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According to their website, Southwest plans to open up the flight schedule on Monday, July 9th, 2012 to allow bookings through February 13, 2013. Most airlines allow new bookings around 330 days out whereas Southwest generally opens up their schedule around 90-180 days. The importance of this particular schedule opening is that it covers prime ski season as well as the MLK holiday. If you have an interest in skiing this winter Southwest has excellent connectivity to Denver and Salt Lake City.
What makes being first to book even more attractive on Southwest is that you can book speculatively on both revenue and awards reservations! Southwest will refund your money in the form a Southwest dollar credit if you choose not to take the flight. Similarly, if booking a flight on points, Southwest will refund all points to your account. All taxes are refunded in full to your credit statement. This can be very useful if your ski season plans are not completely finalized at this point.
Keep checking the airfare even after you book
Most people are used to checking airfare until the price is at a number they are comfortable with, making the purchase, and then stopping their interest in the transaction. Southwest is the opposite. The first fare you pay is only the starting bid. Those seeking a better fare can continue to check the same flight and take advantage of fare sales, fare reductions due to capacity, rebooking to be included in promotions, and in one case I rebooked all my tickets to reduce taxes because lawmakers were squabbling over the FAA and let a tax expire temporarily. Southwest does not charge any change fees so when you see a lower fare on your route, you can rebook (call or online) and take the difference as a credit for a future flight.
I plan to book my tickets on Monday for flights that I believe will be in high demand to try to score a lower fare and avoid the high ski season flight prices.
- Two weekend trips to Denver during ski season
- MLK day weekend somewhere warm like Fort Lauderdale/San Diego/LA
Should my plans change then I will simply cancel. Anyone else jumping on this tomorrow to lock in lower fares?