People fly Southwest because it’s simple, inexpensive and reliable. Fares are typically competetive if not lower than other airlines. Basic services, like baggage check-in and onboard snacks, are provided complimentary. Everyone gets to choose a seat. So who on earth buys those rediculously expensive Anytime and Business Select fares, and why would they do it?
Unlike other airlines’ economy fares, Southwests’ Wanna Get Away fares are changeable and can even be cancelled, without penalty, and converted into a travel credit. There isn’t much of a benefit, in terms of flexiblity, to buying up.
But for those with a good Rapid Rewards Points game going, there are plenty of scenarios where paying up actually pays off.
When Does it Make Sense to Book Anytime or Business Select
The basic “Wanna Get Away” fare makes the most sense for the average flyer, but for business travelers there are times when it makes sense to spend more money for the same seat.
For consultants and those on corporate travel plans, buying Anytime or Business Select fares makes sense on the basis of bonus points alone.
This is especially true for the Business Select fares that are usually between $20-$50 more than the Anytime fare. For the extra few dollars you gain an additional 2x more Rapid Rewards points, a drink, and fly by priority to help offset the additional cost.
One of the primary reasons a casual flyer (that is someone actually paying for their own ticket) might purchase the more expensive Anytime or Business Select fares is to accumulate more Rapid Reward points, for free flights or status. Oftentimes this reason will not apply as the “purchasing rate” of those points would be exorbitant compared to the cheapest Wanna Get Away rate. Once in a while though the difference between the rates is close enough that it makes sense to take the upgraded fare.
Buying Up To Trigger Higher Elite Status
Those trying to earn A-List, A-List Preferred, or Companion Pass Status have good reason to pay more for Southwest tickets.
The end of the year is approaching which sometimes means individuals who are close to the next status tier are looking for a way to earn those last few points. An Anytime or Business Select fare could make the difference between earning status or not. This is due to the bonus four (Anytime) or six (Business Select) Rapid Rewards points. Those already holding A-List and A-List Preferred gain and additional 25% and 100% Rapid Rewards point over the base rates. Potentially making the point earnings even greater.
On a Jan. 5 long haul flight between Los Angeles and Boston, a Southwest flyer earns 3,643 more Rapid Rewards points on an Anytime fare and 5,066 bonus points on a Business Select fare. As I recently valued the Southwest Companion Pass at $4,401 there could be a ton of value in paying a higher rate if that fare buy-up earns status.
If you are not 100% sure of your plans, or not sure that you will be able to make your flight, and must book using cash then purchasing an Anytime or Business Select fare can make sense. Southwest has different No Show and Cancellation Policies on Wanna Get Away and Anytime/Business Select fares. Note: Points bookings are all treated the same and will be redeposited to the purchaser’s account regardless of what fare class the points were redeemed toward.
- For Wanna Get Away Cash Fares – If you do not cancel 10 minutes before your flight or do not show up: You lose the entire fare.
- For Anytime and Business Select Cash Fares – If you do not cancel 10 minutes before your flight or do not show up: The unused fare becomes converted into reusable travel funds for the originally ticketed passenger.
Basically, if you forget about your flight as a Wanna Get Away fare, you’re out of luck, but if you booked an Anytime or Business Select fare you are purchasing insurance on your ticket, which gives you a full year to use those funds. An extremely generous policy for missing a flight!
Another advantage of booking related to flexibility is that Anytime or Business Select tickets have the option to travel standby on the day of your flight. This is perfect for business travelers whose meetings might run longer than anticipated, or change of schedules allow for them to catch an earlier flight. A-List and A-List Preferred already have the option to fly standby as a benefit of their status.
For most people the Wanna Get Away fare is going to be sufficient for their needs most of the time. However, knowing when it makes sense to spend more for the upgraded fare could potentially save hundreds or thousands of dollars in the long run. Have you ever purchased an upgraded fare for any of these reasons?