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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Travel Tip: Southwest Airlines is for Regionals

After eight months in this job I have gotten to know several people in this company and others who do what I do.  They may be in Sales, Marketing, Nurse Consulting or whatever field, but one thing they have in common is that they travel all the time.  The other thing they have in common is that Southwest is their airline of choice.  Why? Change Fees! 

Southwest advertises heavily that they don't charge bag fees.  However most professional travelers rarely check luggage so that doesn't affect our expenses.  What really does hit our companies' pockets is the $150 per change fee that every other airline imposes if you change after your trip is ticketed. 

In order to keep our expenses (and that of our clients) low we need to book as far in advance as possible.  However you never know what is going to come up and it is not unusual to change 30 - 50% of your travel arrangements post-ticketing.  The last time I tried to fly American for one project I had three $150 change fees on a $540 ticket.  The changes were unavoidable and the charges, almost equal to the original ticket price, were nuts.

As far as the downside of Southwest, the waiting in line, getting a high number and a middle seat, etc.. there are strategies you can use.

1. Download the SWA App for your phone and check in on-line 24 hours in advance of your flight.  You will almost never get a high number. 
2. Set an iPhone or Outlook alarm 24 hours in advance of your flight so you can be one of the first to check in and you won't forget to check in.
3. But things happen and sometimes you don't remember.  SWA reserves A 1-15 for its Business Select customers.  If all of those aren't used and the plane isn't full you can pay $40 and buy up to one of those positions at the gate. 
4. You can check on-line and see what the upgrade to Business Select would cost and consider biting the bullet.  For one trip it was under $100.  For my current trip it was over $800 so I set my Outlook alarm and checked in on my App.  I was B15 flying out on a very inexpensive ticket.

Do what you want, but these Regionals I've met can't all be wrong. 

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