A question about Southwest Airlines Fares

Old Jul 23rd, 2009, 06:22 PM
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A question about Southwest Airlines Fares

I've only flown on Southwest once before, and thought it was a pretty good experience.

I need to book flights for DH and me to go to KY for a wedding - we'll be flying back home on Labor Day. Southwest seems to have a pretty good schedule, they don't charge to check a bag, and they have good fares - or, at least they did. I found the flights that seemed best last night, but didn't book them them because I had to check on something. Tonight I went to book the flights, and the lowest fare for the return flight had gone up by $40 (web price only, it says) per person. Do the fares change back and forth a lot depending on the day, or is it only likely to get higher if I wait? I want to get the flights booked, and I don't want to risk having the fares increase (or the flights I want sold out), but I'll be unhappy if I buy them at this higher price, and then they go back down in the next couple of days. I'd appreciate some guidance fro those that have experience flying Southwest.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2009, 06:26 PM
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We recently had our first Southwest air flight experience and I watched the prices for weeks before booking. in the end it was cheaper to book two one way fares vs. a round trip fare (weird, I know). i watched the prices go up and watched them come down and then go back up again. I ended up with $289 rt non stop Boston to Las Vegas... it took a lot of watching to get it that low.

a friend insists that once you check something and don't book the price goes up next time you check. i thought maybe if you clear the cookies out of your computer perhaps the price will go back down?? not sure there is any veracity in this - just a thought.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2009, 06:38 PM
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First, all Southwest fares are one-way, you book each segment separately. Second, in my experience, particularly the internet special fares, only go up, because they're capacity controlled, once they sell a few at a certain price, they raise the price.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2009, 06:47 PM
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I was going to say the same as sf7307. I think once the cheap fares are sold out, they're gone.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2009, 06:55 PM
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We fly Southwest whenever we can, and you really do need to keep an eye on the fares because they go up and down. The best way to get a great fare is to sign up for their "Ding" alerts, which will "ding" on your computer when they become available. Also, to my knowledge, SW doesn't charge a change fee, so if you book flights and then you see a lower fare, you can go in and change to the cheaper fare (I've done this many times). The money you've saved will go into your travel account for use at a later time or on another ticket. But it's your responsibility to keep track of it because you'll need to give the ticketing info in order to use the money in the future.
Be aware that there are no assigned seats on SW. You need to check in online: the earlier you check in, the lower your boarding pass number. You can't check in any earlier than 24 hours before flight time, but if you don't want to end up in a middle seat, I'd suggest that you do your online check-in as early as you possibly can.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2009, 07:00 PM
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My experience is that Southwest fares do fluctuate but not by the hour. They seem to change the fares every week or few days or so - depending on new sales going on or whatnot. While it may well be that some cheap fares may sell out (cheap fares sell out), new ones may open up at some point - I've seen that happen. It's impossible to tell. But more than once, I've wanted to book SW fares and the exact flight I wanted was unavailable at the cheapest price...and later it did open up at a cheap price. Sometimes the cheap flights don't open up, ever. Impossible to predict.

(I want to say right now that Southwest web fares **DO NOT** go up based on how often you check them or show a higher price if you re-check them a second time. I once verified that Hotwire did that but I'm not sure they do any longer. Southwest certainly does not do that.)

My Mom - often flying to Florida for a cruise - always asks me if she should book a ticket on Southwest now or wait and see if the price goes down...or book another airline that has a cheaper fare right now. She recently got burned because she chose the latter (booked a ticket on American), then she had to cancel the trip, so those non-refundable tickets are worthless. On Southwest, she could have simply re-used them (or anyone could have re-used them, friends, family, her SON(!), whomever) as credit toward other Southwest flights.

And that's perhaps the best thing about Southwest: no change fees, and if your tickets go DOWN in price, you can re-book them at the lower fare and receive a credit voucher (which can be used by ANYONE) toward future Southwest travel. So while your tickets may be $40 more now, if you book now and the fare goes back down next week, re-book and take a credit - and use it for some future trip. Or let a friend/family member use it.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2009, 07:11 PM
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Hi Sara,

We fly Southwest all the time and the fares definitely go up and down constantly, but of course, there is no guarantee the flight you want will go back to the original low price you first saw. Not a problem if you plan to fly with them again within the upcoming year as you can rebook to get the lower fare and save the credit to use on another flight. Also, what sets this airline apart from the rest (besides no change fee and 2 free checked bags) is that you can use this credit for another person's flight without any penalty!!!! Also, Durems suggestion to sign up for "Ding" is great advice!! Happy travels!!
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Old Jul 23rd, 2009, 07:14 PM
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Sorry Andrew, didn't mean to be redundant, we were posting at the same time!
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Old Jul 23rd, 2009, 08:21 PM
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sf7307... obviously the flights are chosen in oneway segments... I think we all know that. However, you have the option of choosing your one way segments as part of a roundtrip or as a oneway.

When I chose the same flight/time as part of a RT it was more expensive by $30 per person when I chose it as a oneway. Yes, this is true - I do not know why. Also, it is true that the flight prices came down.

Just want you to stand corrected on this as a way of helping the OP with her question.
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 03:15 AM
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mama, we fly Southwest almost exclusively because of their generous re-scheduling policy, and that 'bags fly free'. I think you might have just experienced a fluke, and the prices actually went down when you were booking, or something like that. Because their prices are the same per segment, whether its one-way or RT.

I think if you see the price is as low as the heading says it can be, then buy it. It probably won't go lower than that. Usually, our route is Denver-LAX, and it doesn't go lower than $79 one-way nowadays. Used to be $69, but no more.

You will like Southwest. The people are always helpful, and you won't lose your money if anything has to be changed.
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 04:24 AM
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I've been flying SW for over 30 yrs and I find they're not any more/less predictable than anyone else. As usual, it's generally more expensive the closer to your flight. The comments above about flight changes, baggage fees, pricing etc are generally valid.

To answer your question, the one thing I have found that can be a little quirky is that when they have a sale, which they are right now, click on the sale box on their web site rather than the regular booking box. I have sometimes found I get a lower fare that way as opposed to regular booking. Doesn't always work. Maybe the software gremlins are at work, but who cares.
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 12:34 PM
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Thanks so much for the feedback, everyone. It's all very useful information.

Here's what I ended up with. I decided that I'd better go ahead and book the flights I wanted, even though the fare on the return flight had gone up from $129 on Wednesday to $169 last night. So I just went to the Southwest site to book them, and to my happy surprise, the price had dropped back down to $129 again today! So I grabbed them, and now we're all set. I'm glad I didn't panic and buy them last night! The price for their flight that leaves slightly earlier, which I'd been considering when I first looked at flights a week ago, has gone up substantially, so I'm happy I was able to get the one I did for a decent price.
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Old Jul 27th, 2009, 09:15 AM
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Glad you got what you wanted. Next step....be sure to log on 24 hours in advance (don't wait if possible) and check in, even if you can't print your boarding pass (you can always print the pass at the airport). I was on two 100% full Southwest flights (between SFO and SAN) this weekend, so very glad we were in Group A.
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Old Jul 27th, 2009, 04:08 PM
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Thanks - I've put that on my calendar so I won't forget to do it!
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Old Nov 30th, 2010, 04:28 PM
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Sorry for bumping up an old thread, but after hearing from a friend that she had booked $80 round trip tickets from San Diego to San Jose for this week when I paid $380 last week (granted it was Thanksgiving week), I decided to do some research and I can't believe how good their "web only" prices are!

The big difference with other companies is that their web only (or maybe others) don't show up on Expedia for some reason. For United for instance the prices are the same on their website and on Expedia.

Actually their "Anytime" fares are pretty comparable to United but the "Wanna Get Away" (Web Only) really can't be beat, I'll be sure to use them for our next vacation, can't wait now ;-)
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Old Nov 30th, 2010, 05:06 PM
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Southwest had a BIG sale for 3 days during Halloween. The fares were crazy low, it was based on the distance of the origin and destination. That is why your friend paid $80.

I was able to book Albuquerque to San Francisco for $60 each way. The night before [I had been watching for a few days] was $155 each way!!!

Also, if you sign up for DING! you are able to get some "unpublished" fares; also sign up for email alerts [that is how I found out about the H'ween fares] for your home airport.

I used both of these methods and have always gotten good deals via the alerts.
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Old Nov 30th, 2010, 05:17 PM
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For those concerned about check in: you can pay an extra $10 per flight and they will check you in earlier than 24 hours, I think 36, and then you can print your boarding pass at the airport or at home.
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Old Nov 30th, 2010, 06:00 PM
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>>

It's no particular time, just more than 24 hours, i.e. you are automatically checked in before all the people who have to wait until 24 hours before the flight. I'm not sure what order the automatic checkin goes in, but I would guess that's it's in order of the date you bought your ticket and paid for the automatic check in.
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Old Nov 30th, 2010, 06:27 PM
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One additional thing - while the price is the same if you book your trip as a "round trip" vs. 2 one way bookings, it is easier to change flights [if need be] if the flights are booked individually - especially if only one leg needs to be changed.
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Old Nov 30th, 2010, 08:35 PM
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We use Southwest all the time and have frequent flyer with them, as does our son. Almost every week they have been having specials, usually on a Tuesday or Weds. for a couple of days. Last month when they were having a huge sale, we got tickets from LAX to Salt Lake City for a little over $100 round trip. Recently, my friend and I were headed up to San Jose for a concert and we booked separately, but got our wires crossed, so although we were on the same flight going up, we were booked on a different flight going back. So last minute, the fares went down, so I rebooked the return leg and got a cheaper fare. My account was credited to be used for another flight.

Even at Thanksgiving, my son decided he wanted to come back a few hours earlier the day before Thanksgiving, and a call to Southwest produced a change of ticket, and a reduced fare as a "youth" fare (that I didn't realize they had!) since he's under 22 (the cut off age for youth fares). So super last minute, he got to leave earlier, and was credited $10 because of the really low youth fare!

I LOVE Southwest!
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