How to Get Cheap Southwest Flights

You're likely already saving by flying Southwest, but there's more you can do.
Dec 22, 2021

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Want to make cheap Southwest flights even cheaper? Even though the airline is a low-cost carrier that flies to over 100 destinations, there are still some tricks that savvy travelers use to save even more money.

Here’s our best advice on how to get cheap Southwest flights.

6 ways to save money when you fly Southwest Airlines

Beyond the typical advice of flying mid-week or at early hours, keep these tips in mind when you book your next Southwest flight to save big.

1. Book one-way tickets

Some airlines make it cheaper to book a round-trip ticket than to book two one-way segments. But not Southwest Airlines. Flights are priced separately for the departing flight and for the return flight, so you won’t save any money upfront if you book round-trip tickets.

Another reason why should you book your Southwest flights as one-ways instead of round-trips? It’s easier to change your flight later to get money back if prices drop.

With Southwest’s change and cancellation policy, you can get credit back on your flight if the price changes and becomes more affordable. Just log into your Rapid Rewards account and click "change flight." If the price has dropped from what you originally paid, "change" the flight and you’ll get the difference back.

If you’re booked on a round-trip ticket and one leg goes down in price but the other leg goes up, you won’t be able to change it to get credit back. But if you’re booked as two one-way tickets, you can change the flight that dropped in price and keep the other segment intact.

2. Skip EarlyBird (but still get a good spot in the boarding line)

Flyers who are nervous about getting a late boarding number in Southwest’s unique boarding process often opt to buy EarlyBird Check-In. For an extra charge ranging from $15 to $25 one way (depending on your fare), you’ll be automatically checked-in and score a better boarding position.

But if you’re traveling with a kid under age six, you can skip paying for the EarlyBird and still get a good seat. With Southwest’s Family Boarding policy, two adults traveling with a child under six years old can board right after the "A" group boards, even if their assigned positions are in the "B" or "C" groups.

This means that a family of four could save up to $100 each way in EarlyBird Check-In fees by taking advantage of Family Boarding, and you’ll still find seats together on the plane with ease.

3. Get free Wi-Fi (365 times)

While Southwest doesn’t have built-in screens to watch movies or TV shows, it does offer inflight entertainment for free if you bring your own tablet or smartphone. You can watch a variety of TV shows (including some live channels) and movies, listen to music and play games — absolutely free of charge.

If you want to browse the web or answer emails while you fly though, you’ll have to pay $8 per device.

But here’s an easy way to get free Wi-Fi: Consider the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. One of the perks that comes with holding the card (along with 9,000 bonus points on your cardmember anniversary and four upgraded boardings per year) is up to 365 inflight Wi-Fi credits per year.

Since you probably won’t be flying Southwest every day of the year, you can use those credits to pay for Wi-Fi for other people you’re traveling with. So if you’re traveling with your whole family and everyone wants inflight Wi-Fi, just put all the charges on your Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, and they’ll all be covered up to 365 times per year.

4. Fly on holidays for free drinks

Do you like to enjoy a cocktail when you’re flying? When you fly Southwest on certain holidays, you can can request a beer, wine or cocktail on the house. You must be 21 and older to benefit from the free alcoholic drinks.

Here are the holidays that have qualified for a free drink in the past:

  • New Year’s Day.

  • Valentine’s Day.

  • St. Patrick’s Day.

  • Mother’s Day.

  • Memorial Day.

  • Father’s Day.

  • Southwest’s Birthday (June 18).

  • Fourth of July.

  • Labor Day.

  • Thanksgiving.

  • Christmas.

Also, keep an eye on your mailbox for free Southwest drink coupons. While not an official policy, Southwest Rapid Rewards members generally will receive four coupons for free drinks for every 10 one-way segments flown. Cheers!

5. Watch for sales (They happen frequently)

Unlike some airlines that rarely offer sales on fares, Southwest regularly puts flights on sale. Pretty much every Tuesday, in fact. The sales typically apply to cash bookings as well as redeeming Southwest points.

Southwest has an unofficial but predictable fare sale calendar that drops the prices on some routes nearly every Tuesday. While it’s not a published policy, these generally run from Tuesday through Thursday and offer one-way prices on select routes as low as $39.

6. Use Southwest’s Low Fare Calendar

The Low Fare Calendar provides a monthly view of the flight prices for a specific route. Let's say you want to fly from Chicago-Midway to Salt Lake City in March 2022 but you haven’t decided on a date. You can search flight prices for the entire month in cash or points.

Prices in cash

The cheapest flights are during the first nine days of the month.

Prices in Rapid Rewards points

Similarly, flight prices in points are the cheapest during the first nine days of the month.

If you have flexible plans and are looking for cheap Southwest flights, get use the Low Fare Calendar so you can save the most.

Final thoughts on finding cheap Southwest flights

Even though Southwest often has some of the lowest fares you’ll find, there are still easy ways to save even more.

Of course, the ultimate Southwest money saver is the Companion Pass. You can earn the opportunity to fly a companion with you almost free for nearly two years if you qualify at the right time. You need to fly a lot of Southwest flights to qualify for the Companion Pass, but spending on Southwest credit cards can help you get there much faster (learn more here). Even if you don’t earn the pass, you can still lock in low rates and have peace of mind with Southwest’s industry-leading change and cancellation rules.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

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