I have several friends traveling on Southwest over the next week and a half. Two things: 1) they’re going to miss their first class upgrades, and 2), there’s a decent shot that their flight will be cancelled last minute.
If I had Southwest tickets booked over the next week or so, I’d seriously consider finding another way to travel because Southwest’s current operational meltdown could easily derail your trip and leave you stuck for days without an alternate Southwest flight, and Southwest won’t rebook you on another airline so don’t consider that to be your backup plan.
There are ways to find inexpensive award tickets on the major US carriers for very close travel as a backup or replacement (you can get most bank points into one or more of these currencies with a 1:1 transfer ratio):
- Cheap AA and Alaska awards can often be found using British Airways Avios (use Seth’s Avios calculator to look into costs)
- Cheap United awards can be found using Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles (warning: Turkish can be persnickety to deal with), ANA (round-trip awards only), or Air Canada Aeroplan
- Cheap Delta awards can be found using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
In almost all cases, using one of the above currencies will be cheaper for travel starting in the next couple of weeks than using the airline’s mileage program directly, but definitely check and choose the cheapest option. They’re all likely to be better than playing Russian-roulette with your Southwest flight though.
Remember, if you get stuck and you paid for your airfare with a premium card (Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve, American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige), you’ll likely be covered for hotel and meal expenses while you wait to get home. None of these cards will cover alternate airfare though, so don’t fall into that common trap and expect to be reimbursed for booking a new ticket home.
It’s going to be a cluster-hug over the next week or two out there, good luck!