Is Southwest’s Standby Policy a Major Blow to Elites?

I flew home from Las Vegas on Tuesday and needed to get back a bit earlier than my ticketed flight. Having absolutely no idea what Southwest’s standby policy was, I looked it up online before heading to the airport. As I was on a Wanna Get Away fare, standby required a buy-up to the Anytime fare – a difference of $85 in my case.

The crappy thing is that if you don’t make it on the flight, you’re still charged the fee, something rather unappealing. But since it was a Tuesday (off-peak travel day) and most people were arriving in Vegas for CES, I figured I’d have a damn good chance so I headed to the airport.

When I looked up the Anytime fare, I noticed the Business Select fare was a mere $15 more for the one-way to Reno. When I arrived at the airport, I asked instead to purchase a new ticket at the Business Select fare using the value on my original ticket as partial form of payment. And so $100 later, I had a confirmed seat – and a boarding group of A3 – for an earlier flight. Well worth the price for my need to get home four hours earlier.

The fare difference between the Wanna Get Away and Anytime fare was pretty negligible, all things considered, for the route I was flying. In some longer-distance markets, I’m sure it’s a considerable jump and it would make loyal flying on Southwest less likely if I were prone to frequently wanting standby travel having purchased the cheapest fares.

But what’s most shocking to me is they don’t provide a better standby policy for their most frequent fliers, A-List and A-List Preferred Rapid Rewards members. Maybe I’m just used to legacy airline programs and their liberal, by comparison, standby policies. Why wouldn’t Southwest throw elites a bone and allow standby on all fares? Am I missing something, or is their standby policy a bit off-putting to loyal travelers who buy the cheapest tickets?

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  1. I think we @united 1K members are so lucky to have the same day change option. ( if available, fare class,etc) that when flying or chatting with other ff members of diff programs we don’t know how to react. Most my coworkers are USAir and when I leave a day early for free and they don’t, jealousy insues. One of the only changes I like.

  2. @JRSharpsMan: I couldn’t agree more. United’s SDC policy is one of the best bennies. Hopefully they keep it the same as it is today. I wish American’s was as liberal.

  3. Fully agree. However they would counter that they allow you to rebook on to any flight with no change fee and that that is just like SDC except it allows you to change prior to day of.

    • @Andrew: Their liberal change-fee-free policy is quite nice, I have to agree.
      @Kathleen: Losing the A boarding group for close-in changes would be very painful as an elite… Southwest should absolutely change that.

  4. You nailed it. As an A List Preferred one of my biggest irritation is that my status means very little when flying stand-by. And to add insult to injury, if I change my flight less than 24 hrs. before travel I even lose my A boarding status. Doesn’t make any sense.

  5. I find it hard to find a lot of fault w the only airline to allow chgs w/o ridiculous fees. Sure they have some issues that arent optimal but nothing compared to the other (unless of course you are a top level elite on a legacy). And Im not really that big a SWA fan.

  6. @MileageUpdate: I totally agree Southwest’s (lack of) change fee policy is great. I just think they should consider granting their elites a bit of leeway with standby on all fares.

  7. I had the opposite situation occur over the holidays. My family of three decided before our return flight that we’d prefer to fly back home earlier on New Year’s Eve. I went on line and saw the earlier flights were actually significantly less expensive than what our original flights had cost us. I immediately rebooked our return air and ended up with over $125 in credit vouchers. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose!

    Furthermore when their fare decreases it is so simply to receive a credit for the fare difference.


  8. If we are going to discuss Elite status on Southwest the conversation isn’t complete without touching on the companion pass. For the last 6 years we haven’t had to purchase a ticket or redeem ff miles/points for my wife on a single domestic trip. My wife travels with me for free anytime I travel on Southwest.

    Think about that on Thanksgiving or Christmas where only one ticket must be purchased and 4 bags travel for free. Any chance United or AA or DL would do that?

    Further as WN planes are finding their way to places like Puerto Rico and Mexico nest year we will be able to travel there on one purchased or ff ticket for the both of us.

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