This morning, many of us woke up to an email from Southwest saying they have opened their schedule for booking through most of next year. This means that fares will likely never be lower than they are today.
This is surprising because Southwest typically only sells tickets about six months in advance and were due to only extend their schedule through the beginning of June. Likely due to the current market environment they have opened bookings through much of the summer.
This is significant because even if prices go down even further, Southwest has always offered the most generous change and cancellation policy of any airline. Southwest lets you change or cancel your flight for free and if there is a fare difference they refund the balance back to you in the form of a travel credit which can be used for a new trip within one year.
The policy on points bookings is even more generous as the points are refunded back to your account immediately and they do not expire. That is why I like to keep a stash of Southwest Rapid Rewards points in my account to be able to book a trip quickly when needed.
Earlier this year, United, Delta, American and other airlines began adopting similar no fee change policies but each airline has varying levels of the policy and none of them are as good as Southwest. For example, I had to get on Twitter and fight with United Airlines recently to get them to refund the miles on a flight I cancelled. By comparison I’ve cancelled flights on Southwest and the points were refunded back to my account almost immediately.
While Southwest doesn’t work for every situation, they are great for short hops around the country or even positioning flights ahead of international flights. In addition to their no fee policy they give every passenger two free checked bags which takes some stress out of worrying about bag fees.
Bottom line is when determining the best time to book a flight, especially on Southwest thanks to their long standing flexible change/cancellation policies I follow the advice of Mr. Capone: