4 Reasons Southwest Is a Fantastic Airline for Marathoners

new southwest sale
Written by Charlie

Runners have many choices for airlines to marathons but here are 4 reasons that Southwest is one of the best airlines for marathoners. It is almost like they were made for runners!

Yesterday was the fantastic Chicago Marathon. That brought thousands of runners from around the US to Chicago to participate in this race. The lottery for this race was conducted last year so runners knew almost a year before that they would be toeing the line yesterday and planned accordingly.

4 Reasons Southwest Is a Fantastic Airline for Marathoners

Link: Southwest

The Chicago Marathon

Courtesy of Max Herman, Shutterstock

Those runners used a variety of airlines, thanks to Chicago being a hub for several of them. But, there are a few reasons why I believe that Southwest is one of the best airlines for marathoners and why you should consider them for your next races.

While Southwest has gradually expanded their network, keep in mind that Southwest may not serve smaller airports (yet!) where some marathons are.

1 – Free Changes and Cancellations

Link: Southwest Cancellation Policy

This is a huge one for marathoners! As a marathoner myself, I know that we never want to skip a race. But, there are many times that things happen (injuries, poor training, schedule changes) that cause runners to need to skip a marathon.

We train from 12 – 18 weeks for a race and many people purchase their travel at the start/near the start of their training – or even longer in advance. This means that there is a lot of time for things to go wrong!

With Southwest, you can book your ticket as soon as you know you are going. If you book with points, you can cancel that ticket at any time (up to 10 minutes before the flight) and get all of your points back and the money from taxes. If you use a credit card or gift card, the fare will be returned to a Southwest credit that will be good for 1 year from the day of original ticketing.

This means you can book travel without ever worrying about what might come up! Other airlines like Delta, American, and United will charge you quite a bit for either award tickets or cash ticket. This one alone makes Southwest a very worthy choice for the marathoner.

2 – Frequent Sales

One of people’s complaints about Southwest is that they are no longer the inexpensive airline they once were. But, they run sales like literally all the time so there is not a huge problem with that. And, thanks to the free changes/cancellations, you could go ahead and book your ticket as soon as you know you are going and then just change to the cheaper fare for free when the sale comes up!

If you have TripIt Pro (my favorite travel app), you will be notified of a change in cost for tickets and you can just hop over to Southwest and change it to save some cash. Southwest sales typically come out about every Tuesday – Thursday so you can easily book a sale fare for your next race.

3 – Companion Pass

This is another huge one for marathoners! I know that I love running races with friends and if you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you can bring along your training partner – for free (except for the taxes/fees – very minor in the US). That is a great perk!

You can change your companion with up to 4 people in a year so you could nominate a family member as the regular Companion and then throw your friend on before a race without a problem.

Since you can basically earn the Southwest Companion Pass with just 2 credit card bonuses, this is much easier to earn than people think. Plus, you will have all the points you earned with the credit cards to use for free travel.

To me, the Southwest Companion Pass is the best feature for travel in the US. It also makes it an easy win for runners since you can bring a friend along for the run.

4 – Open Seat Selection

This is a pretty good one for runners as well. With more airlines charging non-elites for seat selections that are not middle seats, being able to select whichever seat you want on a Southwest plane that is available when boarding is a great feature! To get that better selection, you can pay for their Early Bird feature or just check in right at 24 hours before the flight. I have never not had the choice of an aisle or window when doing that.

This can be a great help to make sure you get room to stretch your legs on those longer flights before or after your marathon.

Getting Southwest Points

Southwest points are worth around 1.5 cents per point and are based on the cost of a ticket. This means you could use as few as 1,600 points for a one way ticket. There are 3 Southwest credit cards that normally offer 40,000 points but do have spikes up to 60,000 points on each. That is a lot of Southwest points!

Southwest is also a transfer partner of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 value. This allow you to earn Chase points with your Ultimate Reward earning cards and move them over to Southwest if you need extra points.


I am a huge Southwest fan and think that they are certainly the best US airline for marathoners. If you happen to be a runner that checks bags, you get that free with them as well! There are just so many things to like about Southwest and if you are looking for a great airline that is a good fit for your next race, definitely check out Southwest!

Featured image courtesy of TFoxFoto /

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • hahaha you must be the first to ever say open seating is actually a plus. i already forgot how many times i’ve been lied to when i attempt to take a seat and the person adjacent BS me with “i’m saving this for my wife/husband/son” etc.

    • Normally, I do not consider it a plus. But being able to choose something (without paying) to get some space to stretch is a plus after running a marathon!
      And I haven’t had people like that. Once and I told them I was taking the aisle. 🙂 last aisle seat!