For many travelers, especially those with the highly valued Companion Pass, Southwest’s entrance into flying out of the US was a highly anticipated one. That day has come today with the start of their flights to a couple of international destinations with other ones coming quickly in the next couple of months.
Southwest Goes International
The city pairs that were activated for flight today are:
- Altanta/Baltimore/Orlando – Aruba and Montego Bay, Jamaica
- Baltimore – Nassau, Bahamas
There are a couple of reasons why this is great news for all travelers.
It is a well-known fact that when Southwest enters a market, it begins to drive down the prices on the legacy airlines. Southwest offers a great product, a good rewards program, and helpful service and does it at prices that are below their competitors. Mix all that up with a new destination and the other airlines are going to have to make some changes.
In addition to regular fare changes, Southwest also offers periodic fare sales that really drop the price on certain trips. When that happens, the other airlines follow suit within hours all the time. This means that you can still fly your preferred airline and rack up your miles/take advantage of your elite benefits because of Southwest forcing the your airline to adjust their own pricing and sales.
Even in the Caribbean, other airlines are still stingy with bags. Many people go on vacation in that region and bring a lot of luggage (believe me, I have seen it!). Southwest has the two bags free policy so it means you can continue to save some real money with your travel to vacation destinations.
Changes and Refunds
I know some flyers are already booked and looking forward to Southwest’s new international destinations as gateways for cruises (many people already use them for that with their flights to Fort Lauderdale). Not only that, but as I mentioned above, people will be able to really hit the Caribbean/Central America for vacation destinations with Southwest as well. We all know that plans can change, even vacation/cruise plans. When that happens, your legacy airline is going to hit you with a huge cancellation/change fee. Southwest charges no fees at all on your change/cancellation (as long as cancellation is done before 10 minutes of departure).
The Companion Pass
The Companion Pass is huge. It gives you the opportunity to designate a friend or family member to fly for free as your companion on any trip with Southwest. Not only can they fly free (except for the segment tax of $2.50 until that goes up) but they do not even need to make their reservation with you when you book your flight. It can be done at any point as long as there is a seat available!
Now, the taxes on the companion will go up with the increased taxes and fees associated with international surcharges but it will still be far cheaper than purchasing a ticket. The fees will not be that high with some of them still be in the teens with others costing an additional $20-70 (one-way). The taxes will be higher if you are departing from the international destination to return to the US.
So, do you have any destinations picked out? With the companion pass (which can be earned just with credit card bonuses and spending), you could go on a honeymoon, anniversary trip, whatever with only paying for one person! Or you could invite a friend along for a golf trip and not tell that them they are your Southwest Companion but tell them you will take care of their ticket. 🙂