Using The Southwest Low Fare Calendar To Find A Cheap Flight
The Southwest Low Fare Calendar is your best friend when it comes to bagging a bargain.
When it comes to affordable flying in the United States, Southwest is a customer favorite. The “Just Plane Smart” airline might not always be the absolute cheapest, but with the added benefits of two checked bags for free, no change fees, and free inflight entertainment, it’s a great choice for hassle-free, high-value travel.
With a fleet of more than 700 narrow-body Boeing airplanes at its disposal, Southwest has an extensive route map, stretching from Seattle and Bellingham in the north to Miami in the south. The carrier also flies to Hawaii, and to a number of destinations in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
But if you want to snag the real rock bottom price tickets, and have the luxury of flexible travel dates, Southwest offers a convenient way to find the very cheapest fares available.
Booking flights with Southwest Airlines
The first thing to know about the Southwest Low Fare Calendar is that you won’t find it anywhere except on the Southwest Airlines website. Southwest prohibits the scraping of its site by any algorithms or other methods, meaning you won’t find its fares on any of the online travel agents’ sites.
For most of us bargain-hungry travelers, we’re used to reviewing tools like Google Flights and Skyscanner to find the best deals. But since we know that Southwest won’t show up on these services, it means it’s always worth heading to the airline’s own website to see if they can undercut the best offers. Yes, it’s one more web search to do, but it’s a small price to pay to unlock high potential savings.
Southwest usually populates its fare calendar around seven months ahead – a slightly shorter time period than most online travel agents, most of which will run for 11 months, sometimes longer. Fares are released periodically in batches, and sometimes you can book much further out. It’s a bit of a case of suck it and see if your dates are already loaded.
What to know about flying with Southwest Airlines
Southwest has four fare types available to book, each of which comes with its own set of ‘perks’. All fare types come with two checked bags for free, no change fees, and no fees for flight cancelation. The base fare, known as ‘Wanna Get Away’, is non-refundable, but you do get flight credit if you have to cancel your trip.
For more benefits, consider booking a higher fare tier. Wanna Get Away Plus is the newest fare level, and comes with all the benefits of the base fare plus same-day changes, same-day standby, more Rapid Rewards points per dollar, and transferrable flight credit.
The next level is the ‘Anytime’ fare, which includes all the above benefits plus Earlybird check in, priority and express lanes at the airport, more points per dollar, and a fully refundable ticket. Finally, the Business Select fare adds in priority boarding, 12 points per dollar, and a complimentary premium drink.
Before you make a booking with Southwest, there are a few things to know about flying with the airline. For example:
- There is no seat assignment: Rather than assigning seats, you’ll be assigned a boarding group. The boarding group is allocated based on when you checked in, so if you’re traveling with a group, it’s worth checking in 24 hours before departure to be assigned an early boarding position, allowing you to have your pick of the seats.
- Rapid Rewards is worth it: Southwest’s own loyalty program, Rapid Rewards, is worth signing up for. You earn points based on how much you’ve spent rather than how far you’ve flown, and once you earn elite status, you’ll get early boarding no matter when you check in.
- Cancellations and changes are free: Unforeseen circumstances don’t mean you have to be left out of pocket. Southwest allows flights to be canceled up to 10 minutes before departure without penalty. Those flying Business Select or Anytime can have the money refunded to their method of payment, others will receive flight credit.
- Snacks and soft drinks are free: As well as the two free checked bags, Southwest passengers will be given a free snack and non-alcoholic drink during the flight. However, it’s worth noting that Southwest doesn’t sell other food on board, and the snack really is just a snack, so if you’re on a long flight, you might want to pack a sandwich.
If you fly Southwest a lot, you might build up enough Rapid Rewards points for the Companion Pass. This lets you bring a friend along for almost nothing, paying only taxes and fees for the trip. But to earn this, you do need to fly a LOT! You’ll need to accrue 125,000 qualifying points in a single calendar year, or fly at least 100 qualifying one-way flights. Companion passes are valid for the rest of the year in which it was earned, and all of the next year.
Using the Southwest Low Fare Calendar to find a bargain flight
Hyped about flying Southwest Airlines? Your next step for thrifty travel is to head to the Southwest Low Fare Calendar. You’ll find this right on the homepage, just at the bottom of the booking box, next to ‘where we fly’.
Clicking through, you’ll be able to input your departure airport and your destination, as well as the month in which you wish to search for low fares. You can search for a regular round trip, a one-way fare, or even a multi-city itinerary. You can also configure the passengers who will be traveling with you.
Right now, Southwest is taking bookings through to January 4th, 2023, so you can get on and book your Thanksgiving or Holiday trip nice and early. Or perhaps you want to get away sooner… we hear Hawaii is rather nice in the fall, so that’s what we’re going to search for to see if we can find a bargain fare.
Southwest flies direct to Honolulu, Lihue, Kahului and Kona from several West Coast airports. These include Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento, as well as the two inland airports of Las Vegas and Phoenix. The airline also offers intra-island flights between the four locations mentioned as well as Hilo.
Mighty Travels picked to fly from LAX as an example, and checked out the Southwest Low Fare Calendar for flights to Honolulu in September. As you can see, flight prices ranged from a high of $284 one way to a low of $129. Using the low fare calendar, we managed to find a 15-night round trip for just $129 each way, departing on September 6th.
For a few dollars more, there were several options for shorter trips where one leg would be priced at the slightly higher $133. You can also click the months at the top of the chart to see what offers are in the schedule for other times of the year. For reference, $129 was the lowest we found right up to January 2023.
Options to upgrade
Clicking on the dates you wish to fly out and return and then hitting the ‘search’ button below takes you to a list of flight options. Honestly, it would be super helpful at this point if Southwest were to highlight the cheapest fares that were shown on the previous page. Particularly on this busy route with multiple departures a day, it’s kinda hard to see the $129 fare mixed in with all the others.
The next step brings you to a page where you can opt to upgrade your fare tier. On this particular flight, Wanna Get Away Plus can be added for just $30 more, Anytime is around $80 more and Business Select will require just about double the base fare. Of course, we’re looking for the very cheapest fares, so did not take up the offer.
Right after that, you get a final summary of the trip details and cost, along with a breakdown of any taxes and fees applicable to the trip. Southwest has a partnership with a credit company called Uplift, which allows trips to be paid off over several months. This option is not available on all trips, and some agreements will attract a certain level of interest added to the trip fee.
How low can you go?
Of course, trips to Hawaii are always going to be a certain level of expensive, due to the flight times being more than five hours in each direction. But what about shorter trips on busy routes – just how cheap of a fare can you really find with the Southwest Low Fare Calendar?
Southwest’s HQ is in Dallas, Texas, having started regional interstate service on the Dallas, Houston, San Antonio triangle back in 1979. But it has a further 10 operating bases dotted right across the States. Its busiest airport for departures in 2021 was Denver, with 85 destinations served from the airport.
We checked out flights from this busy Southwest base to its home in Dallas, again for September. On this route, tickets could be snagged for as little as $69 each way. In comparison, some dates in September are already priced as high as $134 one way for the same trip. On prime travel days, such as Thanksgiving week, prices can shoot up to more than $300.
The trend continues even at non-base airports. We checked out Washington Dulles to Miami, neither of which is a Southwest Airlines base. Here, fares can be found as low as $88 compared with almost $400 for the most expensive dates. That’s a pretty good saving, simply for traveling on a smarter day.
Other ways to access the Southwest Low Fare Calendar
Funnily enough, you don’t have to access the Low Fare Calendar directly in order to make use of its functionality. Entering a flight search in the boxes right on the homepage will take you to a list of flights for the days you’ve selected.
However, right at the top there, in a green box, is a direct link to the Low Fare Calendar. Clicking this will bring you to the calendar view of flights on your chosen route, with your previously indicated days already selected.
The other feature we love that still directs to the Low Fare Calendar is the Southwest Airlines route map. This is ideal if you’re not sure where you can fly to from your local airport, as you can just plug in your departure location and all direct flights will show up as filled circles on the map.
From here, you can simply click the destination you want to travel to, hit ‘find flights’, and you’ll be taken right to the familiar calendar view to pick the best fares for your trip.
Booking a multi-city itinerary with the Southwest Airlines Low Fare Calendar
Let’s say you don’t live on the West Coast, but you do want to holiday in Hawaii this fall. No problem, because the Southwest Airlines Low Fare Calendar can also be used to book multi-stop trips too. Start this process by clicking the ‘multi-city’ option at the top of the Low Fare Calendar start page.
This will bring up one additional destination to add to your booking. Please note, it doesn’t seem to let you add any further destinations, so a one-stop itinerary seems to be the limit of the online tool. Nevertheless, the process for flying via one stopover point is pretty simple. Just enter your origin, stopover point and destinations, then search for flights to get started.
You’ll arrive at the familiar calendar, but rather than showing your outbound and inbound flights, you now see both outbound flights on the same page. Simply select the flights you want and head onwards to select the departure times.
Southwest will only sell connecting flights with adequate time between legs. Sometimes this can be as tight as 30 minutes, and there have been reports in the past of connections being missed because the times were too tight, and the first flight was delayed. As long as your second flight is not the last one of the day, this shouldn’t be too big of a problem as Southwest is committed to putting you on the next available flight if a connection is missed.
The annoying thing about the multi-city Low Fare Calendar is that it’s currently not possible to book both outbound and inbound flights on one itinerary. As such, you’ll need to book all your outbound flights on one booking, and then make a separate one for return.
Far easier is just to enter your desired origin and destination into the Low Fare Calendar, regardless of whether there’s a direct flight or not, and let Southwest do the work! You can still fly from Denver to Honolulu, but with a single itinerary and your return all booked too. Unless you particularly want to stop over in a specific airport, this is a far better option than using the multi-city option.
Pro tips for using the Southwest Airlines Low Fare Calendar
We’re slightly addicted to the Low Fare Calendar, and enjoy the challenge of seeking out those incredible deals that are squirreled away in the schedule. If you’ve got to grips with the basics, here are some pro tips for getting the most from your low-fare search.
- Search nearby airports for cheaper options: Bigger airports tend to be our go-to option for travel, but they might not always be the cheapest. Big airports come with big taxes and charges for airlines, and that’s passed on to you, the flyer. Consider other nearby departure points to see if they offer a cheaper option, and you could be enjoying a smoother airport experience with fewer crowds too.
- Mid-week dates are your friends: We all have a tendency to book vacations from work from Monday to Monday, but why? Mid-week departures are almost always cheaper than flying weekends, plus you get to enjoy a Saturday night and a lazy Sunday at your destination. That’s a win-win, in our opinion.
- Points mean prizes: Whether you fly Southwest once a year or once a week, why wouldn’t you collect points on the Rapid Rewards program? Flights can be paid for at a rate of around 70 points per $1 of airfare. You can also redeem points against merchandise, flights by partner airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more. You can search the Low Fare Calendar for points redemptions via a simple toggle switch in the top right.
- Upgrade if you’re close to a reward tier: If you’re a big Southwest flyer, it’s probably worth contemplating upgrading a tier or two, particularly if you’re getting close to that incredible Companion Pass. If you’re a Chase card holder, you can also transfer Chase points to use on Southwest at a ratio of 1:1; it’s not the highest value way to use Chase points, but if it pushes you over the requirement for the Companion Pass, it’s a pretty good decision.
Using the Low Fare Calendar allows you to easily search for suitable dates, giving an easy overview of the cheapest days to fly and potentially saving big on your airfare. Next time you’re booking a US flight, don’t forget to check out the Southwest Low Fare Calendar to see if you can make a saving on your trip.