12 Southwest Airlines Hacks

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As someone who travels nearly constantly for work, I have ended up falling in love with Southwest airlines. Their sense of humor, positive attitudes, incredible loyalty program and large flight network has made my travel life much easier and much more predictable (in a good way). Here are a few random Southwest Hacks that I’ve picked up along the way.

1. You can indeed lift the aisle armrest. There is a latch towards the back of the armrest that you have to press, and then it will raise. This is particularly helpful for when you deplane and everyone is packed in trying the get their luggage out. Makes maneuvering out of your seat into a full aisle just a little easier.

2. In the bathroom there is a hidden hook close to the very top of the door. Use this if you need to bring your handbag into the restroom so you can keep it off the yucky floor that is often covered by water and/or pee.

3. If you’re not A-List and don’t have auto check in, be sure to set an alarm to check in EXACTLY 24 hours (to the minute!) from your flight time. You’ll get the best boarding position that way. Boarding position determines how soon you can get on the flight, and get a choice seat since all seating on Southwest is open. How many flights/points you’ve accumulated that year matters as well, so keep on flying and don’t forget to sign up for their Rapid Rewards program. You can also pay $40 for upgraded seating (A 1-15) when available- BUT always check to see if a “FULL business select upgrade” is around the same price. Sometimes it is less, and gets you a free drink and WAY more Rapid Rewards points.

4. Even if you have checked in, stop by a kiosk and check in again. Look to see how much an upgrade to Business Select is. Sometimes it’s super cheap, even under $20. Upgrading gets you 12 Rapid Rewards points for every dollar, as opposed to only 6 or 10 with the cheaper fares. Rapid Rewards can cruise you quickly to A-List or free travel. I’ve flown a single flight on Business Select that gave me enough points for a free round trip ticket from Phoenix to Los Angeles! Plus, if you don’t have A-List, this gets you into the fast lane through security, A 1-15 boarding position and a free drink. Note: If you DO upgrade to business select, make sure you don’t accidentally toss out the free drink coupon that will print out after your boarding pass!! I’ve done that more than once, sadly.

5. If you find yourself with a late- B or lower boarding group, there’s a chance you won’t have room to put your carry on luggage in the overhead bins. If you know the contents of your bag can handle being checked, get the gate check tag before boarding. You’ll be able to hand your bag off and be free to take the first available seat rather than hucking all the way to the back, only to find you can’t stash your bag there anyway. Be mindful of your connection times if you’re not on a direct flight. Sometimes it takes them a few extra minutes to get your bag to you after deplaning.

6. Use Southwest for quick and easy connections with larger airlines. I live in a city with minimal international direct flights, and when trying to fly to Europe on American Airlines miles I had a TON more options when I looked from neighboring hub cities. A flight to Los Angeles was only 7000 points and an hour of my time, and I was able to find a direct flight from LA to Europe, saving me over 10 hours of travel time. I did the same on the flight back- I would have had to endure an eight our layover in Philadelphia, instead I caught a Southwest flight from Philly to Phoenix and abandoned the rest of my connections on American. Note: abandoning remaining segments on a flight can cost you points if you’re paying for the ticket with money- I was flying on miles so I wasn’t at risk of losing anything by forfeiting the remaining segments.

7. One of the alcohol choices is Bailey’s which not only is tasty on the rocks or in coffee, you can order it in HOT COCOA. This is great for later flights when you want a sweet treat without the caffeine.

8. Speaking of drinks, on short flights be sure to sit in row 1, 9 or 17. They usually get served drinks first, giving you a few extra minutes to enjoy.

9. Wanna Get Away fares are always the least expensive option. Although they normally become unavailable at 14 days prior to your flight, it’s always worth checking even if you’re booking last minute. Sometimes they’ll stick around closer to the departure date.

10. Check neighboring airports for better prices, and book two one way flights. I often travel to an area that is about an equal drive from Baltimore, Washington DC and Philadelphia. By checking all three and sometimes flying in and out of a different airport, it’s often a significant savings.

11. You can always get a credit back if your flight becomes less expensive after you purchase- either with money or with points! Check your dates periodically after purchase to see if there has been a decrease, especially if they start a sale. If so, just call customer service and request to be rebooked at that price.

12. The coveted Companion Pass is an incredible loyalty reward that allows you to have one designated travel companion fly with you free- EVEN on points reservations. If you’re not an extremely frequent flyer, the Southwest Chase Rapid Rewards Visa helps you get to that status- the 50k points count towards the 110k needed, cutting your flight requirements nearly in half.

Just for fun, check out my twitter account OverheardOnSouthwest for some laughs from time to time. Those Southwest Flight Attendants say the darndest things…