So the other day while planning a summer family vacation, I came across a trick booking on Southwest. I am not sure if this is widely known in the travel hacking community or not, but in a spat of Googling, I could not find any reference to it. I tend to think that maybe it is not that well known, since it would only happen when booking multiple tickets. It’s also more pronounced when you are booking LOTS of tickets, as I was (this is our first airplane ride with all 8 of us)
First, a bit of background on Southwest. Southwest is unique from most of the other domestic airlines in that their point redemptions are based specifically on how many dollars the fare costs. So whereas with American (or United or Delta), a roundtrip costs 25,000 miles whether it’s New York to Boston, or Miami to Seattle, at Southwest , it all depends on how much the fare costs.
In a previous post, we talked about how much are Southwest Rapid Rewards points REALLY worth? Although there is a nominal published valuation of 70 points / $, meaning that a point would be worth 1.43 cents. But because the points are calculated on the base fare, you can actually get anywhere from 1.5 to 1.9 cents per point value.
So while I was looking to book our Lake Tahoe summer trip, I noticed one thing. The prices I was quoted when searching for 1 passenger (the default on Southwest) were in some cases lower than the prices when I searched for all 8 tickets. Makes sense, right? Southwest is like many airlines in that they have a certain number of fares at a lower price, and if those all “run out”, then there are only higher priced fares. Reminds me of Megabus, where they have bus fares as low as $1.
So here’s a random flight from Baltimore to Las Vegas this summer:
Do you like my mad animated GIF creation skeelz? 🙂 So these are 5 flights on the same day. You can see that the bottom 3 are the same price no matter how many passengers are on the reservation, while for the top 2, there is a difference.
So let’s take a comparison on these flights, assuming that you want to book 8 tickets
- Flight 1 (through MCO): 8 tickets at $331 would cost $2648. The lower $295 price is available all the way up through 6 passengers, so you could book 1 reservation for 6 people at $295, and then book the 2nd reservation for the remaining 2 tickets at $331. 6 * $295 + 2 * $331 is $2432, a savings of $216
- Flight 2 (through HOU): 8 tickets at $384 would cost $3072. The lower $330 price is also available through 6 passengers, so your total cost there is $2748, a savings of $324.
This trick seems to work pretty consistently, though of course it only works if you’re buying multiple tickets. It isn’t always 6 passengers that are available at the lower price – that seemed to vary (probably depending on how many tickets have already been sold at that fare class)
Having multiple reservations does complicate things a little bit (more things to keep track of), but you’ll have to weigh that against the cost savings. Definitely something to keep in mind whenever booking multiple passengers on Southwest
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