Brent and I are members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. Brent is a lifetime fan of the airline, which makes sense, given that he’s … you know, from the Southwest. I didn’t fly it much before dating him, but that’s only because the airline has a teeny tiny presence at my airport, and the pricing structure weeds out those of us who don’t usually buy tickets months in advance. It was never cheaper for me. But it is now. Earlier this year, we did a bit of credit card hacking (if by hacking you mean spending a bunch of money on wedding-related things and paying for them in advance instead of paying a deposit plus the balance later) and earned a free companion pass through the end of 2015, making all our flights exceptionally reasonable, at least through the end of next year. We somehow managed to get tickets to Oakland for our honeymoon (because we know how to party!) for somewhere under $100 for both of us. Brent booked the tickets well in advance (because he’s Brent and that’s what Brents do), for us to leave the day after our wedding and return the following Saturday. Our flight Monday was no problem. We were pretty much on vacation 24 hours after saying “I do/me too,” which was exactly what I wanted. However, the flight on Saturday was just too late. We were set to fly home on the 6:40 flight or something, which would have gotten us in at 8pm, but after an amazing lunch in San Francisco, we were tired and ready to take an earlier flight. So, knowing what we know (which, spoiler alert, wasn’t enough!) about Southwest, we decided to try our luck at flying standby on an earlier flight. There was a flight that left at 3pm that would get us home at 5, which would have meant we’d have plenty of time to rest, relax, and recharge for our real lives instead of eating airport food and hanging out in the Oakland airport (which is always the risk you run when deciding to fly standby).
Heading to the Airport
We checked our bags, and asked the person at the counter if we could be put on standby for the earlier flight. No problem, she said, and the flight isn’t really full, so your chances are good. Great! We went through security, and when we heard our names called, we ran to the counter. She asked us for our credit cards because she needed to charge us something like $3, which we were told was the difference between the airport tax when we purchased the tickets and today. Awesome! I called my sister and told her about the change of plan. “No problem,” she responded. “See you soon!” We had a safe and uneventful flight, and got home early. That’s when we noticed something weird.
Southwest Airlines Charges 25,000 Points to Fly Standby
“Weird,” Brent said, when he turned on his phone. “I have an email from Southwest’s Rapid Rewards.” He opened it. We’d been charged 25,000 points to fly standby. Now, if you don’t know about Rapid Rewards, 25,000 points is a round-trip ticket anywhere Southwest flies. We were really upset. I mean, seriously! They can’t just charge us that without telling us! And, I probably don’t have to tell you, but if at any point during our trip, they’d mentioned, even casually, hey, that’s definitely something we can do, but we have to charge you, you better believe we would have finished our books in the Oakland airport! But nobody told us. So we flew. And we lost the chance to fly anywhere we wanted. Essentially, we exchanged two hours of our lives for a trip anywhere in the country (or a few select places out of the country).
Customer Service Wasn’t Helpful
Brent called customer service first thing Monday morning, and didn’t get any help. The person he talked to wasn’t empowered to help calm down this cranky customer. So, he took it a step further, and sent an email to the VP of Customer Service. As of October 11, 2014, he hasn’t gotten any response. The entire copy of Brent’s email is below the fold, highlighting just how upset he got with the service he received. I’m still a little salty about all of this. It certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth for this airline, and were it not for the free companion fare I get for the next 14 months, I might not be so inclined to fly their friendly skies. The moral of this story is that it is your responsibility to ask if there are any charges associated with flying standby. Even with the airline who doesn’t charge you to change your airfare. Read more