Bits ‘n Pieces for May 17, 2013

News and Notes from Around the Interweb:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Never understood your contempt towards southwest. I get it’s not for you, but why the snark?

  2. I was just about to post the same thing. I, like you and most travel enthusiasts, like premium cabin international redemptions. They’re great.

    But I also like seeing America. I like taking weekend trips from BWI to Manchester, Albany, Providence, Louisville, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, etc for under 200$ roundtrip. And if I don’t get upgraded (or can’t, as it were) who cares? They’re a pleasant airline to fly, they’re cheap (from my location at least) and their nonstops give me more time in the city I’m visiting.

    Also, those “bus trip” rewards? They got me to Santa Fe, they got me to Utah, and one day they’ll get me to Boise or San Juan or some cool place I’ve never been. And I don’t think that’s anything to sneer at.

  3. For the lulz I guess? Also, I am sure he flies out of a snooty elitist airport where no one actually pays for flights. I’ve seen more venture capitalists with monogramed shirts on the SWA OAK-LAX flight than I’ve ever seen on the LAX SFO-UAL flight. And more hooligans on the MDW LAX flight than I cared to. The variance is high.

    I fly Southwest because it’s sometimes cheaper, not because I get fellated by their FF program (though it’s good for LAX-LAS, another wonderful route that literally beats the pants off of AA, UAL and every other LAX carrier). There’s no champagne room in LAX terminal 1 (US Air notwithstanding) but WTF – why do I want to spend my life in an airport? I get in a few minutes before my flight and go. And if I miss my flight, the cost is pretty clear to fly the next one.

    Anyway, I think Gary basically never pays for a flight, and whoever pays for his flights could give an F about what they cost. Otherwise, SWA would have to factor in – the only way I could fly around this county and not use SWA would be if “the cheapest + fastest flight” was not my goal. I have to pick SWA when it is cheaper and as fast – which it occasionally is. Or to be concrete: next Wednesday, returning from San Francisco – UAL, Virgin, AA were $170 and SWA was $70. I will not suffer from having to fly “on the bus” and any suggestion otherwise is just plane wrong. I won’t get lie-flat, but I will save $100. Do that 20 times a year and it actually adds up.

  4. If you don’t like flying southwest, use the rewards to fly someone else, like a friend or relative who wants to visit you, or a younger or older relative who wants to travel and you would like to help them out. Southwest points are good for flying other people places, because the awards can be cancelled and redeposited with no penalty, so if you nephew flakes out on his plans to visit DC with one day notice, you get your miles back. Also, some of the smaller little-brother airports Southwest operates from offer much quicker security lines and checkin, with or without elite status, than their international big brothers.

  5. Southwest is no longer consistently “the low fare airline”, but they are “the flexible airline” (in addition to what MarcC has noted, there are no change fees on revenue tix). And their companion pass is the single most valuable perk anyone offers for domestic travel. So I fly them for much of my domestic travel, even though I’m lifetime gold on UA.

  6. Everyone above +1

    SW may not be the “low cost airline” anymore, but they are still usually the lower cost airline. Especially during their fare sales, with wanna get away pricing. And even when their last minute fares are the same as the majors, you have to factor in no baggage fees, and most of all, no change fees.

    When you have to cancel a flight due to illness, as I did with SW last month, and you get a year to use those funds to go anywhere, anytime {or in my case the SW miles re-deposited for no fee} that counts as free flight insurance. And really, even with status, how much better off are you on an AA MD-80 in “first”, compared to a SW aisle seat, assuming you do get the upgrade on a reasonably short flight.

    I fly AA T/A on a 777 in FC to Europe every year with award miles {twice this year}. But my domestic flights are SW anywhere they go.

  7. Southwest points allow you to book a non-refundable fare, paying 60 points per dollar of fare, with the ticket being fully refundable to your points account if you need to cancel. This transformation of non-refundable into refundable is an underappreciated value in the new Rapid Rewards.

    I hope I didn’t jinx this feature by highlighting it. So many of the great FF program deals die from overexposure.

  8. Yeah, what all the others above said about Southwest.

    I wanted to fly my parents out to a special event LAX-SJC at last minute, and all the other carriers wanted literally 3x what Southwest was charging. But since they weren’t sure if they could make it, I booked it on points (similarly an awesome deal), knowing I could cancel the flight reservations with zero penalty if I needed to.

    From crying out loud, why can’t other major American airlines emulate this even a little bit? I’d even be okay paying a small penalty, but $100, $150 redeposit fees per ticket? Seriously?

  9. Adam – American does give a small break on cancelling/redepositing multiple award tickets ($150 for first ticket, $25 for each additional ticket).

    nsx – I don’t think you’ve jinxed anything (though it is true a lot of people don’t realize Southwest award bookings are fully refundable). Southwest has perhaps been a little too consumer-friendly; in the future they will require that customers cancel bookings prior to flight time in order to retain ticket value.

  10. I’ve got to chime in about the best value of Southwest — which IMHO is the availability to redeem frequent flyer points for award travel on any flight. This is a huge advantage over other domestic carriers. I love the extra legroom, wifi onboard, and extra pack of peanuts all of which are a step up from United economy class. I’m in this game to travel cheap and save money — not to travel first class.

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