When Does It Make Sense To Spend More On Southwest Airlines

by Bill Shuman

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.

Extra Points

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.

Earn Rapid Reward Points Faster through Spending on a Southwest Rapid Rewards Personal or Business Credit Card. 

For $40 more you get an extra 1,962 Rapid Rewards points worth ~$30 plus a fully refundable flight, priority boarding, priority security lane, standby travel, and a premium drink

 

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.

Wanna Get Away fare worth 1,909 Rapid Rewards points.

Anytime fare for the same flight worth 5,552 Rapid Rewards points.

Same flight again except Business Select fare which is worth 6,975 Rapid Rewards points

Ticketing Insurance

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.

Final Thoughts

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?

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

3 comments
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3 comments

Jason December 31, 2018 - 11:36 am

Probably better off flying another airline if you are going to spend that much money on a flight.

Reply
John L December 31, 2018 - 1:37 pm

Or probably not. If you spend that much $$ on another airline, what do you really get back other than crappy service or a seat that will barely fit you? Besides – you act like these other airlines have rates so much lower that it’s worth it to go with them, when they still give you squat in return (other a few EQMs.. oh boy!)

At least you can legitimately get something good (very quickly) just by flying with them on one round trip at these rates. It’s not like SWA would get chintzy on their award-seat inventory like all the other airlines.

Reply
Ryan December 31, 2018 - 3:13 pm

Southwest has already reduced their award value significantly since they launched the new program.
You used to get 1.67 cents per point now you get 1.28 cents per point, a 30% decrease in point value. Fares have increased in cost by double digits, they’ve got one of the worst on-time performance records, and they virtually eliminated their bonus points promotions. Their fares are occasionally cheaper than everyone else. Everyone gets all excited about bag fees, but they’ll go ahead and pay for priority boarding which costs just as much. There’s no power ports, a virtually non-existent same day standby policy for elites (and its insane for non-elites), legroom has shrunk, awful snacks, no buy on board for long flights, no assigned seats (for some, that’s a plus), a terrible experience with IROPs, no interline agreements, virtually no compensation when things go wrong… least generous airline around, and lately less friendly employees. I’ll stick with Delta and JetBlue where the little things matter.

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