- Southwest Airlines unveiled a new fare class called Wanna Get Away Plus, which will be pricier than its current cheapest ticket.
- One key perk of Wanna Get Away Plus is the ability to transfer flight credits, which Southwest calls travel funds.
- Another perk of the new fare? The ability to switch to a different flight on the day of travel at no cost if seats are available.
Southwest Airlines passengers sitting on travel credits from a canceled trip frequently ask the airline if they can apply them to someone else’s ticket for someone else.
The airline’s answer is always the same: a resounding no, as is the case at most airlines.
“Seems like the money I already paid should be usable however I please,” one traveler hoping to transfer credits to his son said in a tweet to the airline in early March. “Hoping you can fix this strange policy.”
Southwest is about to change the policy – for a price.
The airline unveiled details of its long-awaited new fare category on Thursday, its first since 2007, and a key perk is the ability to transfer flight credits, which Southwest calls travel funds.
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Southwest Wanna Get Away Plus tickets vs. Wanna Get Away
The option will be included for travelers who buy the new ticket type, to be called Wanna Get Away Plus, which will be pricier than its current cheapest ticket, called Wanna Get Away. The airline is offering it and other perks in a bid to get travelers to pay more for their ticket.
“That is a pain point that a lot of our customers relay, particularly on leisure travel,” said Jonathan Clarkson, Southwest’s vice president of marketing, loyalty and products. “They have these funds that they are either running out of time to use or don’t have the ability to use or would prefer to have someone else close to them use them but there’s not an easy way to transfer.”
Southwest did not disclose how much more travelers will generally pay for a Wanna Get Away Plus ticket than a Wanna Get Away ticket except to call the increase “modest.” The price of the upsell won’t be known until the airline rolls out the new fare lineup, which is expected by the end of June.
“I think we will see a meaningful percentage of our customers buying up to Wanna Get Away Plus,” Clarkson said.
The transfer option is also being added to the airline’s priciest tickets, called Anytime and Business Select, but those tickets are already refundable so the benefit isn’t as critical.
Can you switch to an earlier flight on Southwest?
The new Wanna Get Away Plus tickets will include another key perk that the airline says will entice travelers to buy up: the ability to switch to a different flight on the day of travel at no cost if seats are available (confirmed or standby. )
The airline’s Wanna Get Away tickets offer same-day changes when available but passengers must pay any fare difference, which can be significant at the last minute.
“If there’s one thing we’ve all learned during the pandemic, it’s that plans change,” Clarkson said, “and both of these elements give customers the opportunity to adapt to that.”
Watterson called the same-day change option a “substantial benefit” for travelers, especially business travelers.
“You show up at 5 and you want to go on an earlier flight. You can do a change if a seat’s available,” he said.
What is Early Bird Check-In for Southwest?
The coming ticket changes announced Thursday weren’t limited to the unveiling of Wanna Get Away Plus, a name Southwest included in customer surveys when it was researching new fare categories a few years ago.
The airline’s Anytime tickets have new features, most notably the addition of Southwest’s Early Bird Check-In. EarlyBird Check-In, which gives travelers a better boarding position in Southwest’s unique open seating system, is currently only sold separately. The airline charges $15 to $25 per person per flight.
The EarlyBird option, which automatically assigns passenger boarding positions 12 hours before Southwest’s standard online check-in begins, will still be available for purchase with Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away tickets, the airline’s executives said. (Business Select tickets already include the airline’s most coveted boarding positions.) The product is a big moneymaker for Southwest, bringing in more than $400 million a year before the pandemic.
With Anytime ticket buyers automatically added to the EarlyBird pool, and checked in ahead of those who purchase EarlyBird, won’t Southwest passengers who pay for the product lose ground in their quest for the best possible seat?
Clarkson and Watterson insist any change will be slight.
“It probably only adds a couple (of) boarding positions to the average boarding position that somebody’s going to get already,” Clarkson said.
Watterson said some Anytime ticket buyers already pay for EarlyBird.
“You could easily see a case where it does not change that number very much because now they get it for free,” he said, adding that Southwest will continue to manage the number of EarlyBird slots sold.
Are Southwest flights refundable?
Despite the flexibility with the new Wanna Get Away Plus tickets, those tickets and Wanna Get Away tickets will not be refundable. Travelers will receive a credit that can be used within 12 months of the ticket purchase date.
The only Southwest fares that will be refundable, meaning travelers can get their money back, remain the pricier Business Select and Anytime fares.
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Does Southwest have a basic economy?
Watterson has said for months that the shake-up of Southwest’s fare structure would not take anything away from travelers, ie, by making Wanna Get Away tickets more like basic economy tickets or budget airlines’ no-frills tickets.
The airline kept that promise on Thursday, with no changes to its most popular ticket. Travelers will still receive frequent flyer miles, two free bags and have no ticket change fees, among other current features.
“Nothing is being taken away from Wanna Get Away. It is still the same product that customers have come to know and love,” Clarkson said. “It’s counter to non-customer-centric industry trends of removing benefits… and forcing customers to buy up to a less punitive product.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism