How to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards for International Travel – or how to fly Business Class to the Carribbean for 19,200 points

I have gotten to enjoy 55,000 Southwest points when signing up for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Card with the 50,000 points sign-up bonus last year. Since Southwest flies only domestically it does not have a lot of 'aspirational value' for me. I also found the points not easy to use for 'positioning flights' i.e. when an award ticket did not have availability to my point of departure/return.

These points were basically burning a hole in my pocket.

Enter AirTran!

Southwest and AirTran merged back in 2011. AirTran has a number of international destinations – currently:

Oranjestad
Nassau
Punta Cana
Montego Bay
Cabo San Lucas
Mexico City
Cancún

AirTran also features a 'business class'. Well, it's actually just a big seat but so it is on most US legacy carriers that have stopped serving food. With AirTran you get:

– more legroom
– more room in the seat
– priority boarding
– complimentary cocktails

Now to use Rapid Rewards points on AirTran you need to transfer Points into AirTran+ credits. 1,200 Rapid Rewards Points are good for one credit. Both airlines have launched a website called http://www.rewardsfarther.com. Transfers can be done both ways and are free and instant. Sweet!

AirTran has one of the easiest award charts ever!

– One-way coach flight –> 8 credits

– One-way business class flight –> 16 credits

That is 19,200 Southwest points (or Ultimate Rewards since they transfer 1:1 to Rapid Rewards) points for business class to the Caribbean. The way to take advantage is to fly from the West Coast (e.g. San Francisco) to the Caribbean (e.g. Punta Cana). Most loyalty programs require 17,000 miles for the one-way (United/ Miles & More/ American) or 30,000-40,000 in business class.

The cash price for business was $732, while no economy awards were available in any mileage programs I have miles in.

The last time I went to Punta Cana was in 1996 – I bet it has changed a little since then 🙂

Image courtesy of factsandcities.com

If you like this post – subscribe via email or follow us on Twitter.