Saving money on airfare is a major concern for every family. While loyalty programs can help offset some of those costs, not every program is a great fit for every traveler. When thinking about rewards for multiple flyers, which major airline program offers the most value for everyone?
Beloved by many frequent travelers for their casual and family-friendly approach to travel, Southwest Rapid Rewards is one of the best reward programs for families looking to see the country for less. Here are three reasons why we think Rapid Rewards is best for families.
1. General admission boarding can keep families together
On most major American airlines, flyers must pay a premium to select seats in advance or take a chance on not being sat together with basic economy fares. Southwest does things a little differently, and it can be a great thing for families.
When boarding a Southwest flight, all seats are open for all passengers. Passengers are enplaned by their group: Group A, Group B and Group C. In each group, flyers are assigned numbers 1 through 60 based on when they checked in. When you board is based on which number you hold. For example, the flyer with boarding pass A-22 will board before the one holding B-10. Those who checked in earliest get assigned to group A, while later check-ins get assigned to groups B and C.
» Learn More: Southwest Rapid Rewards: The Complete Guide
There are two distinct reasons this can be great for families boarding together. First, early check-ins (or those who pay between $15 and $25 per person for EarlyBird automatic check-in) may get in Group A, or receive a high number in Group B. With a high number of seats available in each group, families can make sure they all get to be together.
Southwest also has a generous boarding policy for families with younger children. Those traveling with a child under six can enplane during Family Boarding, which takes place between Groups A and B. This ensures parents stay with their children when they fly together, even if seats aren’t assigned ahead of time.
2. Two free checked bags for all passengers, on all routes
Checking luggage when flying can add to what is already an expensive vacation. When flying across America, it costs $35 to check one bag on most carriers. For a family of four, these fees can add nearly $300 onto a trip if everyone checks a bag to and from their destination.
If you get a travel credit card, you may be able to offset some of those fees through checked bag waivers or airline incidental credits. But these credit cards often come with an annual fee. If you don’t fly often, you may not be able to realize the card’s full value.
» Learn More: Airline credit cards that offer free checked bags
When flying on Southwest, all flyers can check up to two bags, up to 50 pounds each, free of charge. Not only does this save everyone money, but it can also free up carry-on luggage for what’s important for keeping families busy.
3. Some of the best loyalty benefits for family flyers
While complimentary checked bags are a rare benefit anymore, Southwest also rewards loyal travelers with some of the best perks in the industry. Even if you don’t fly thousands of miles across the country every year, you can still get rewarded through Rapid Rewards points and the Southwest Companion Pass.
Rapid Rewards members get the Companion Pass after earning 110,000 qualifying points in one calendar year (increasing to 125,000 in 2020). Qualifying points are earned through spending on Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, shopping at online retail partners and earning points through Rapid Rewards dining.
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
After you get the Companion Pass, you can designate one person who can fly with you for only taxes and fees, effectively granting a “buy one, get one” pass. Families can use this to their advantage by designating a family member as the “companion” and saving money off at least one person’s airfare. The Companion Pass also works for award flights as well, allowing travelers to save points off every flight they take.
With generous benefits that require little flying, Southwest Rapid Rewards offers a strong value for family travelers. With free checked bags, family boarding time and a Companion Pass that can be earned on the ground, flyers big and small can find a lot to “luv” about Rapid Rewards.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Premium travel rewards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Southwest Rapid Rewards program: The complete guide
The Southwest Companion Pass: Why you want it and how to get it
Which Southwest credit card should I choose?