pass. You will now have few more months to do it. Details: http://thepointsguy.com/2017/01/southwest-companion-pass-transfer-eligibility-march-2017/
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Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.