Tag Archives: Southwest

Free First Class 2014: Basics of Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America Points

This is the nineteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Southwest Rapid Rewards, JetBlue TrueBlue, and Virgin America Elevate programs. I’m taking all three together because they are similar programs.

Why Collect Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America Points?

All three types of airline points can save you big on your next domestic trip or near international trip.

All three types of points can access every flight on their respective airlines with no blackouts.

  • What airlines can you fly with Rapid Rewards, TrueBlue points, and Elevate points?
  • What are the special features of each program?
  • How can you book Rapid Rewards, TrueBlue, and Elevate awards?

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750 Free Southwest Rapid Rewards for 20 Seconds of Work

Three weeks ago I got an email from AirTran A+ Rewards with the subject “Get 750 Rapid Rewards Bonus Points.”

The email explains that Rapid Rewards and A+ Rewards, Southwest’s and AirTran’s loyalty programs will merge on November 2, 2014. (Southwest acquired AirTran in May 2011.)

If you verify your A+ and Rapid Rewards accounts to make that combination easier on the airline, you can get a quick 750 Rapid Rewards, worth about $11 in free flights. This took me about 20 seconds, so I thought it was a good return on investment.

  • How can you get the 750 points?
  • What amazing arbitrage opportunity will end November 2, 2014?

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Southwest 50k Offers Are Back, Leverage Them for $3,142 in Free Flights

Southwest is currently offering 50k bonus point sign ups on its personal and business credit cards after spending $2,000 in three months. You can leverage the offers for $3,142 in free flights.

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You can get both the personal and business cards at once, and after meeting their minimum spending requirements, you will have 104,000 Rapid Rewards post to your account.

Southwest has a fixed-value program in which you can get any Wanna Get Away? fare for 70 points for every dollar of the base fare. That means 104,000 points are worth $1,485 in free flights.

Earn another 6,000 Rapid Rewards with the cards or a few other ways–getting to 110k points total–and you will earn the best deal in all of travel hacking: a Southwest Companion Pass.

If you have the Southwest Companion pass, you can designate a companion who flies for $2.50 per segment on every Southwest flight you fly. That’s every Southwest flight–including paid tickets, regular awards, and special loophole awards–until the end of 2015.

The free travel from the 110k Rapid Rewards and Companion Pass are worth at least $3,142 even after Southwest’s recent devaluation.

  • What is a Southwest Companion Pass?
  • How can you get one from two credit cards?

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Airlines are Responding to Bank, Accounting, and Consultant Pressures by Opening Up More Award Space

According to the Wall Street Journal, airlines are opening up more award space this year compared to last year because of pressure from banks, accounting rules, and consultant studies.

In the short term, that’s good for us. More award space: woohoo!

But in the long run, these pressures could cause more airlines to move to revenue-based frequent flyer programs. Revenue-based redemptions: boohoo!

Every year IdeaWorks comes out with one of the worst-conceived studies imaginable in an attempt to quantify which frequent flyer programs make redemptions the easiest. Every year, Gary Leff makes correct points about why the study is so dumb.

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The yearly IdeaWorks study makes no sense because it compares all frequent flyer programs without differentiating which offer revenue-based redemptions, distance-based redemptions, and chart-based redemptions.

It ignores prices on the award chart, international flights by United States carriers, partner award availability, and the imposition of fuel surcharges.

Even with all those flaws, the study gets picked up in the Wall Street Journal and parroted as gospel about which programs are better for consumers.

That’s why it’s dangerous for us.

  • Why is the IdeaWorks study producing positive changes in the short run?
  • Why might the IdeaWorks study produce negative changes in the long run?
  • What pressures are on airlines to increase award availability and how can we increase those pressures?

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Shouldn’t It Say Get 1 and 5/7 Roundtrip Flights?

Southwest and Chase market their Southwest card in a misleading way. The big bold letters say:

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The 50,000 points the card offers in no way correlate with two roundtrips. All Southwest Wanna Get Away fares are available for 70 points per dollar, so 50,000 points are worth about $714 in Southwest flights, however many one ways or roundtrips that is.

What I find really strange about the marketing, though, is that it still says “2 Roundtrips.”

That’s the same thing it said when Wanna Get Away fares were available for 60 points per dollar up until last month.

Now the points are worth 17% less.

Shouldn’t the bold letters now say “1 and 5/7 Roundtrips“?


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Another Reason Miles Are Better than Cash: Free Cancellations

Using miles to book trips instead of using cash has tons of advantages:

  • Easier access to First Class and flat beds: An international First Class ticket can cost $10k or the amount of miles you can get from opening a pair of credit cards.
  • Better open jaw and stopover rules: Few revenue tickets allow you to stopover without increasing in price. Most mileage awards allow free stopovers and open jaws for no extra miles.
  • Some mileage awards can be cancelled for free or close to it.

This last advantage–free or very cheap cancellations–is an oft-overlooked benefit of certain mileage programs.

I can afford this seat with miles, but not cash.

I can afford this seat with miles, but not cash.

Which program allows completely free cancellations? Which programs allow cheap cancellations, as cheap as $2.50?

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The Southwest 50k Card Offers Are Back. Your Chance to Get Over $3,000 in Free Travel with the Southwest Companion Pass


Bad Deals to Avoid This Week

There were some great deals this week:

But there were also a few bad deals that superficially looked a lot like the good deals that I want to warn you about.

What are the bad deals to avoid this week?

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What I’d Least Like to See Changed about Each Frequent Flyer Program

United scared me a lot on Friday when it tweeted that changes were coming to MileagePlus.

United still hasn’t told us what those changes are, but insists we’ll like them.

It’s very unlikely I’ll like them much. It could be a minor enhancement, but there are very few things I would change about United MileagePlus that United would also change. (That is, I would love for the change to be that all awards now cost 5,000 miles, but that won’t happen.)

But there are a lot of negative possible changes that could come like award chart devaluations, restrictions on routing rules, more surcharges and fees, or a throttling of ultra-premium availability.

In this post I’ll lay out my single biggest fear for each of several major programs’ next round of changes.

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Up to 35% Off All Southwest Flights Today Only with Three Simple Steps

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Update: I got 2 x 36k in the first few seconds. I’m refreshing to try to get 40k, 32k, and 20k packages, which are all in others’ carts.

Get huge discounts on all Southwest flights, up to 35% off, with three simple steps today only by taking advantage of a Daily Getaway sale and a favorable points conversion rate.

Today is the fourth day of the third week of five weeks of discounted travel packages sponsored by the US Travel Association and American Express called Daily Getaways.

Every weekday at 1 PM ET, a discounted travel package or packages will go on sale and will usually sell out in a few minutes. Some of the offers will be awesome; some will be duds. Today’s deal is incredible if you know what to do.

Today’s deal is to buy Choice Privileges points in quantities of 20k, 32k, 36k, and 40k points for big discounts. These points can be converted to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a favorable rate.

How can you get up to 35% off all Southwest flights today? Continue reading

How to Enjoy Southwest’s Sale that Ends Today Even If You Don’t Fly Southwest

Southwest is having a big sale on all of its flights that ends today at 11:59 PM ET. The sale is good for travel from August 26 – December 18. Almost everyone benefits from this sale. Make sure you know how to benefit if you already have Southwest flights booked, you might want to take a trip this fall, or even if you are loyal to another airline!

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Great Southwest Sale Nonstops for $49 to $149 Based on Distance

Southwest is running my favorite type of its sales–the distance based ones. Oneways of the following lengths are the following discounted prices.

The great thing about these deals is that they are widely available, include two checked bags, and earn double points!

Here are the details:

Purchase by 11:59 PM on Thursday and travel Monday-Saturday from April 3 to June 8. There are city and systemwide blackouts also.

You don’t need any special promo code. You can just do a normal search on southwest.com. Only nonstop flights will be the advertised price–connecting flights will be a few dollars more.

As will all Southwest flights, you can cancel free of charge for a full credit on Southwest in the amount of your ticket, you can check two bags for free, and you can choose your own seat on the plane since there are no assigned seats.

Just yesterday I wrote about the ability to earn double points on Southwest flights through May 15; this sale is a great double dip.

Check out Southwest’s route map to see where you can fly nonstop from your home airport to take advantage of the LUV is in the Air sale.

Double Southwest Points until May 15

Register for the new Southwest Double Points promo that runs until May 15, 2013. Once registered, book and fly Southwest flights between now and May 15, and you will receive double redeemable Rapid Rewards points.

You have to register before booking a flight, so old bookings won’t earn double points.

Of course, you can cancel Southwest bookings for no fee, so if you have any previously booked Southwest flights planned for before May 15, you may want to cancel them and rebook after registering for the promotion if the price hasn’t gone up.

Normally the cheapest Southwest fares earn 6 points per dollar spent on them, which is worth about 10 cents worth of future Southwest travel. Under this promo, you will earn 12 points per dollar spent on the cheapest fares, which is about 20 cents worth of future Southwest travel. Full terms and conditions:

Southwest is also offering double tier points (toward status) on flights that originate or terminate in Milwaukee. Registering through the link above registers you for both promos. Full details:

Hat Tip Gary

Southwest and AirTran Get Cozier: What It Means For You

According to this thread on FlyerTalk, Southwest Airlines has started to display bookable AirTran flights on its own website. The first AirTran city pairs offered on Southwest.com are Atlanta <-> Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta <-> Fort Myers. A sample screenshot of the newly available flights is below.

These flights are still bookable on AirTran’s website. The prices for economy and business appear to be the same, though no equivalent to “Anytime” economy fares is offered by AirTran.

Why should I book AirTran flights on Southwest’s website?

You should book this flight through Southwest if you are flying in economy and checking a bag. Southwest allows two free checked bags. AirTran, on the other hand, charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second.

Why should I book AirTran flights on AirTran’s website?

AirTran offers the ability to select your seat. You pay for this privilege, though. The cheapest seats are $6 per segment. If you decline to pay, you can select your seat when checking in, no earlier than 24 hours before the flight.

If you are an AirTran elite, the seat selection fee is waived. You also receive free checked bags and the possibility of complimentary first class upgrades at the gate. It definitely makes sense to book with AirTran directly in this case.

What about earning? Is it better to earn A+ credits or Southwest Rapid Rewards points?

That depends on the price of the flights and how much you fly AirTran. Scott wrote a good post on How to Exploit the Southwest-AirTran Merger. He also detailed the conversion ratios between Rapid Rewards points, Rapid Rewards credits, and A+ credits. The exchange ratios are below:

  • 1,200 Rapid Rewards points converts to 1 A+ credit
  • 1 Rapid Rewards credit to 1 A+ credit
  • 1 Southwest Standard Award (two oneways) to 16 A+ credits
  • 1 A+ credit converts to 1 Rapid Rewards credit
  • 16 A+ credits can be used to fly two oneways on Airtran, and 16 Rapid Rewards credits can be used to fly two oneways on Southwest.

Some people are visual learners, so Southwest has a handy website to help explain all the possible conversions. They also produced a chart to show the available transfers.

If you are still reeling from all of this, here is a basic explanation. Rapid Rewards points are a fixed value point system. The number of points needed to book an award ticket is dictated by the price of the fare.

19,200 Rapid Rewards points are worth approximately $324 (1.69 cents each according to the Mile Value Calculator). The same 19,200 Rapid Rewards points convert into 16 A+ credits or 16 Rapid Rewards credits, which are enough for a roundtrip award ticket. 1,200 points = 1 credit.

If you can find an award ticket that costs more than approximately $324 cash, it makes sense to convert 19,200 Rapid Rewards points into credits for a standard AirTran or Southwest award. Just be sure to verify that there is standard award space on your desired flights before making the conversion.

So what’s the final call?

You must decide between Rapid Rewards points and credits. A standard roundtrip flight will earn 2 A+ credits, but the Rapid Rewards points you could earn vary depending on flight prices.

For example, if your roundtrip ticket earns 2,000 Rapid Rewards points versus 2 A+ credits for each segment, AirTran appears to be the site to book with. 2,400 Rapid Rewards points converts to 2 A+ credits. However, I don’t think you should always look at it from this standpoint.

More than anything, I value the flexibility of Rapid Rewards points over A+ credits. Unless you fly AirTran regularly, it might be hard to accumulate the 16 credits required for an award ticket.

Accumulating Rapid Rewards points allows you to book Southwest award flights when needed. You can also convert 19,200 points into 16 credits if the award you want costs more than approximately $324 out of pocket and there is standard award space available.


A few AirTran flights are now bookable on Southwest.com. I’m sure more will be added in the coming weeks as both carriers are inching (very slowly) towards completing their merger.

If you don’t hold elite status with AirTran, I would book any AirTran flights on Southwest’s website that I could. Checked bags are free and you earn Rapid Rewards points which can be used on Southwest flights. Rapid Rewards points also convert into A+ or Rapid Rewards credits, which could make sense if you are booking an award flight that costs more than $324.

Southwest Announces New Fees That Make Perfect Sense

According to this thread on FlyerTalk and this thread on Milepoint, Southwest will now start charging a no-show fee for those who fail to cancel their tickets before the flight departs.

Extra fees, especially on traveler-friendly Southwest, are never a good thing. But I am shocked that a fee like this wasn’t in place before. Now that it is, I honestly can’t blame them for implementing it. It makes sense to penalize when Southwest could resell the seat for a higher price at the last minute. You can still cancel a ticket before a flight with no penalty. Scott actually booked a Rapid Rewards award ticket for me to attend Frequent Traveler University a few weeks ago. When my plans changed, he was able to get back the points without any issues or charges.

Southwest also announced that its Early Bird Check-In fee would increase from $10 to $12.50. This isn’t an extra that ever struck my fancy. I am always diligent about checking in right at the 24 hour mark before my Southwest flights and usually ended up with a decent A or B zone boarding number. That’s enough to get an aisle or window somewhere on the plane. This move will help Southwest capture a bit more revenue for a service many people enjoy.

Of greater concern, though, is the fact that Southwest will begin charging more for a third checked bag. A third bag will now be $75, up from $50. The first and second bag remain free. Overweight baggage will also cost more ($50 fee is now $100).

This move can be seen as a way to minimize the lack of revenue from the first two free checked bags. A pessimist might view it as the beginning of the end of free checked bags on Southwest…..even though their “Bags Fly Free” mantra has endeared them to leisure travelers. For now, they remain the most friendly airline with regard to baggage and fees.