While most airlines allow you to book travel 330 days in advance, some of the US lower carrier airlines have a very different booking schedule. Every so often Southwest and AirTran extend their reservations system a few months out at a time. I was very happy when I went to the Southwest site that both them and AirTran have extended their schedule to February 12, 2014. Until now you could only book until January 5, 2014. You can now book travel for Martin Luther King weekend or if you were looking to take a long vacation past New Years.

With both airlines, if you book now and the flight price goes down you are able to get a credit.

  • Southwest: If you pay for your flight, you will receive a voucher for the difference to be used one year from the date the flight was purchased. This voucher is non-transferable. If you booked your flight using points, the difference in points will go back into your account. You can rebook your original flight online to get this voucher/point difference credited – no phone call is needed.
  • AirTran: For paid flights, you must call AirTran and request a credit for the difference. This voucher will be attached to the frequent fliers account who the ticket was booked for, but is fully transferable to anyone (you must just book through that FF account). The voucher expires one year from the date the flight was purchased.

Additionally, with Southwest, you can fully cancel your reservation for NO penalty (unlike AirTran). Here are the four scenarios on how you will get refunded for your reservation:

  • Purchasing a ticket with a credit card: If cancelled, you will receive a credit back in the full amount you paid valid for one year from when the ticket was purchased. Unfortunately, these credits are not transferable.
  • Purchasing a ticket with Southwest credit or a voucher: If cancelled, you will receive a credit back in the full amount you paid, but the expiration date will stick from the original voucher expiration date. This will not extend the date. Again, these credits/vouchers are not transferable.
  • Purchasing a ticket using points: If cancelled, you will receive the full amount of points used back into your account. The points will go back into the account from which they were pulled from even if they were used on another passenger. There is no fee at all!
  • Purchasing a ticket using a free ticket: If cancelled, you will receive the free ticket back into your account. This will not extend the expiration date. If the ticket was used for another passenger, it will still go back into the account from where the free ticket was pulled from. There is no fee at all!

You will also receive the full amount of taxes back to your credit card. If you cancel the reservation via the phone, however, many times they will not tell you this and instead give you a credit to be used for future travel for the taxes (ranging from $2.50-$7.50 one way). Make sure to request that the taxes go back to the credit card.

This is great for holiday travel, although prices can still be expensive. My assumption is the prices will go down over time though – at least that is what happened last year (holiday travel significantly went down over a 4 month time frame) and I was able to get 5 tickets down in price by about $100 per ticket roundtrip!

Happy booking!

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

  • PSL said,

    FYI, this extension to February 12 actually occurred on June 24. According to the Travel Tools section of the Southwest website, the next schedule extension to March 7 will occur on July 22 (subject to change, so it’s always a good idea to check). Up until a few years ago, Southwest never publicized a schedule extension date, which led to a very long “Official Southwest Extension Prediction” thread on Flyer Talk.

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