As most of my friends know, i’m a Southwest Airlines fan boy. I love the airline. I just do. They have employees that actually care about their passengers and have great, easy to follow, very business friendly rules.
Now … some of you will complain about no first class. OK, you got me on this one. If you fly so much, that you get Platinum on United or Delta or __(any airline)__ then you win. Short of that if you’re just flying once in a while, business or personal, you’re flying coach anyway.
Here is why you should fly Southwest if they have the route you’re on. Only one reason.
NO TICKET CHANGE FEES.
Other airlines will charge you $150 – $250 in just a transaction fee to change your ticket. This is not including the price difference between your old ticket and new ticket. That is always going to be an upgrade charge. In fact, this is an important note. Let’s talk for a minute about airfares. While I don’t pretend to fully know the fares and how they are calculated, I do understand basic supply and demand and all airlines follow this to a certain degree. And of course there are exceptions but, in general, the more notice you have (14 days, 21 days, 30 days), the better your ticket price will be. As you get closer and closer to departure date the rate may dramatically increase. This might depend on how many seats on the plane have actually sold. Like anything, the last 5% or 10% is more valuable and will have higher rates. If you don’t buy that seat, someone else will. So a seat on the same flight 30 days out might be $120.00 while day of departure might be $520.00. Make sense?
To better understand this, let’s add some terminology.
REFUNDABLE: When a ticket fare is refundable, it means that you can cancel at any time and have the original funds used to purchase that ticket credited back to your credit card. Very few tickets qualify for this. Usually it’s the most expensive full-fare tickets that are actually refundable.
NON-REFUNDABLE: As you might imagine, this means you can never get the actual money returned. Once you buy a ticket the funds to the airline will never come back to you. This is fine because, after all, you’re planning on the trip when you buy it.
But here is the catch between Southwest and other airlines. Non-refundable remains usable 100% of the time with Southwest, while it’s sacrificed 100% of the time with other airlines.
Let’s run through a scenario. You live in Arizona, and need to get to New York. Let’s say you have a month notice so you’re booking this for Monday the 15th, coming home Thursday the 18th. You buy your ticket for $350.00 and you’re happy. #Celebrate
Remember you’re a month out, but you bought your ticket. You’re locked in. Let’s run a few real world scenarios and see how they play out.
A few days go by and something changes. You have to be in NYC Monday morning, not Tuesday.
On Southwest, since you’re so far in advance, this is probably not an issue. You check online and it turns out the Sunday flight is actually $25.00 cheaper. You change your flight, and without any penalty, Southwest will give you a $25.00 credit towards a future flight. It’s not a refund, but it’s a gift certificate good to use within the next 12 months.
On any other airline. You check online, and also, the Sunday flight is cheaper by $25.00. Wow, you happy dance. (Oh Yeah! Oh Yeah!) So you call to make the change, and you’re blind sided by a $150.00 ticket change fee. OUCH! so you have to pay the difference. You decide Monday is important enough, and you cough up the $125.00 difference because it’s important that you be there on Monday morning.
Two weeks to go. Your friend in NYC calls you and has an extra ticket to an amazing event at the Garden. It’s the show of a lifetime, with great seats, On Thursday Night the 18th. You’re supposed to be flying home that day.
On Southwest. Again you just find any other flight and pay the difference (even maybe using that original $25.00 credit).
On any other airline, you’re in for another $150.00 change fee. The truth is Scenerio 1 and 2 are identical, one is a change on the outbound, one is on the return.
It’s the 15th. You’re in NYC. You already changed your ticket twice, and you’re set to fly home on the 19th. You get a call for whatever emergency you want to pretend, and you need to fly to Florida the 18th, instead of back to Arizona. You’re going to miss your concert 🙁 but family comes first.
On Southwest, this again is the same as Scenario 1 and 2. Only this time, be prepared to pay more for your ticket, because last minute tickets are more expensive. But know that you aren’t out the original $$$ you spent. Whatever you paid for your NYC-PHX flight, will be applied penny for penny for whatever flight you buy.
On any other airline, you’re doubly screwed. Because the $150.00 change fee only applies to the same city pair. This means that you can change earlier or later on the same day, or even a different day. But you can’t change the Origin or Destination cities. Soooooo this means the original funds you paid for NYC-PHX are 100% forfeited. And you’re now left to buy a ticket with no prior credits. Should you need to fly NYC-PHX sometime in the next 12 months, the airline will let you reuse that portion of your ticket, MINUS the $150.00 ticket change fee AGAIN!
This time, let’s go back to before you depart. Say it’s the 13th. No concert or anything, you just have the original ticket you purchased. You find out the NYC meetings are cancelled. not moved, just cancelled. There is no need for your to visit NYC.
On Southwest you can or go online and cancel your ticket. You then have $350.00 to spend on any ticket, one way, round trip, or otherwise, within the next 12 months. You are committed to not changing the passenger name so you can only use these funds for the original named passenger.
On any other airline. The same game. You can use this ticket in the future, only between PHX-NYC and you’ll be out the $150.00 change fees.
I know people that have paid more in change fees, than the original ticket was valued. In fact, you, my dear friend reader, have probably done that.
No change fees will save you hundreds to thousands over the years, tens of thousands if you’re booking travel for a handful of people in your company.