Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest information.
If you have yet to book flights for next spring, now is an excellent time to snag Southwest flights.
Although some carriers allow you to book flights about 11 months in advance, Southwest extends its booking window in batches of only a few months at a time.
Previously, you could only book Southwest flights through the beginning of March. But this morning, Southwest extended its schedule through Aug. 14, 2023. This makes now an excellent time to snag a good deal on Southwest flights next summer.
Here’s what you need to know about maximizing Southwest’s most recent schedule extension.
Why book when Southwest extends its schedule
Booking flights quickly when Southwest extends its schedule can save you serious money. Although availability will probably still be around for a while, you likely won’t find lower prices than are available now for peak travel dates.
Southwest’s change and cancellation policy also make it easy to book now, even if you aren’t sure you’ll take the trip. Here are Southwest’s cancellation rules if you cancel at least 10 minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure:
- If you paid for a Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fare: You will receive travel funds.
- If you paid for an Anytime or Business Select fare: You can request a refund to your original form of payment or accept travel funds.
- If you redeemed Southwest points: Points will automatically go back into the account from which they were booked and you can request that Southwest refund taxes and fees to your original form of payment.
So, you can cancel your flight for free if your family’s travel plans change. Plus, if the price decreases after you book, you can rebook and receive the difference as travel funds or points. So, booking Southwest flights for trips you hope to take is a very low-risk situation.
How to score the best Southwest deals
Here are five tips for getting the best deal on Southwest flights.
Book right now
I recommend booking Southwest flights immediately when the booking window opens, especially if you want to fly during peak times. Although flights have already opened up, you may still be able to snag some good deals.
As mentioned above, there is minimal risk with booking Southwest flights due to the airline’s flexible policies. So, you may want to book now even if you are not 100% certain of your plans. If you want a full refund to your original payment method, redeem Southwest points for your flights or book more expensive Anytime or Business Select fares.
Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest
Due to the airline’s flexible award policies, redeeming Southwest points is my preferred method for booking a Southwest flight. If you need to cancel a flight booked with points, your points go straight into your Rapid Rewards account, and you can get the taxes and fees you paid returned to your card.
Earning a sign-up bonus on a new Southwest credit card is an excellent way to boost your account balance, but that will take some time. You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio if you have an Ultimate Rewards-earning card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Use a Companion Pass, but you can add it later
The Southwest Companion Pass is my favorite benefit in the travel industry. After all, a friend or family member can fly with you for free (plus taxes and fees) as a perk of the Companion Pass. The pass typically expires on Dec. 31 of the year after the year in which you earned it. But Southwest occasionally offers promotional Companion Passes that are valid for shorter periods.
If you do not yet have a Companion Pass but plan to earn one before your flight, you can still book now and add your companion’s ticket later. The only requirement for adding your companion to your reservation is that there must be at least one seat left for sale. Just keep in mind that if you are flying during peak times on popular routes, there is a chance that your flight will sell out if you wait too long.
Have alternative dates in mind
If you have some flexibility, use that to your advantage when booking your flights. You can use Southwest’s low-fare calendar to check the least expensive dates for the flights you want.
The most expensive days to fly are typically Fridays and Sundays. So, if you can shift your dates a few days, you might find the price significantly less. Of course, missing work or taking kids out of school might not work for everyone, but having backup dates might pay off.
Look for price drops
If your flight happens to go down in price between when you book and when you fly, you can easily get the difference in Rapid Rewards points back into your account. Of course, these flexible policies still exist when you pay for your fare with cash, but you’ll end up with Southwest travel funds.
Here are some sample fares I came across for travel in March. You’ll see that you can save a lot of money if your dates (and willingness to fly connecting itineraries) are flexible.
Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) to Cancun International Airport (CUN)
There are plenty of ways to save on your next trip to Cancun with points and miles. And, starting at under 5,000 Rapid Rewards points (plus about $38 in taxes and fees) next July, you can fly to Cancun from Houston. Once in Mexico, check out our ultimate checklist of things to do on your Cancun trip.
Oakland International Airport (OAK) to Kahului Airport (OGG)
You can fly to Kahului (on the island of Maui) from 11,118 Southwest Rapid Rewards points plus about $6 in taxes and fees on some dates in July. You can even fly 2-for-1 to Hawaii with your Southwest Companion Pass.
Long Beach Airport (LGB) to Las Vegas’s Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)
For those looking to visit Las Vegas next year, you can fly from Long Beach (located between Los Angeles and Orange County) to Las Vegas for rates starting at just over 3,000 points (plus about $6 in taxes and fees) in July. Check out our stories about 9 new things to do in Las Vegas and book this, not that Las Vegas while planning your trip.
New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Chicago’s Midway International Airport (MDW)
Southwest doesn’t have the largest New York route network, but some hidden gems exist. If you want to book a summer trip to the Windy City, you can fly for as few as 5,280 points (plus about $6 in taxes and fees) per person in July.
Remember that Southwest allows all passengers to bring two checked bags (up to 50 pounds each) for free on its flights, a notable differentiator from most other U.S. airlines.
Knowing the ins and outs of booking a Southwest flight can allow you to book the best flights possible for your family at the lowest cost. Those looking to travel this spring should book now to score the best deals on Southwest.
If you need to book flights further out, know that Southwest plans to extend its schedule again on Feb. 9, 2023, for flights through Oct. 4, 2023.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter, Andrew Kunesh and Kyle Olsen.