In the world of miles and points Southwest and other airlines that require you to redeem miles based on the price of the ticket get a lot of negative press. Rightfully so if you are trying to redeem your points for premium cabin (Business or First Class) long haul travel.
That doesn’t mean they are useless though!
I have long avoided Southwest Airlines and it’s Rapid Rewards program because of this and the fact they don’t offer a first class. I do a lot of international travel in business or first class. I also do some domestic travel to see friends and family as well as some weekend trips to my favorite US Cities. Recently I have been looking at flight options for the Christmas 2013 holiday and found cash fares to be expensive–as I suspected. I started to look at using miles and points instead to save some cash.
I started with Delta as I like to use up my Delta miles if I can. The flights available at the lowest level weren’t very good times for me. I started looking at one way fares to see if there were any deals to be had. This eventually lead me to look at Southwest Rapid Rewards (to fly on AirTran). I found a good fare that gets me back from my Christmas trip at the time I needed. I decided to see what it would cost in Rapid Rewards pints. I was stunned!
The fare I was looking at was $120 one way. That translated into 6540 Rapid Rewards points plus $2.50. That is great! This would save me 25,000 Delta miles that I could use on a future international premium trip and get me a better flight time. The one way fare down on the date/time I wanted ended up being Delta. It was $150 (and not available for low miles price) so I just bought that as it fit my total budget I wanted to spend for Christmas travel to see family. It also helps me with my Delta elite status.
The lesson I learned here is that I shouldn’t be quick to dismiss and points or miles program until I fully explore and understand the ins and outs. Southwest just moved up on my list since I can easily benefit on cheap fares using points and requires a lot less than Delta would. They are also great for positioning flights for bigger international trips and last minute since their fares tend to have a price cap of sorts. Their availability for award seats is also unlimited. You just need the required points to redeem.
Finally Southwest Rapid Rewards is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. This makes getting points relatively easy and I don’t have them stuck in Southwest. I can transfer as needed and maintain flexibility for the future. This helps a lot!