Southwest’s Business Select tickets are a huge ripoff. Don’t buy them.
On this sample flight from Oakland to Seattle, Business Select tickets are $242, compared with $72 for the “Wanna Get Away” tickets. That’s 236% more, or $340 more than the cheap ‘web-only” roundtrip fare. And let’s keep in mind that there is no such thing as First Class on Southwest.
Here are the supposed Business Select benefits Southwest gives in return for their price gouging (and what they’re really worth):
- Fully Refundable — True, the “Wanna Get Away” fare is not refundable, but if your plans change you can apply the cost of the ticket to a future Southwest flight within 12 months, with zero change fee. This is only an issue if you will only fly somewhere Southwest flies one time within 12 months.
- Priority Boarding — There is no First Class, but Southwest will let Business Select customers board first. Typically the first 15 boarding positions are reserved for Business Select. If you’re OK with row 5 instead of row 1, I might suggest Southwest’s EarlyBird seating service, where for just $10 each way you can get priority seating. It won’t move you into the top 15 but it should be a safeguard against the dreaded C-Pass.
- Fly By Priority Security Lane — I don’t think I’ve waited longer than 15 minutes for security… ever.
- An Extra .5 Rapid Rewards Credit (per roundtrip) — It takes 16 credits (in theory) to earn a free flight. On Craigslist, the roundtrip vouchers go for about $300. If 16 credits is worth $300, it reasons that half a credit would be worth approximately $9.38.
- Free Premium Drink — What does an airplane cocktail cost, $7? Alternatively, if you’re a really thirsty yet frugal traveler you can buy books of Southwest drink coupons on eBay for $2-3 per drink.
In total, Business Select costs a premium of $340 (in this example), yet only provides about $45 in tangible benefits. I think Business Select is an attempt to generate extra cash flow from un-savvy travelers who otherwise might not fly Southwest or who might be fooled into thinking they’ve added Business Class service. Don’t be one of them.