Trick to Use Less Points for Southwest Flights! Convert Southwest Points to Award Tickets.

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UPDATE: This “trick” no longer works due to the merger on November 1, 2104. 

As I wrote about yesterday, there is a loophole to extend the life of your Southwest Airlines free award tickets. However, this also works for those that want to convert their current Southwest points into Southwest standard award tickets. This is a great trick if you are looking at a Southwest flight that requires more then 19,200 points roundtrip! I’ve written about this before but want to emphasize it again as the last date to convert Southwest points to Southwest Standard Award tickets is October 31, 2014!

So why would you do this?! If you are looking to book a Southwest flight that costs more then $137, you might want to exchange your points to a Southwest standard award ticket. Essentially, you can transfer 19,200 Southwest points to AirTran which will give you 16 A+ Reward credits. You can then transfer those 16 A+ credits back to Southwest which will give you 2 one-way standard award tickets. 19,200 Southwest points is equivalent to about $274. With a free award ticket, it doesn’t matter if the ticket is $79 or $179 or $279, it still only requires 1 one-way standard award. So that means if a one-way flight is more then $137 (half of $274) you are better off transferring your points to an award ticket. This can work really well for last minute flights.

There is one big caveat, however, the flight MUST have award availability! Standard award availably is capacity controlled and is not available on all flights. So, before you go ahead and transfer your points to AirTran to transfer back to Southwest, make sure the flight has availability. To check on availability online or call 1-800-I-FLY-SWA.

As an example, I checked a random date from Boston to Las Vegas. The screen shot right below shows that booking a last minute flight to Vegas for tomorrow will cost 21,033 points at the minimum. The chart always shows the lease expensive flight for that date. If paying in cash that flight is $346. The random flight home I selected was 17,060 points (or $281). This last minute roundtrip flight is 38,093 points, which is slightly ridiculous. Southwest to AirTran

Fortunately though, there is standard award availability for that day, so instead of using 38,093 points for the roundtrip flight, you can use just 19,600 points! This is about half the number of points!

Southwest to AirTran

Of course, another airline might pop in at the standard 25,000 miles, I’d still prefer 19,600 points! And you can still use your Southwest Airlines companion pass with a standard award!! So some folks will be able to get two flights for the 19,200 points. Unfortunately though, standard awards are not always available, and if they are on the date you are looking to fly, not all flights routes have availability so you need to dive deeper into the actual schedule for that day.

The other caveat, which I mentioned in yesterdays post, is that standard awards expire 1 year from the date they are issued. So if you go through this process today, you have 365 days to use the award. This means you must fly by this date, not simply book by this date.

The process to transfer from Southwest to AirTran and back to Southwest takes maybe 3 minutes at most. I wrote the detailed process in this post “Extend your Southwest Standard Award Ticket”, but to sum it up all you need to do is:

  • Check Southwest’s Standard Award availability here.
  • Go to the Southwest’s transfer points to AirTran site here (you must be signed onto your Southwest account).
  • Transfer 19,200 Southwest points to AirTran

Southwest to AirTran

  • Go back to the Transfer site and transfer your 16 A+ credits from AirTran back into two Southwest standard certificates. Make sure to select the AirTran button this time and enter “16” in the number of credits to transfer over.
  • You can then go ahead and book your Standard Award through the same page you checked availability here.

Some things to know:

  • This “trick” will only work through October 31, 2014 as the AirTran program is coming to an end.
  • This will not work for a one-way ticket, you can only do this for a roundtrip. But, you can use the roundtrip as two one-ways on different trips.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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  1. Just goes to show that the Rapid Rewards I program was far more valuable than the Rapid Rewards II program. Since Southwest made the change, this long time Southwest fan with 166 flights rarely uses the airline anymore.

    • @AlohaDaveKennedy – The recent devaluation also made the standard awards more valuable. BUT, there needs to be availability which can be an issue.

  2. Excellent tip, but I’ve found flight availability to be much less for the old SWA standard awards. Also, you can’t see SWA “standard award” flight availability unless you have at least one standard award in your account. Lastly, don’t forget that if you book a regular SWA award ticket with Rapid Rewards points and the fare goes down, you can rebook, and your extra Rapid Rewards points will be redeposited back into your account.

    • @Austin Adventuress – Availability is really a hit or miss. I absolutely agree that there is less available than there once was.

  3. You said “This will not work for a one-way ticket, you can only do this for a roundtrip. But, you can use the roundtrip as two one-ways on different trips.” Not sure what you mean? Will not work for a one-way ticket but it can for two one-ways.

    Can I transfer just enough points to only get one, one-way flight or do I have to transfer enough to get a RT?

    • @patrick – sorry I was not clear, I will update to make more sense. What I meant is that you cannot transfer half the number of points for a one way award. so you need to transfer enough points for a roundtrip. But a roundtrip really gives you two one ways so you can use those as you wish. Does that help?

    • @Patrick – So sorry it was confusing. I will update to make more clear. Essentially you cannot transfer half the number of points for a one-way ticket. You need to transfer the full 19,200 points which will give you a roundtrip or two one ways. What I meant was that the roundtrip standard award ticket you get does not need to be used on the same roundtrip flight and can instead be used as 2 one-ways on a different vacation. Does that explain it betteR?

  4. Tks for the write-up !
    A follow up msg is that does the Standard Award Ticket ever expire? I believe Southwest Rapid Reward Points expire after 24 months of inactivity, is it the same for Standard award?

    • @jeff – yup! standard awards expire 1 year from the date they were issued. which means you must fly by that date, NOT book by that date.

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