frequent flyer miles - international - southwest

Flying International on Southwest

Up until a year or two ago, Southwest was exclusively a domestic airline. That’s no longer the case. After their buy out of Airtran, Southwest picked up all of Airtran’s international routes to central america and the Caribbean. 

Now, you can fly to a number of exotic locations with your favorite airline (I mean most of us LOVE Southwest, right? And many have the coveted Companion Pass? That’s what I thought). Here’s where you can jet off to:

  • Cabo San Lucas, MX
  • Puerta Vallarta, MX
  • Mexico City, MX
  • Cancun, MX
  • Belize City, BZ
  • Liberia, CR
  • San Jose, CR
  • Nassau, Bahamas
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Punta Cana, DR
  • San Juan, PR
  • Havana, Cuba

This is great news for anyone looking for a little tropical getaway.  We recently did this for the first time on our trip to Costa Rica and it was great, but a little different than other international flights and different than your typical Southwest Flight. Here’s everything you need to know about flying internationally on Southwest.

1. Check In As Usual (Sort Of)
Anyone who has flown on Southwest sets their alarm for 24hours and 1 minute before the flight leaves, so you can get that coveted “A” boarding group. The same applies for international flights, but the actual process is a bit different. Because your passport needs to be checked at the airport, when you check in online or on your phone, you’ll only get your boarding group number but no actual ticket. Your spot is secure, but you still need to go to the ticket counter when you get to the airport to have your passport checked .

2. Bring Some Food With You
If you’re used to flying international to Europe or Asia, you’re use to being fed and pumped full of wine every 45 minutes. The Southwest flights aren’t like that. All juice, soda, coffee is still free, and they are quite generous with the upgraded snacks (our flight had bags of pretzels, peanuts, Oreos, Fritos and Cheese Crackers), but if you’re like me and don’t want to eat that kind of stuff, I’d advise you to bring your own meal. There’s also no food for purchase. Our longest flight segment was 6 hours when we flew to Costa Rica, which I knew I’d definitely get hungry. I’d suggest a sandwich, salad, or bento box. I’d also bring some snack-y things like granola bars, nuts, or dried fruit incase you get munchy (PS – my favorite in flight snacks).

3. There’s Still Free Live TV 
Like a lot of international flights, you will have some time to kill. They still offer the free live TV and movies are available for purchase just like normal Southwest flights. There was also WIFI for purchase. Bring your own laptop, smart phone or tablet in order to stream (there aren’t any personal tv’s on the plane).

4. Bring Your Blanket and Pillow
Unlike other international flights, there were no blankets, pillows or sleep masks waiting for us on board. These flights also weren’t overnight, so that wasn’t a huge deal. However, our flights were early and it’s nice to be able to take a nap. I have an inflatable neck pillow that I’d highly suggest, since you can deflate it once you land so you don’t have to lug it around when it’s not in use. And as always, bring a scarf to cover up if you’re cold!  

5. It’s Pretty Cheap!
I was shocked at how affordable these flights were. We used our Southwest points, and each round trip ticket was 21,000 points. That is not a typo. That’s about 10.5k each way. It costs more to go to California!!!! Now, I can’t guarantee these rates, but I checked a lot of locations and a lot of date combos, and I was pleasantly surprised at the price. Many flights are under $500 pp round trip. And don’t forget, you can always get your points back/flight $ credit if the price goes down (we originally booked at 36k points pp…. that’s 15k points down!)

6. Be Flexible With Your Dates
The flights from Costa Rica went down 1-3x a day. The return flights was only available a few days a week. Check this before you plan your trip (use their “Flexible Fare Calendar” feature to see!)

7. Check Those Bags
Yup, 2 checked bags. For free. As always! We carried on, but checked our bags on the way back since we picked up some souvenirs that we couldn’t carry on. 

What are you waiting for? Book your tropical vaca now. You can thank me when you’re watching the sunset.