Southwest Airlines is already known for the array of freebies it offers customers, whether they pay for a flight with cash or with points. For example, the airline has long offered flight changes with no change fees and two free checked bags per traveler on every itinerary it offers.
Recently, Southwest announced more free benefits for its passengers: It’s adding free same-day standby to all available fare types for all flights, as well as free on-board internet access for its top tier Business Select passengers. The airline touted in the additional fare flexibility these new changes would bring in its tweet announcing the update.
How will free same-day standby work?
The free same-day standby benefit will make it possible for customers to wait for a seat to open on a flight they want to take, particularly when there aren't any available seats for a same-day flight change. "Same-day standby allows you to retain your current flight and boarding position and list yourself for standby on a different flight should one become available," writes Southwest on its website.
The airline notes that same-day standby service can be utilized up to 10 minutes before a flight's original departure time. Customers can access the service via a gate agent when a flight cannot be changed in the app or on Southwest.com.
How valuable is same-day standby? Most passengers probably won't ever use this benefit — however, it could be valuable for frequent business travelers who need to have as much flexibility as possible in their travel schedules.
Is free Wi-Fi for Business Select fares worth it?
In addition to free same-day standby, Business Select passengers will soon have free Wi-Fi access on Southwest flights. This is a pretty weak benefit, though, considering other airlines like Delta have rolled out free internet access on most domestic flights to all Delta SkyMiles members.
Plus, the value of this benefit doesn’t justify the additional cost of a Business Select fare: Wi-Fi access on Southwest only costs $8 per flight, yet Business Select fares on Southwest can cost almost twice as much as the airline's most basic Wanna Get Away fares. Further, A-List Preferred Members within the Southwest Rapid Rewards program already get free Wi-Fi access, so the highest tier elites won't see any value from this benefit.
In fact, Southwest's Business Select fares are generally of questionable value, since Southwest Airlines doesn’t even have an actual Business class cabin on any of their planes. The biggest benefits of Business Select fares are the fact they are truly refundable, and that passengers get priority boarding in the first group to get on the plane. Business Select passengers also earn 12 points per dollar spent with the airline, compared to the 6 points per dollar earned with basic Wanna Get Away fares.
However, you can also pay for Early Bird Check In to board the plane early for only $15 — also, note that paying considerably more for Business Select flights in order to earn double the points makes no financial sense.
For example, you might pay $204 for a Wanna Get Away Fare or $374 for the same flight in Business Select. You would earn 1,224 Southwest Rapid Rewards points for the basic fare or 4,488 points in Business Select. But, since Rapid Rewards points are worth around 1.4 cents each by our estimates, you would end up paying $170 more to earn around $46 worth of additional points.
New benefits may seem underwhelming to some
Southwest's announcement is a little bit of a dud, although some flyers will probably love having access to same-day standby on all fares. Since free Wi-Fi is becoming a standard with many airlines, it's good that Southwest is adding the benefit to at least its most expensive Business Select fares.
Either way, the new benefits apply to all flights with the airline, whether you pay with cash or with Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Rewards in this program are also easy to earn with co-branded Southwest credit cards, as well as Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards that allow point transfers to Southwest and other Chase partners.