Consumers Speak: The Excellent Side of Southwest’s Seating Policy

Totally awesome tip from our boy Nick Weaver. The gyst? Travel Southwest whenever you can:

Many people complain about Southwest’s open seating policy. However, it is partially this policy which enables Southwest to havean amazingly consumer friendly ticket policy. This even enables retroactive sale prices on previously booked tickets.

Almost all other airlines charge fees for changing reservations on restricted tickets I’ve had to pay, ranging from mild($25 for JetBlue) to outrageous ($100 on American, plus $8 to callcustomer service because you can’t do it online).

Southwest charges NOTHING. No change fee, just the differencebetween the old ticket and the new ticket. If the new ticket is moreexpensive, you pay the difference. If the new ticket is less, you gain a credit for future travel.

I’m signed up to get Southwest’s specials spammed into mymailbox once every couple of days. Today I got the spam which included $49 tickets to San Diego and LAX from Oakland. Two places I already had reservations for for travel over the next month.

I log onto southwest, go to the travel center, go to “Change Reservations”, and input the confirmation #s and my name. I quickly rebook my tickets, on the same flights, for less than I originally paid, leaving me (well, actually, my employer) a nice credit forfuture flights.

Less than 5 minutes, and $70 in credit!

So remember: Southwest will honor their sale price on existing tickets, if you rebook to take advantage of the sale. And if you can’t get the cheaper ticket, you don’t have to rebook (its an atomic operation with a good user interface.)!


Edit Your Comment

  1. RowdyRoddyPiper says:

    Either this is new or it works online only. I got to the airport a little late one time, and called southwest to move my reservation (as the check in line stretched for eternity and the security line was worse.) I ended up paying roughly $35 a ticket to change. I’m pretty sure there was no difference in fares, it was just a fee.

  2. Kevin Meyers says:

    And while we’re on Southwest hacks:

  3. nweaver says:

    Rowdy: It MUST have been the ticket difference. Southwest NEVER charges fees except the delta of the ticket price. In fact, they assume people take advantage of this flexibility (which is why southwest often overbooks more than other airlines)

    See page 5 of their customer policy on ticket refunds and changes:

  4. Rick says:

    Southwest is always such a toss-up for me. The flights are usually on-time and cheap. But I like being able to show up 5 minutes before the doors close and still getting my aisle seat. I like the idea of the plane maybe not being so full that I will actually get the middle seat to myself on longer flights.

  5. nweaver says:

    Rick: Print out your tickets at home, you almost invariably get A group.

  6. There are definitely ways to ensure that – assuming you are an A boarder who gets an aisle seat – you can maintain the vacancy of the seat next to you on all but completely booked flights. Since I’m the type that most skittish midwesterners prefer to sit next to on an airplane (young, white, attractive, skinny) I find that it helps to play on other prejudices. The following work for me:

    Dressing as flamboyantly as possible (fur hats . . . large sunglasses . . . tee shirts which graphically announce my homosexual proclivities)
    Lowering the tray table and using it as a desk while applying simple cosmetics such as mascara or eye-liner. This is something I only do when the flight looks like it’s going to be *really* crowded. ;)

    I suppose if none of that is up your alley you could wear a turban?

    Love and Lollipops.

  7. LLH says:

    yea, and remember 2 things if you leave from LAX – don’t look drunk and show up to the gate 15 minutes before they start boarding or else you WILL loose that seat. at LAX there’s always at least 10 people waiting on that one seat esp. if you’re going to vegas.

  8. RowdyRoddyPiper says:

    Yes, my mistake, it must have been a fare difference. I was a little bit irritated while this transaction was going on so the details are admittedly fuzzy. Now if only I could get Southwest to accept pets.