Flying the unfriendly skies these days–with baggage fees, overbooking, etc–most of the clouds you see are dark. But this One Weird Airline (sorry, I can’t stop) offers a silver lining. Delays, bumps, restrictions, fees. Take your pick: it’s trite to say flying isn’t fun these days; but the banality of saying so makes it no less true. However, one airline Mandy and I fly strives to make flying, if not fun, tolerable.
Enter Southwest Airlines
First, no checked baggage fees. Score. Flight attendants with a sense of humor: minor score; every bit helps. The Southwest Companion pass–a monumental score. And this little known truth:
Whether you’ve paid for a flight using “cash” or points, you can cancel flights penalty free up to 10 minutes before travel. Please help me out here readers, but I’ve never heard of a policy this generous on rock-bottom airfares. A full refund, no strings attached. You get all your money or points back.
I’m living proof that Southwest honors its cancellation policy. One Christmas season, Mandy and I had Southwest flights booked from Raleigh (RDU) to Orlando (MCO) to visit her family. Sometimes we drive–it’s around 10 hours. Sometimes we fly.
This time, I was out of sorts the morning of our flight. The exact reasons are hazy–perhaps I didn’t want to deal with Christmas time B.S. at the airport; a car rental at our destination; or I wanted to bring more stuff without having to pack and check bags–possibly including gift bottles of wine. What was memorable is that I’d had it. My mind was changed and we were driving. So I went online, knowing the policy, and cancelled. Within 24 hours or less, our miles had been redeposited into our account. Our flight taxes were refunded via the credit card we used–taking however long that typically takes to post. Probably a few days.
It’s one of those things that Sounds Too Good To Be True. But unlike such things, at least at the time of this writing, its veracity is unquestionable. What concerns me is Change. Nothing lasts forever. And so this generous policy will likely be relegated to the scrap heap of countless other Great Things in our hobby that have gone poof.
But for now, know the policy and the freedom it provides. With this knowledge, you can make Speculative Flight Bookings. By this I mean, perhaps you want to take a trip to NYC but you’re not 100% certain. You do know the dates–perhaps it’s over a long weekend. With Southwest, presuming Southwest flies out of your home airport, you can make the booking and decide on hotels later. Or whether you want to follow through with the journey at all. That’s the Power of the Policy folks. To boot, booking early typically means access to cheaper fares.
One caveat: I’m not 100% certain about what Southwest’s 10 minutes “before travel” legalese means. Is that 10 minutes prior to boarding? Or 10 minutes prior to one’s scheduled departure time? Dunno. What I do know is this: I cancelled penalty-free within a mere hour or two before our scheduled departure time. No other airline allows this. If you haven’t flown Southwest due to its General Boarding seating arrangement, give it a little more consideration in light of the flexibility you gain versus competitors.