Southwest schedule extended: Book now to save on flights through Jan. 4, 2023

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

If you have yet to book flights for the winter holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, now is an excellent time to snag Southwest flights.

Although some carriers allow you to book flights about 11 months in advance, Southwest extends its booking window in batches of only a few months at a time.

Previously, you could only book Southwest flights through Nov. 5. But Thursday morning, Southwest extended its schedule through Jan. 4, 2023. As such, now is an excellent time to snag a good deal on Southwest flights through early January.

Here’s what you need to know about maximizing Southwest’s most recent schedule extension.

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Why book when Southwest extends its schedule

Seating on a Southwest plane. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Booking flights quickly when Southwest extends its schedule can save you serious money. Although availability will probably still be around for a while, you likely won’t find lower prices than are available now for peak travel dates.

Southwest’s change and cancellation policy also makes it easy to book now, even if you aren’t sure you’ll take the trip. Here are Southwest’s cancellation rules if you cancel at least 10 minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure:

If you paid for a Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fare: You will receive travel funds that are valid up to one year from your original purchase date.
If you paid for an Anytime or Business Select fare: You can request a refund to your original form of payment. You can also accept travel funds, which would be valid up to one year from your original purchase date.
If you redeemed Southwest points: Points will automatically go back into the account from which they were booked and you can request that Southwest refund taxes and fees to your original form of payment.

So, you can cancel your flight for free if your family’s travel plans change. But if you book the least expensive Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fare, your funds will be tied up in less-flexible travel funds.

Plus, if the price decreases after you book, you can rebook and receive the difference as a credit or points. So, booking Southwest flights for trips you hope to take is a very low-risk booking situation.

Related: How to get seats together as a family on Southwest Airlines

How to score the best Southwest deals

Southwest check-in area in New York. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Here are five of my favorite tips for getting the best deal on Southwest flights.

Book right now

I recommend booking Southwest flights immediately when the booking window opens, especially if you want to fly during peak times. Although flights have already opened up, you may still be able to snag some good deals.

As mentioned above, there is minimal risk with booking Southwest flights due to the airline’s flexible policies. So, you may want to book now even if you are not 100% certain of your plans. If you want a full refund to your original payment method, redeem Southwest points for your flights or book more expensive Anytime or Business Select fares. However, even if you book Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fares, you can still get a refund if you cancel within 24 hours of booking or travel credits if you cancel at least 10 minutes before your flight’s scheduled departure.

Related: Is Southwest EarlyBird Check-In worth it?

Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest

View from a Southwest flight landing in Denver. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Due to the airline’s flexible award policies, redeeming Southwest points is my preferred method for booking a Southwest flight. If you need to cancel a flight booked with points, your points go straight back into your Rapid Rewards account and you can get the taxes and fees you paid returned to your card.

Earning a sign-up bonus on a new Southwest credit card is an excellent way to boost your account balance, but that will take some time. You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio if you have an Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred CardInk Business Preferred Credit Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

First, you’ll need to link your Ultimate Rewards and Southwest accounts, which only takes a minute or two. Log in to your Chase Ultimate Rewards account and go to “Transfer to Travel Partners.” Scroll down to the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards option and select “Transfer Points.”

(Screenshot from ultimaterewardspoints.chase.com)

You’ll need to select the recipient and enter the recipient’s Southwest Rapid Rewards number. You can transfer points to yourself or an authorized user on your account (who must be a household member or business owner). After clicking the “Continue” button, your information will be saved in your frequent travel programs, even if you did not transfer any points.

(Screenshot from ultimaterewardspoints.chase.com)

Then, enter the number of points you want to transfer, click “Continue” and confirm the transfer.

Note that you can only transfer points in 1,000-point increments.

Related: 9 cool places you didn’t know you could fly on Southwest

Use a Companion Pass, but you can add it later

Southwest boarding in St. Louis. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

The Southwest Companion Pass is my favorite benefit in the travel industry. After all, a friend or family member can fly with you for free (plus taxes and fees) as a perk for the Companion Pass. The pass typically expires on Dec. 31 of the year after the year in which you earn it. But Southwest occasionally offers promotional Companion Passes that are valid for shorter periods.

If you do not yet have a Companion Pass but plan to earn one before your flight, you can still book now and add your companion’s ticket later. The only requirement for adding your companion to your reservation is that there must be at least one seat left for sale. Just keep in mind that if you are flying during peak times on popular routes, there is the chance that your flight will sell out if you wait too long.

Related: How to quickly earn the Southwest Companion Pass

Have alternative dates in mind

If you have some flexibility, use that to your advantage when booking your flights. You can use Southwest’s low-fare calendar to check the least expensive dates for the flights you want.

The most expensive days to fly are typically Fridays and Sundays. So, if you can shift your dates a few days, you might find the price to be significantly less. Of course, missing work or taking kids out of school might not work for all families, but having backup dates might pay off.

Related: Everything you need to know about the best seats on Southwest Airlines

Look for price drops

If your flight happens to go down in price between when you book and when you fly, you can easily get the difference in Rapid Rewards points back into your account. Of course, these flexible policies still exist when you pay for your fare with cash, but you’ll end up with a Southwest travel credit, which expires 12 months after your original booking.

Related: How to re-price a Southwest flight when the fare decreases

Example pricing in December

Southwest aircraft. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Here are some samples fares I came across for travel in December. As you’ll see, you can save a lot of money if your dates (and willingness to fly connecting itineraries) are flexible.

Houston to Cancun, Mexico

There are plenty of ways to save on your next trip to Cancun with points and miles. And, starting at under 5,000 Rapid Rewards points (plus about $37 in taxes and fees, which you’d need to pay regardless of how you book), you can fly to Cancun from Houston. Once in Mexico, check out our ultimate checklist of 21 things to do on your Cancun trip.

(Screenshot from southwest.com)

Related: 10 countries you didn’t know you could fly to on Southwest

Oakland, California, to Lihue, Hawaii

With Southwest now flying to Hawaii, you can fly to Lihue (Kauai) for just 12,778 Southwest Rapid Rewards points plus about $6 in taxes and fees on some dates. You can even fly 2-for-1 to Hawaii with your Southwest Companion Pass.

(Screenshot from southwest.com)

Atlanta to Orlando

For those looking to visit Orlando this winter, you can fly to Orlando from Atlanta from 7,288 points (plus about $6 in taxes and fees). Check out our stories about Universal Orlando secrets and the best Orlando hotels for large families while planning your trip.

(Screenshot from southwest.com)

Bear in mind too that Southwest allows all passengers to bring two checked bags (up to 50 pounds each) for free on its flights, a notable differentiator compared to most other U.S. airlines.

Related: Southwest baggage fees and how to avoid paying them

Bottom line

Knowing the ins and outs of booking a Southwest flight can allow you to book the best flights possible for your family at the lowest cost. Those looking to travel this winter should book now to score the best deals on Southwest.

If you need to book flights further out, know that Southwest plans to extend its schedule again on July 21.

Additional reporting by Katie Genter.

Featured photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

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