Avoid AirTran Fees with Southwest

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Yesterday I posted that AirTran is increasing their change and cancellation fees starting in August. While I HATE to see airlines make changes to their program, there is a way around this, sorta. As you are probably aware by now, Southwest and AirTran have merged and you can now fly AirTran operated flights when booking with Southwest (and visa versa). Regardless of who the flight is operated by, the policies that you need to abide by are those of the airline that you booked by (not the airline you are actually flying with). So if you book a flight on Southwest.com which is operated by AirTran and you need to cancel you will follow Southwest’s cancellation policy.

If you’ve seen any Southwest advertisement you are probably well aware that Southwest has NO change or cancellation fees (although starting soon you must change/cancel at least one hour in advance of your flight’s departure time). With Southwest if you cancel on a paid ticket the entire ticket price will be available to be used for a year from the purchase date – no fee deduction or anything! If this same flight was booked on AirTran.com you’d be subject to a $75 loss in the credit, and starting in August it will be $150.

Now a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you book on Southwest.com you are earning Southwest Rapid Reward Points, NOT AirTran A+ Rewards (regardless of who operates the flight). So if you are interested in A+ Rewards points than booking via Southwest might not be of interest to you.
  • Typically prices are the same, but make sure to check both sites to ensure Southwest.com is the same price (or cheaper) if you were to book on AirTran.com.

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  1. Unfortunately doesn’t work unless you can actually book on Southwest. For example, if you try to book SEA-CUN on Southwest, it sends you to AirTran.

  2. Using the Southwest website to earn RR points currently only works with flights that include a Southwest AND and Airtran segment, unless the Airtran segment of a mixed itinerary is out of the US. For non-stop Airtran flights then you don’t have a choice, you still need to book on their website. However, even if you are primarily interested in FL points, you can still earn WN points and convert to A+ rewards at a ratio of 1200 RR pts -> 1 A+ Credit. So, taking a WN direct flight can still benefit you if you’re looking to earn A+ Rewards.

  3. Another big negative is no option to select seats or upgrade to biz class if you book AirTran flights on Southwest. For example, you can book LAX-SJU on Southwest with all segments on AirTran metal. But no option to pay for an exit row or select seats. You are at the mercy of available seats on the day of departures. Also no ability to use 4 AirTran credits to upgrade to biz which would be a no brainer for LAX-SJU.

  4. I’m glad I found this site! I travel often from ATL-BOS and back. I’m disappointed about the Southwest/Airtran merger simply because I love and will miss Airtran’s business class 🙁

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