28 Tips for Flying Southwest Airlines (Baggage, Check-in, Boarding)

Southwest Airlines is one of my favorite airlines to fly for a host of reasons but mostly because of the value I can get with cheap fares and easy Rapid Rewards earning opportunities.

There are a lot of things to know about Southwest that can make your booking and flight experience much smoother and save you time and money in the future, especially if you’re flying them for the first time.

So here are 28 tips for flying Southwest Airlines that cover everything from baggage, check-in, and boarding to saving money and points on flights.

If you’re more of a visual person check out the YouTube video and infographic at the end of the article! 

Interested in finding out the top travel credit cards for this month? Click here to check them out!

Tips for Flying Southwest Airlines

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

1. Get the Southwest Companion Pass

The biggest tip I could ever offer if you want to maximize value with Southwest, is to look into getting the Southwest Companion Pass. This allows a companion to fly for free with you on any Southwest flights for up to two years!

The Companion Pass can easily be obtained by getting two credit cards from Chase.

The Chase Southwest cards come with bonuses with as much as 80,000 Rapid Rewards. Since you only 125,000 Rapid Rewards (or 100 one-way qualifying flight flights) for the Southwest Companion Pass, this allows you to instantly obtain the Companion Pass!

That pass can be worth well over $3,000 so if you’re looking to save money with Southwest, definitely consider this.

2. Get the best Southwest credit card offers

As I just mentioned, Southwest credit cards offer different types of bonuses all of the time — we’ve seen offers range from 25,000 points to 60,000 points for these cards!

Try to seek out the best offers for the business Southwest credit card and for the personal cards like the Southwest Premier and Southwest Plus.

While you are limited to one personal card, it is possible to get a personal card and a business card but I would wait 30 days in-between applications.

Also note that if a higher offer comes out within 90 days of you applying, ask Chase to match you to the higher offer and they usually will!

3. Know which Southwest 737 seats have extra leg room

Almost the entire Southwest Airlines fleet consists of 737-700s and 737-800s. In fact, Southwest is the largest operator of the Boeing 737 worldwide!

This means you can expect virtually the same flight experience each flight.

If you like to seek out extra leg room or upgrade to business select in order to snag the emergency exit rows with more room, knowing which type of plane will be flying is key since the 737-800s have an extra “2-person row.”

You can see the difference between the two seat maps below.

The 737-800 (pictured on the right) is bigger and has more seats with extra legroom. Some seats might have limited recline or bad window views, though. You can read more about the specific differences between Southwest seats here. Also, be sure to read how to find the best seat on southwest.

Southwest seat maps 737 700 737 800
Southwest seat maps.

4. Southwest is the largest “point to point” operator in the US

Southwest is the largest “point-to-point” operator in the US. This means that it’s extra easy to find direct flights to many destinations versus other airlines who operate with more of a true hub model.

If you hate extra flying, Southwest could offer you an escape!

5. Southwest serves secondary airports

One of the potential drawbacks to Southwest’s network is that they serve a lot of secondary airports. For example, in Houston, Southwest serves Hobby (HOU) instead of George Bush Intercontinental (IAH).

This often means going without nice airport lounges or other amenities but also means traveling through smaller airports that are often easier to get in and out of.

6. Southwest does not have a true business class or first class

Most airlines have a separate cabin for business class or first class with nicer, more comfy seating — but not Southwest. Every seat is virtually the same and there are no rows dedicated for premier seating.

Southwest does have “Business Select” fare which offers priority security/check-in, flexible cancellation, a free premium drink, and priority boarding (A1 to A15) but you’re not given a seat with more legroom or comfort. It also comes with additional perks like better earning rate and you can click here to find out if if Business Select if worth it for you. 

No first class is a bit of a bummer.

7. Southwest has a unique boarding method

You do not select or get assigned a specific seat for Southwest flights.

Instead, you check-in at exactly 24 hours before the flight and then you are assigned to a number in either Group A, B, or C. Starting with Group A, each group will board the plane in order based on the number each passenger received at check-in.

It’s a surprisingly efficient process but does cause some people worry that they can’t select their seat when they purchase their ticket. You can read more about the boarding process here.

8. Saving seats on Southwest

There’s long running debates about whether or not you should be allowed to save seats on Southwest.

Although I think it’s acceptable to save seats within reason, it’s something you typically want to avoid if you can. However, if you need to save seats for several passengers, people are much more understanding if your saved seats are near the back of the plane. Trying to save a row of seats up front is practically begging for confrontation.

9. Two free checked bags

Southwest allows each passenger two free checked bags. So you usually don’t have to worry about paying for your luggage. If you want to check a third bag, it will cost you $75.

If you’re considering flying with low-cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit, be sure to factor these savings in!

  • Read more about the baggage policies here.

10. You get free drinks and snacks

On Southwest flights you’ll be given free snacks like pretzels and peanuts (on longer flights you might get Nabisco crackers/cookies). You’ll also be given free non-alcoholic drinks on your flight. While these snacks are convenient, you probably want to bring a sandwich or something with you on board if you think you’ll get hungry on a longer flight.

Southwest snacks.

11. Get “real drinks” for free

If you’re flying on a holiday or it’s near your birthday or anniversary, you should let the flight attendants know and they might hook you up with a free drink or two. We’ve also gotten free drinks from just starting conversations with some of the nice flight attendants.

12. Wanna Get Away fares offer great value

Wanna Get Away fares are the cheapest Southwest fares and don’t allow you to cancel them and get a cash refund (though you still get a credit for the originally ticketed passenger only). These fares can be dirt cheap, especially when Southwest runs flash sales.

These flash sales come around a few times a year and offer some exceptionally low fares as low as $40 one way. Keep an eye out for these fares because they can save you tons but you they require you to act fast and are often limited to flights on certain days of the week (that aren’t very desirable like Tuesday or Wednesday).

  • When these sales aren’t running you can still check the low-fare routes by using this tool.

13. Last-minute flights are expensive

One important tip for flying Southwest, is that last minute flights on Southwest can be very expensive. It’s somewhat dependent on the route but it usually pays to book Southwest flight well in advance.

This is especially true when flying internationally — for more on all of the Southwest international routes and prices, click here

14. You can fly stand by

Business Select, Anytime fares, and A-List members can opt for earlier flights when they have opened up free of charge.

But Business Select and Anytime fares can simply be changed to earlier flights when there’s availability so sometimes it doesn’t make sense to go the standby route.

Wanna Get Away passengers can sometimes get put on standby two hours before or after their flight — this is an unstated policy though so YMMV.

The deadline for making changes to your flight is 1 hour prior to departure.

15. Southwest doesn’t release flights one year in advance

Unlike many other carriers, Southwest does not allow you to book flights a year out in advance. Instead, you may only find flights about 7 months in advance.

Southwest will publish their release dates and you should be able to start making bookings early that morning (though sometimes technical difficulties require you to wait).

With the new flights coming to Hawaii, you’ll definitely want to jump on some of these routes as quickly as possible to lock down the best rates

Click here to see the latest release dates.

16. Rebook Southwest flights to save $

Southwest allows you to make changes for free to your flights. If you change your flight, you’ll only be responsible for the difference between the fares. This can work in your favor if the price decreases from the time of your purchase.

If the price in cash or Rapid Rewards goes down from the time you book, you can rebook your flights and be credited for the difference. Wanna Get Away fares get a travel credit and Business Select and Anytime can get a cash refund.

When the flash deals come out always check if your route is cheaper.

  • Read more about how to cancel and change flights here.

17. You can cancel 10 minutes prior to departure

Regardless of the type of fare that you purchase, you can cancel your fare 10 minutes prior to departure. If you’ve purchased an Anytime fare or Business Select, you’ll simply get a refund but if you purchased an Anytime fare you’ll be issued travel funds.

Southwest travel funds will expire one year from the purchase date (booking date) of the original flight and can only be used for the passenger who had their ticket cancelled.  

18. Convert travel funds to LUV vouchers

Some people have been able to extend the expiration date for their travel funds after they expire by paying a $100 reinstatement fee. The travel funds are then converted into LUV vouchers when the reinstatement takes place. You may only have 6 months to request the reinstatement and the voucher may only be valid for 6 months from issue. 

The good thing about getting a travel voucher is that you can use that for anybody. So in some instances, it could be very well worth it to pay $100 dollars so that you can apply those funds to a different traveler.

  • Read more about this here.

19. Hawaii and the “Southwest effect”

Studies have shown that when Southwest begins flying to a destination, prices usually lower (this is called the Southwest Effect). This is great news because Southwest is getting ready to start flying to Hawaii!

So you might seeing some more reasonable prices to Hawaii pretty soon.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

20. Earning Southwest Rapid Rewards

You earn Rapid Rewards based on the type of fare your purchased. You’ll 6X the points per dollar for Wanna Get Away fares, 10X for Anytime, and 12X for Business Select. As you climb into A-List and A-List Preferred your earning rates go up.

Here are the earnings for an A-List and A-List Preferred member.


  • 7.5X per dollar for Wanna Get Away fares
  • 12.5X per dollar for Anytime fares
  • 15X per dollar for Business Select

A-List Preferred

  • 12X per dollar for Wanna Get Away fares
  • 20X per dollar for Anytime fares
  • 24X per dollar for Business Select
Southwest Rapid Rewards earning structure.

21. The value of Rapid Rewards is tied to the cost of the flight

Unlike points from airlines like United and American and many other airlines, the value of Rapid Rewards are directly tied to the cost of the current price of the that airline ticket.

So a flight that costs $400 will require about 2X the amount of Rapid Rewards as a flight that costs $200. I say “about” because there are some fluctuations. Typically, your Southwest points will be worth between 1.4 to 1.6 cents per point but sometimes the value can fluctuate even more.

22. How to know when to use Rapid Rewards

To determine if using Rapid Rewards is a good idea, you should:

  1. Find the cash price of the ticket
  2. Subtract the award fees from that price (usually $5.60)
  3. Divide that number by the required amount of Rapid Rewards
  4. Multiple that number 100
  5. If that figure is below 1.3, you may not want to use your points. 

To get an even more accurate figure, you can also subtract the value of the Rapid Rewards you would have earned on your flight for Step 2. For example, if you found a $100 cash fare for a one-way ticket you’d subtract $5.60 + however much you value the Rapid Rewards you’d earn.

23. Earn Extra Rapid Rewards

Southwest has a shopping portal and a dining portal. Both of these allow you to earn extra Southwest points when you shop at certain stores or visit certain establishments.

Read more about how to maximize earnings with the shopping portal here.

You can also earn Southwest Rapid Rewards when you stay at certain hotel partners, book rental cars,  and sign-up for utility plans in certain states.

24. You probably don’t need EarlyBird

EarlyBird will automatically check you in 24 hours before the flight, allowing you to more easily secure a good seat — usually a high A or low B boarding pass.

Unless you’re going to be away from a computer or mobile device at exactly 24 hours before your flight, you usually don’t need Southwest EarlyBird. Just setting an alarm to remind you to check-in is usually all you need.

  • You can read more about whether or not it’s worth it to purchase EarlyBird here.

25. Kids 6 or under?

If you’re traveling with kids 6 or under, you’ll be able to board during Family Boarding which is right after Group A and before Group B. If that’s the case, you really won’t need EarlyBird.

26. Flying with kids under 2?

Southwest allows kids under 2 to fly for free. However, they do require you to bring a brith certificate with you to verify the age.

A medical release for travel is required for any infant under 14 days old.

27. Upgrade to Business Select

Instead of paying the high prices for business select, consider upgrading to business select at the gate. It will cost you $30 to $50 depending on the distance of the route.

I usually first inquire about which spot we’ll be given upon upgrading. For example, it might be A1 or A10, you never know. If it’s near the top, that almost always means that seats in the emergency exit rows will be available (and so you might be able to get the row with only two seats or extra leg room).

This usually doesn’t work on routes with high business travel traffic but often works out great when flying to places like the Caribbean. You can read more about upgrading to business select here.

28. Bring something to entertain you

Southwest is not like other alines, such as JetBlue that offer screens for you to enjoy in-flight entertainment. For this reason, you need to make sure you have the battery power or literature, puzzles, etc. you need to keep yourself entertained for the duration of the flight.

Some Southwest flights will have wi-fi, though. You can check if your Southwest flight will have wifi here.

If your flight has wi-fi then you can use the Airtime Player app to use view features a flight tracker, arrival and connecting gate information, games, and access to Southwest.com (it’s free to access all of that).

If you want to pay for wifi, you can watch free live TV, on-demand TV, movies, and enjoy web browsing and messaging during your flight. You can read more about the in-flight entertainment here.

You must download the Airtime Player app before boarding if you want to view a movie or on-demand TV.

Here are the download links for that app:

Final word

Despite the lack of premium experience available, Southwest has a lot to offer in terms of cheap flights with quality service. You know exactly what you’re going to get with Southwest and if you know when and where to look, you can tap into some extreme savings by flying Southwest.

Cover photo by Tomás Del Coro via Flickr.

Southwest YouTube video

Southwest Infographic

Southwest Check-In Guide: (Mobile Boarding Passes & More) [2021]

Nothing is worse than realizing that you’re going to be one of the last people to board your plane, especially when you don’t have assigned seats. You’ll likely be stuck in the middle seat (between God knows who) and may not even have space to store your carry on.

Luckily, you can help avoid situations like this on Southwest if you know how the Southwest check-in process works.

I’ve checked in to dozens and dozens of Southwest flights and in this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Southwest check-in process.

I’ll cover things like how to do check-in online and in the app, best tips and practices, and how to deal with mobile boarding passes. I’ll also talk a little about other options like Southwest EarlyBird.  

When does Southwest check-in begin?

The check in process will begin exactly 24 hours prior to your departure time. 

So the first thing that you need to do is to find out exactly what time your departure time is. Once you find that out you need to be aware that the check in process will begin exactly 24 hours prior to that time.

Note that you will be going by the local time zone. So let’s say you are flying out of Houston at 3:05 PM. Your check in time will open up at 3:05 PM central time the day before. 

Once you know what time check-in opens you need to try to check in at exactly 24 hours. The reason is that Southwest Airlines does not have assigned seating.

Instead, you are assigned a boarding group and position within that group in the order you checked-in. There are three groups (Group A, Group B, and Group C) and there are 60 positions within each group. 

You will be called to line up with your boarding group in the order of your boarding position and then you can choose any open seats you would like once you board the plane. (Read more about the Southwest boarding policy here.)

This means that if you wait a long time to check in you will be assigned a boarding position in the back and you will not be able to choose some of the best seats. You might be stuck in the middle seat and you might not even have enough room to store your carry-on. 

This can make your flight much less enjoyable and that is why it is a good idea to check in as close to 24 hours prior to departure as possible. 

Tip: Use WalletFlo to help you maximize your credit card spend on purchases like Southwest flights!

Southwest Airlines seats.
Check-in as close to 24 hours from departure as possible for the best seats.

Best Southwest credit cards

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card comes with the following benefits:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 6,000 anniversary points (learn more)
  • Earn 1,500 Tier-Qualifying Points for every $10,000 in purchases, up to 15,000 Tier-Qualifying Points each calendar year
  • $99 Annual fee

Southwest Airlines Priority Card

The Southwest Airlines Priority Card comes with all of the benefits offered below:

  • Bonus spending:
    • 2X Rapid Rewards on Southwest purchases
    • 2X Rapid Rewards on hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • 1X Rapid Rewards on all other purchases
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit (learn more)
  • 7,500 anniversary points each year
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list Status
  • $149 annual fee applied to your first billing statement

What about Southwest EarlyBird? 

Southwest EarlyBird is a special perk that allows you to automatically check in 36 hours prior to departure.

This allows you to avoid counting down the seconds to check in and is extremely convenient if you are not going to have access to your computer or the internet 24 hours prior to checkout.

For example, there have been times when we were out and about doing something like scuba diving and there just was no practical way for us to check-in. But because we purchased Southwest Early Bird, we still secured good boarding positions.

Note: You will not be guaranteed an “A” boarding position with EarlyBird. However a lot of times you will get an “A” boarding position or a lower “B” spot. These spots are generally good enough for you to get a window or aisle seat so in a lot of cases it can be worth it to purchase EarlyBird. 

The price for EarlyBird ranges from $15-$25 per one way and the price just depends on your route. You can read more about Southwest Airlines EarlyBird here. 

I’ve also heard about a Google Chrome extension that you can use to automatically check in. I have never used this Chrome extension before so I cannot comment on how reliable it is but it certainly is something interesting to think about.

It does call for a little bit of technical knowledge (it deals with scripts), so not everyone will probably feel comfortable using it. Read how it’s done here. 

Check in online or on the app

The easiest ways to check in are checking in online on the Southwest website or on the Southwest app.

You can find online check-in here. All you will need to enter is your confirmation number, first name, and last name.

Tip: I recommend that you have all of the different fields already filled out so that once check-in opens you can just check-in instantly.

If you really want to maximize your our odds of getting an A boarding group, you could always open up a few tabs and have the information filled out on those tabs.

Then you can start hitting the check in button a minute or so before check in opens. The reason for doing that is that sometimes your web browser could be a little bit delayed once you click the check in button. 

If you are using the app, you should see a button for check-in at the bottom of the app on the main page. Once you click that button you will be prompted to enter your confirmation number and your first and last name.

After your checked in, you can opt to print out your boarding pass or send your boarding pass via email or text. 

If you experience any errors when you try to check-in then you can call Southwest customer service at: 1-800-I-FLY-SWA. You can also hit them up on Twitter. 

Further Reading: Southwest Rapid Rewards Value Guide

Getting your boarding pass

There are several different ways that you can get your boarding pass. If you check-in online you will have the option to immediately print out a copy of your boarding pass. But you don’t have to print it out so if you don’t have a printer don’t worry.

Southwest mobile boarding pass

You can seek out a Southwest mobile boarding pass so you won’t have to print out your boarding pass and can head directly to security (if you don’t have checked baggage).

You can get these by requesting them at the time of check-in on Southwest.com, the Southwest.com mobile site, or the Southwest mobile app for iPhone, iPad, or Android.

You can have the mobile boarding pass sent to you via email or even text message (or just view it in browser).

Tip: Save your mobile boarding pass to your mobile device for easy retrieval just in case you can’t access the internet at a later time.  

Mobile boarding passes aren’t available for everyone, though. For example, they won’t be available for:

  • Infants
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Individuals traveling on Senior Fares that need to be age verified
  • Nonrevenue passengers
  • Military Fares
  • Passengers traveling on international flights

Also, you’ll need to check-in as an individual in order to take advantage of a mobile boarding pass. Read more about the mobile boarding pass here. 

Business Select drink coupon 

If you’re flying Business Select you might be wondering how your free drink coupon will work. Well, if you have a Business Select ticket, your drink coupon eligibility will be noted on the mobile boarding pass.

To receive your drink during your flight, just show the drink coupon portion of your mobile boarding pass to the flight attendant.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

Printing the boarding pass out at the airport 

Another method is just to wait until you arrive at the airport to print out your boarding pass. At the airport, there are several different places where you can get your boarding pass.

You can use the Southwest Airlines kiosks that you can find at select airports and quickly print out a boarding pass without having to deal with an agent.

To begin the check-in process at a kiosk you can do any of the following: 

  • Enter your confirmation number 
  • Enter your Rapid Rewards number
  • Swipe your Rapid Rewards A-List Membership Card
  • Swipe a major credit card with your name on it

These kiosks are great if you don’t have to check in baggage because you can simply input your information and grab your boarding pass and then head off to security.

However, you can also take care of some additional tasks at the kiosks, such as: 

  • Add a Rapid Rewards number to a reservation
  • Upgrade to Business Select 
  • Change your flight
  • Add your name to the standby list
  • Print an itinerary receipt

Upgrading to Business Select can be worth it, especially whenever you are one of the only people flying Business Select.

That is because you can lock down some of the best seats with extra leg room or potentially snag a row of seats with only two seats which is perfect for traveling.

If you are traveling to a leisure or vacation destination, there likely will not be many people flying Business Select so this could be a great time to upgrade.

But even if you can’t get one of those seats, you’ll be able to board the plane before the vast majority of people and get a seat at the front of the plane. 

The cost to upgrade to Business Select varies from $30 to $50 per segment, depending on the route. To find out more about Southwest business select click here. 

If you find yourself at one of the Southwest kiosks you might want to take a look around to see if anybody has dropped any free drink coupons. If you want to find out more about how to get free drinks on Southwest you can do that here.

Keep in mind that certain types of passengers will not be able to use the check-in kiosks. These include the following:

  • Unaccompanied Minors
  • Customers traveling with pets
  • Customers traveling on age-qualifying fares (Infant, Child, and Senior Fares) that have NOT already been age verified
  • Customers traveling on a Military Fare
  • Customers traveling with paper tickets

You can also simply head to the ticket counter to get your boarding pass. There may or may not be a long line so this will be more time-consuming. However, if you have A-List or A-List Preferred then you can use the exclusive check-in line and won’t have to deal with the long lines. Those are the elite status levels for Southwest and they come with additional perks like: 

  • Priority boarding
  • Priority security and check-in lanes
  • 25% bonus earning
  • Free same day standby
  • Dedicated A-List phone number

You can read more about Southwest A-List here.  

If you need to check baggage you can simply go to the baggage check-in desk and get your boarding pass printed out as you check in your baggage. 

By the way in case you were not aware Southwest allows you to fly with two checked bags for free. Most other airlines will charge you something like $30 for your first checked bag and even more for additional bags so this is a great way to save money. Read more about the Southwest baggage policy here. 

Southwest Airlines group travel check-in

The check-in process is a little bit different for Southwest Group Travel and the exact process for check in would depend on if you are flying on a domestic flight or international flight.

Basically if your flight is a domestic flight you can check in the group or specific passengers but if you’re checking in for an international flight you will need to check in each passenger one at a time. Click here to read more about Southwest Airlines group travel.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Southwest Check-In FAQ

What is Southwest EarlyBird? 

Southwest EarlyBird is a special perk that allows you to automatically check in 36 hours prior to departure.

Where can I check-in?

You can check-in online on the Southwest website or on the Southwest app. You can find online check-in here.

Who can’t get a mobile boarding pass?

Mobile boarding passes aren’t available for:

– Infants
– Unaccompanied minors
– Individuals traveling on Senior Fares that need to be age verified
– Nonrevenue passengers
– Military Fares
– Passengers traveling on international flights

Final word

The Southwest check-in process is easy to do but it is very important that you try to check in as close to 24 hours prior to departure as possible. Unless you purchase Southwest EarlyBird or a Business Select fare you could end up with some pretty bad seats.  

Cover photo by Tomás Del Coro via Flickr.

Flight Delay Compensation for US Carriers: (American, Delta, United) [2020]

Seeking out compensation for delayed and cancelled flights can be very confusing. It’s difficult to know what you might be entitled do in the event that you’re stuck waiting hours for your flight to depart and it can be even more difficult to work things out with the airlines.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the different types of compensation you might be entitled to when flying on US carriers like American, Delta, and United. I’ll break down some of the requirements that these airlines have for offering you things like hotel stays, ground transportation, and meals, and explain when you might be entitled to those things.

I also have a helpful infographic at the end of the article that you might want to use for quick reference on flight delay compensation! 

Does the US require flight delay compensation?

The United States government does not require airlines to provide you with compensation in the event of a delay. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation states:

There are no federal laws requiring airlines to provide passengers with money or other compensation when their flights are delayed. Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers.

While federal US laws do not require compensation, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get it. Below, I’ll walk you through some scenarios where you can expect to get compensation.

Later on in the article, I’ll also discuss the EU regulation, EC/261 which applies to the US carriers for certain flights and can entitle you to a lot of compensation.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Flight delay notifications

Airlines should notify you of the updated status of your flight within 30 minutes of being made aware of flight status changes. I recommend using an app or website like FlightAware to track your flights in case the airlines are slacking on keeping you updated.

When you make your reservation, you should have to input your phone number/email so the airlines should be able to reach you. Also, most airlines have apps where you can sign up for flight status notifications.

Cancelled flight compensation

If your flight is cancelled, you can choose to claim a refund or have your flight re-booked.


The U.S. Department of Transportation states that you “are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets.” You are also “entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”

Award miles should also be refunded but note that United states that ticketing fees such as those for making a reservation in person are not refundable.


You might be offered flight vouchers in the event your flight is cancelled and if that occurs then make sure that you inquire about all of the restrictions attached to those vouchers, such as black out dates, seat limits, expiration dates.


Some airlines like United may automatically re-book you on to another flight. If the flight doesn’t work for you, you can often go online and reschedule the flight for another one within a 24 hour window.


If there is nothing available with your airline you originally booked with, you might be able to get the airline to book you with another airline as a courtesy (this is known as interlining), though not all of the airlines agree to do this.

Getting the airline to re-book you with another airline can save you lots of money because it will prevent you from purchasing a last-minute fare which could be very pricey. Sometimes you will really have to push an airline to get them to follow through with interlining. 


If your flight is cancelled or even delayed, you should inquire about getting put on the stand-by list for other flights. Typically, passengers may be notified that they can fly about 15 minutes prior to departure and if you’re passed up for one stand-by list then the airline might be able to automatically add you to another list.

Delayed flights

What about if a delay forces you to miss a connecting flight or causes you to get stranded at the airport? If that happens then you might be entitled to compensation but it depends on the nature of the delay and the timing.

“Force majeure”

Generally, if the reason for the cancellation/delay was “force majeure,” the airline will not view itself as responsible and you likely won’t be entitled to any relief.

For example, Delta defines force majeure as

  • (1) Weather conditions or acts of God;
  • (2) Riots, civil unrest, embargoes, war, hostilities, or unsettled international conditions;
  • (3) Strikes, work stoppages, slowdowns, lockout, or any other labor-related dispute;
  • (4) Government regulation, demand, directive or requirement;
  • (5) Shortages of labor, fuel, or facilities; or
  • (6) Any other condition beyond Delta’s control or any fact not reasonably foreseen by Delta.

The classic example is bad weather. When that occurs you are generally on your own and the airlines expect that you will take potential disruptions caused by weather into consideration when making your booking.

Some airlines might be able to offer you a discounted hotel rate at certain hotels but if the bad weather is widespread, that might not be possible due to limited availability.

Refunds for delays

If the delay is substantial, you can request a refund. For example, United states:

If you decide to no longer travel either because your original flight was canceled or you are delayed two hours or more, you can receive a refund to your original form of payment.

Update: United has updated its terms so that you may only receive a refund if you are delayed 25 hours or more. This is a huge negative change!

Sometimes the delay might result in a trip “in vain.”

For example, if you were to miss a wedding or meeting because of an unexpected weather delay that would be considered a trip in vain since the trip is no longer needed. The standard rules published by the airlines for delays and cancellations typically apply in these scenarios but you might be able to still request a refund or voucher by explaining your situation.

Failure within airline’s control

If the cancellation is caused by something that the airline can control like some type of mechanical failure then that is on the airlines. In that case, you might be entitled to compensation but the type of compensation will depend on how long the delay goes on for and when it occurs. 

For example, an airline might state that your travel must be interrupted for more than four hours during certain times of the night to get certain types of compensation, such as a free hotel stay. If your delay does not meet that threshold you can still complain to the airline and request some type of compensation like vouchers or frequent flyer miles.

If the delay is only a couple of hours don’t expect much but if it’s longer than that, you might be able to more easily convince them to offer you something. If you have status and/or are flying first or business class your odds for compensation will likely go up.

If your delay does meet the policy threshold then you can be entitled to different forms of compensation for your delay. The policy threshold requirements will vary between airlines but a 4+ hour delay during the night (after 10pm) seems to suffice.

Here are some specific examples of the requirements.


However, when a passenger’s travel is interrupted for more than 4 hours after the scheduled departure time as a result of flight cancellation or delay on the date of travel other than from force majeure, Delta will provide the passenger with […] amenities during the delay:


UA will provide at its option either one night’s lodging, or, if no lodging is provided and upon the passenger’s request only, reimbursement for one night’s lodging in the form of an electronic travel certificate… [when] the Passenger incurs a delay that is expected to exceed four hours between the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. local time.

American Airlines

If the delay is our fault or you’re diverted to another city, and we don’t board before 11:59 p.m. local time on your scheduled arrival day, we’ll arrange an overnight stay or cover the cost of an approved hotel, if available.

What compensation will the airlines provide?

Below are the most common types of compensation offered by airlines.

You need to be very cautious about turning down whatever options are offered to you by an airline. For example, if you’d rather stay at a different hotel or take a different mode of transportation than what is offered to you, there’s a good chance you’ll have to come out of pocket for it.


If you meet the delay requirements you can expect to receive a hotel stay but usually only at hotels that the airline contracts with.

For example, Delta will provide the passenger with a voucher for one night’s lodging at a “contracted hotel” when the four hour delay is during the period of 10:00 pm to 6:00 am and they will also provide free public ground transportation to the hotel if the hotel does not offer such service.

But note that if those hotels are not available, your reimbursement may come in the form of a travel voucher.

For example, Delta states:

If accommodations are not available, Delta will provide the passenger with a voucher that may be applied to future travel on Delta equal in value to the contracted hotel rate, up to $100 USD.

But United explicitly states that they may provide you with reimbursement for overnight accommodations booked on your own.

If we’re unable to book a hotel room for you, we may be able to provide you with reimbursement of overnight accommodations you obtain on your own, including your hotel, ground transportation and meals.

Be very careful about seeking out your own lodging when lodging is offered since airlines like United may not provide compensation for that.

Where lodging has been offered but not accepted by a Passenger for whatever reason, UA is not liable to reimburse the Passenger for expenses relating to alternative lodging secured independently by the Passenger.

Also, if you are at your home (domicile), the airline will not provide you with a hotel and will expect you to simply go back home for the night.

Ground transportation

If your flight is diverted to another airport, some airlines will furnish ground transportation to the destination airport. But again, you want to make sure that your delay meets that threshold before you go paying for an expensive taxi ride to another airport in the region.

Additional amenities

You can also get your meals covered or reimbursed.

Here’s what United states:

If your flight is canceled because of a mechanical issue or other circumstances within our control, we will try to accommodate you in a nearby hotel at our expense. If we’re unable to book a hotel room for you, we may be able to provide you with reimbursement of overnight accommodations you obtain on your own, including your hotel, ground transportation and meals.

Some may also provide amenities necessary to “maintain the safety and/or welfare of customers with special needs such as unaccompanied children and customers with disabilities.”

Getting put in a hotel is often about timing.


Sometimes when a delay happens you get separated from your luggage, especially when dealing with missed connections.

When this happens, your luggage might be kept at the airport until you arrive on the next flight but if you’re not going to have it for an overnight stay, the airline may provide you with a toiletry kit.

Tarmac delays

There aren’t many things worse than getting stuck on the tarmac for long periods of time.

I was once stuck for two hours on the tarmac and the plane ran out of ice and it was a pretty miserable experience. Luckily, an engineer for the airline happened to be on board and helped resolve the issue and we were able to get out of there but there are horror stories of others getting stuck on the tarmac for much longer than that.

Here are the federal rules for tarmac delays:

  • Airlines must offer food, drink, lavatories, and medical care within two hours of a tarmac delay.
  • For domestic flights, tarmac delays should be no longer than 3 hours
  • For international flights, tarmac delays should be no longer than 4 hours

But there are exceptions which could mean waiting even longer on the tarmac.

These exceptions include things like the pilot-in-command determines there is a safety-related or security-related reason (e.g., weather) or air traffic control advises deplaning passengers would significantly disrupt airport operations.

This means that there’s really nothing that can be done if you’re stuck on the tarmac for less than three hours and that in some cases you can be stuck on there even longer!

EU 261 Delay protection

EU 261 requires compensation of €250 to €600 depending on the flight distance for delays over 2 hours, cancellations, or being denied boarding from overbooking.

Here’s a breakdown of the compensation you can seek based on the flight distance and amount of the delay.

Flight DistanceDelayCompensation
Up to 1,500 kms3 hrs or more€250
1,501kms to 3,500 kms3 hrs or more€400
Over 3,500 kms
between two Member States
3 hrs or more€400
Over 3,500 kms3 to 4 hours€300
Over 3,500 kms4 hours or more€600

EU 261 applies in the following instances:

Departing FromArrivingEU 26 applies?
Airport based in EUAirport inside EUYes
Airport based in EUAirport outside EUYes
Airport based outside EUAirport inside EUYes but only if on an EU based airline
Airport based outside EUAirport outside EU No

This means that if you are flying on American carriers, such as United, Delta, and American and traveling from an EU country to the US, then this regulation will apply. However, if you are traveling from the US to a European Union destination on an American carrier then this regulation does not apply.

Compensation will be offered so long as the airlines cannot prove “extraordinary circumstance.”

Here are some situations that would involve extraordinary circumstances:

  • Acts of terrorism or sabotage
  • Security risks
  • Extreme weather conditions 
  • Political or civil unrest
  • Hidden manufacturing defects
  • Industrial action (strikes unrelated to the airline such as baggage handlers)

And here are some situations that would not involve the extraordinary circumstances:

  • Issues with airline staff (crew showing up late)
  • Bad weather affecting a previous flight, causing your flight to be delayed
  • Denied boarding due to overbooked flight
  • Technical/mechanical problems with the aircraft

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How to seek compensation

In many cases, it makes sense to approach the gate agents, customer service desk, or to simply call in to try to resolve your issues. If you’re in a lounge, you can often check with the agents working the help desk in the lounge.

As mentioned, trying to resolve things via social media can also be a solid route. If you’re really pressed for time, I’d advise doing all of them simultaneously (calling in, waiting in line, and maybe even hitting up the airline on social media). 

Be sure to keep all of your receipts and try to do some research on the contract of carriage or applicable laws so that you have a basis for stating what you are entitled to.

Complaint with the airline

If you’re not able to resolve your issues then you can file a complaint with the airline. There are usually forms you can submit your complaint through but you can also send a letter to corporate headquarters. Obviously, if you need things to happen in real time, calling in and speaking to agents is the way to go.

DOT requires airlines to acknowledge consumer complaints within 30 days of receiving them and to send consumers written responses addressing these complaints within 60 days of receiving them.

Complaint with the DOT

If you’re unable to resolve anything through that process then you might want to look into filing a complaint with the DOT.

Credit cards

As you can tell, there’s little guarantee that you’ll be able to get reimbursement for a lot of delays and so you want to have a back up plan. Not only for dealing with lodging and meals for unexpected delays, but also for those non-refundable travel purchases.

If an unexpected storm arrives and you can’t make your flight and you end up losing out on pre-paid travel expenses like hotel stays or even a cruise, the airlines aren’t going to offer you anything in the majority of cases.

However, if you have a great travel rewards card that has strong protections like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, then you’ll be able to cover your losses in many cases.

Here are a few protections offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve:

Trip Interruption

If your trip is canceled or cut short by covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses.

Trip Delay Reimbursement

This perk will have you covered if you are delayed more than 6 hours for expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

Baggage Delay Reimbursement

With this protection, If you are delayed more than 6 hours, you are covered for essential expenses, such as toiletries and clothes for up to one hundred ($100.00) dollars per day for a maximum of five (5) days.

Read more about these benefits here

Final word

It’s really helpful to be versed in what types of compensation you can be offered from the major US carriers before anything happens. It’s unfortunate that there is no mandatory compensation required for many delays but there are at least some routes available to help you when things get very bad.

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Delta Airlines Status Match Challenge Guide [2020]

Gaining airline elite status these days is still easier if you have elite status with a competitor to that airline. Airlines want to take other competitors’ elite passengers as they are returning passengers. Delta Airlines is no exception and offers a status match challenge to elites from other airlines.

In this article, I will go over Delta Airlines status match challenge requirements, how to match for the challenge, and how to keep your status for up to a year and half.

Does Delta Airlines offer a status match or challenge?

Technically, Delta offers both a status match and a challenge. Delta calls it a status match challenge. If you’re eligible to match, you can keep the status you matched to with Delta for 3 months, but if you want to extend it, you can do so by meeting certain requirements with gaining MQMs/MQSs and MQDs, which I explain more below.

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How the Delta Medallion status match challenge work? 

Delta Airlines Medallion status match challenge is as easy as filling out a form and submitting qualified proof of your status with a competitor airline. (Example airlines status.)

Once submitted, your request for the status match challenge will usually be processed in five business days, but can take up to two weeks during certain times of the year.

How long can you get to keep Medallion status?

When Delta approves your status match challenge, you get to keep the status for three months (90 days).

During the 3 months (90 days) of your status match challenge period, you have the option to earn MQMs/MQSs and MQDs that allow you to extend your status. When you enrolled into the status match challenge will determine your length of your status match that you got from completing the challenge requirements.

  • If you enrolled in the challenge between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 and you complete the requirements, your Medallion Status will be extended through January 31, 2020.
  • If you enroll in the challenge on or after July 1, 2019 and you complete the requirements, your Medallion Status will be extended through January 31, 2021.

Requirements to extend the status match longer than 3 months (90 days) 

These requirements below are only available if you are approved for the status match challenge. Once approved, you have 90 days to complete the requirements for the status that you are matched to or tiers below.

Delta Medallion status match challenge requirements 
Silver MedallionGold MedallionPlatinum Medallion
6,250 MQMs or 8 MQSs12,500 MQMs or 15 MQSs18,750 MQMs or 25 MQSs
$750 MQDs or MQD Waiver* $1,500 MQDs or MQD Waiver* $2,250 MQDs or MQD Waiver*

So, if I was matched to Gold Medallion status, I can only receive Gold status even if I got the MQMs and MQDs for Platinum. If I matched to Gold status, but only got enough MQMs and MQDs for Silver status, I would get Silver status.

If you were not part of the status match challenge, the requirements are less than the normal Medallion requirements.

Delta Medallion status regular requirements 
Silver MedallionGold MedallionPlatinum Medallion
25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs50,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs
$3,000 MQDs or MQD Waiver*$6,000 MQDs or MQD Waiver*$9,000 MQDs or MQD Waiver*

As you can see, both sets of requirements are very different, but you need to keep in mind that the qualification period requirements for the status match challenge are only over 90 days while the normal status qualification period requirements is over the whole year. So, timing your status match challenge is key when you have many Delta or partner flights booked.

* MQD Waiver is given if you spend $25,000 on any of Delta co-branded American Express cards.

What level of Medallion status can you get?

Delta provides a status comparison chart with major airlines across the world.

In the Delta Medallion status match challenge, you can only get Silver, Gold, or Platinum Medallion status. Diamond Medallion status is not given via the status match challenge as it’s held for the most loyal Delta customers.

The Medallion status match challenge is not limited to these airlines below. Any airline (excluding Delta Airlines partners) is eligible for the Medallion status match challenge.

Delta Medallion StatusSilverGoldPlatinum
Air Canada Altitude StatusPrestige 25K,
Elite 35K
Elite 50KElite 75K,
Super Elite 100K
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan StatusMVPMVP GoldMVP Gold 75K
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club StatusBronzePlatinumDiamond
American Airlines AAdvantage StatusGoldPlatinumExecutive Platinum,
Platinum Pro, Concierge Key
Asiana Airlines Asiana Club StatusGoldDiamondDiamond Plus,
British Airways Executive Club StatusBronzeSilverGold
Copa Airlines ConnectMiles StatusSilverGoldPlatinum,
Presidential Platinum
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Fly On StatusCrystalSapphirePremier, Diamond
jetBlue True Blue StatusN/AMosaicN/A
Lufthansa Miles & More StatusFrequent TravelerN/ASenator,
HON Circle Members
Southwest Airlines Rapid RewardsA-ListA-List PreferredN/A
United Airlines Mileage Plus StatusPremier SilverPremier GoldPremier Platinum,
Platinum 1K,
Global Services

Elevated status match

It’s possible that sometimes Delta may offer an elevated status match that gives you an even more advantageous status match.

It’s an especially attractive offer because it may give you a chance to earn the top status known as Diamond.

Here’s an example of the matched levels during the limited time offer that went out in the fall of 2020:

Delta GoldDelta PlatinumDelta Diamond
Alaska AirlinesMVPMVP GoldMVP Gold 75K
American AirlinesGoldPlatinumExecutive Platinum
Southwest AirlinesA listA-list preferredN/A
United AirlinesPremier SilverPremier GoldPremier Platinum, 1K, Global Services

The enrollment period was only about 12 days so sometimes you have to be on the lookout for these matches that come and go pretty quickly.

Related: How much are Delta SkyMiles worth?

How to submit a status match for Delta Airlines

With two easy steps, Delta Airlines makes it one of the easiest airlines that allows status matching and a challenge. Before proceeding, I suggest reading the section above “How the Delta Medallion status match challenge work?” as it explains requirements for the Delta Medallion status match challenge.

You first need to make sure you’re eligible and after that you fill out the Medallion status match challenge form.

Determine your eligibility

  • Reached elite status with eligible airline through normal means and not through promotions or complimentary.
  • The airline you status match from cannot be be a Delta partner airline, but any other airline status could work for the Delta Medallion status match challenge.
  • Must currently have elite status with the other airline you status match from.
  • Must have qualifying activity from the airline you status match from.
  • You have not received a Status Match or complimentary Medallion Status in the past three years, unless the complimentary Medallion Status was through your Million Miler Status.

With Delta, you have to provide two pieces of information. The first is your current active membership card. This could be a screenshot of your online membership card or status summary page showing your name and credentials. The second is your statement/activity showing how you earned the status without any promotions.

Once you have have figured out if you’re eligible, you can proceed to the next step.

Fill out the form and wait

You can access the Delta Medallion status match challenge form here

As you can see below or from the link I provided above, the form is very simple. Delta allows lots of flexibility and any non-partner of Delta can be used for the status match. Once you fill out the form, you must also attach two supporting documents before submitting your request.

The two supporting documents that Delta needs with your request is:

  1. A valid, current elite physical or digital membership card or credential with your name on it.
  2. A statement showing your earned elite status with an airline and the corresponding activity with that airline that made you achieve that status, with your name on it.

For both of these materials, you may upload a photograph, screenshot of your app or computer screen, or other file format as long as it clearly shows the required information, your elite status level, and your name.

Once you submit your request for the Delta Medallion status match challenge, Delta claims it usually takes 5 business days, but can take as long as 2 weeks.

The email address you provided will get the approval or rejection email from Delta for the Medallion status match challenge once they made a verdict.

No Membership card for Platinum Medallions

You will not receive a Platinum Medallion membership card for your status match challenge during the first 90 days. However, you will still retain many of the the benefits.

If you complete the challenge and extend your status, you will receive your membership card.

Silver and Gold Medallions don’t ever get membership cards.

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Missing benefits for Platinum Medallions

During the 90-day Medallion status match challenge, you don’t receive any of the Choice Benefits with Platinum Medallion. 

If you complete the challenge and extend your status, you will have an option to pick Choice Benefits.

Any partner counts, as long as the fare is eligible

  • MQMs, MQSs and MQDs earned on Delta- and Delta Connection-operated flights will count towards this challenge. MQMs, MQSs and MQDs may also be earned on partner airline flights that are eligible to earn MQMs, MQSs and MQDs.

As Delta’s terms indicate, you can fly Delta or a partner of Delta Airlines. Of course, not every partner fare earns MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs, so it’s up to you to find out if the partner you fly is eligible for earning them. You can check partners here.

Your best chance for earning MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs is by flying one of the airlines that are in a joint venture (JV) with Delta. Promising partners would be Korean Air, Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, China Eastern, and Aeromexico.

Matched limitations

So let’s say that you were matched to Silver Medallion status but then you went ahead and overachieved and met the (status challenge) MQMs/MQSs and MQDs requirements for Gold Medallion.

If that were to happen you would still be matched to Silver Medallion status.

Since you were matched in a lower tier, you cannot be eligible for the status match challenge shortcut to Medallion status in higher tiers. However, if you matched into Gold Medallion and fall short for the Gold Medallion status match challenge requirements, you will be given Silver Medallion status as it’s a lower tier than the one you received during the status match challenge 90 days.

LGA Sky Club sparkling wine

Final word

For anyone with existing status and want to extend their status to Delta Airlines with flights coming up in the next 90 days, the Delta Medallion status match challenge could be perfect. However, you must time your status match challenge accordingly with qualifying flights.

Do you think it’s worth to switch from a competing airline that you have status with and become a Delta loyalist?

This article was originally published by Steve Smith.

What Is the Proper Qatar Pronunciation?

Qatar Airways has become one of my favorite airlines to fly with due to its luxurious hard product and great dining and service. The only problem was, I realized I didn’t know what the proper Qatar pronunciation was and found myself constantly pronouncing it differently. After a while, I decided it was time to clear up some of the confusion and find out exactly how to pronounce Qatar.

The quest for the proper Qatar pronunciation

I’ve actually been curious about how to pronounce Qatar since I was in college. I went to Texas A&M University for undergrad, which has a campus in Qatar. I would hear people around campus pronounce it like “cutter” but also like “cuh-TAR” and so I never realized which was correct.

Fast forward a few years to when I got deep into the miles and points game.

I called American Airlines’ call center in Australia to book a Qatar flight with AA miles and I initially told them I was calling about booking “cutter” flights. The Aussie AA agents responded with a confused “huh?” so I then went with the kuh-TAR pronunciation and they immediately recognized what I was talking about and proceeded to book my flight.

I found that it wasn’t just the AA agents who would get confused by my cutter pronunciation. Most of my friends and family members would also scratch their heads a bit when I would talk about the state of things in “cutter” and I’d have to quickly clear it up with a “oh, you know, the country, kuh-TAR.”

So I started to lean towards kuh-TAR as the chosen way to pronounce Qatar and it seemed to be working fine for me.

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Doha (pronounced Do-ha), Qatar.

Leaning towards Cutter

But then I started to do some research. I came across other blogs that posed the question. I learned there were even more ways to pronounce Qatar, like the UK/British Qatar pronunciation “Cuh-tah.”

On Reddit’s TIL (Today I Learned) subreddit, I found time and time, and time again, that others (including the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) would state cutter or a version very close to that like “kä-tər” was proper.

In addition, apparently a lot of people who spent time in the country of Qatar said that locals mainly used cutter while kuh-TAR was a pronunciation used by people from the West. (Some even implied kuh-TAR was of a derogatory nature but I don’t think that’s the case.)

I dug deeper into it and came across videos like this, which explain that neither cutter or kuh-TAR are correct but that cutter is closer to the Arabic pronunciation.

But that video is just made by a dude who (allegedly) knows Arabic so I decided to look for more “official” sources like Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar. In the video below at around 0:23 he clearly pronounces it as kuh-ter, which is a little different from cutter which some people pronounce like butter but a lot different from kuh-TAR.

At this point, I started to think that the true Qatar pronunciation was somewhere much closer to cutter than kuh-TAR.

Is everybody is right?

So on board my recent first class A380 flight from Paris to Doha (read about that amazing flight here), I decided I would put a flight attendant on the spot. So I asked the cabin manager what the proper pronunciation was. And the she told me….

Either pronunciation is correct!

She said I could go with cutter or kuh-TAR. That definitely was not the clarity I was looking for. I was hoping this would be a black and white issue. But it did feel good to at least hear that from an employee of Qatar Airways since it gave me a little bit of closure. This was also in line with other sources that stated that even Qataris differ on how they pronounce it depending on where in Qatar they are from.

Qatar Airways bar and lounge.

Leaning towards kuh-TAR?

So it sounded like either version would fly. But I wondered how people within my niche would pronounce it. These people are well-traveled and cultured, and I figured that I could rely on them for guidance here.

After my Qatar flight, I decided this would be a perfect question to put in an Instagram poll. So I set up the poll and after a couple of hundred votes, the results came in overwhelmingly in favor of kuh-TAR! 

Qatar Pronunciation

Final word on the Qatar pronunciation

In the end, I came to the following conclusions about Qatar pronunciation:

  • It is generally acceptable to say pronounce Qatar as kuh-TAR or cutter
  • The most authentic version of pronouncing Qatar in Arabic is probably closer to kuh-ter (with the right emphasis/inflection)
  • Most people in the West, even frequent travelers, likely use kuh-TAR and better recognize that Qatar pronunciation
  • There are several other variations to pronouncing Qatar beyond cutter and kuh-TAR

I think for the sake of making my life easier I’m going to use kuh-TAR since when I try to use cutter I end up having to use kuh-TAR to clarify what I’m talking about. But deep down inside, I think I’ll always be on team cutter since it seems closer to the most authentic way to pronounce Qatar in Arabic.

How to Get Status with United Without Flying a Single Flight

Did you know it’s possible to earn United elite status without ever stepping foot inside of a United airplane? It’s possible to do this by taking advantage of elite perks offered by certain credit cards and then completing a status challenge. Here’s how it could be done.

Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!

Obtain Marriott or SPG Gold status

The first step is to obtain Marriott Gold or SPG Gold status.

This can be done in a number of ways:

  • You can also sign-up for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card which offers you complimentary Gold status for the first year and then after that you’ll have to spend $10,000 on the card within a calendar year to maintain Gold status.
  • Another way is to earn SPG Gold status be spending $30,000 or more on your Amex SPG card within one year.

Out of all of these my preferred method is go with the Platinum Card but that’s because I value its other benefits like Centurion Lounge access, Hilton Gold, Priority Pass, etc. You’ll have to make your own judgment call on what works best for you.

Status challenge to Marriott or SPG Platinum 

Once you hit Gold status you can then set your self up for a Platinum Challenge from Marriott. For the challenge you’ll need to hit 9 stays within a specific time period (usually given to the end of the summer). Note: these challenges may not be offered to everyone and there are other forms of challenges that are offered as well.

As soon as that last stay posts for your challenge, you should be given Marriott Platinum status.

You could also do it the other way and do a SPG Platinum Challenge but that typically requires 18 nights within a 3 month period, so it’s harder to obtain in my opinion but also seems to be more available to the general public.

Ideally, you would already have a number of stays or nights lined up to stay at so that you don’t have to go out of your way and do a “mattress run” to hit the minimum required number of stays but that’s not always the case.

Luckily, as least for Marriott, you can find hotels for $65 a night or less to help meet the threshold. If you stayed at hotels earning 10X on stays and earned extra points here and there with special promotions, it’s feasible that a 9 stay mattress run could cost you nearly $500 or maybe even less after you factor in your earnings from Marriott points and credit card spend.

That’s not bad at all, depending on how much you value Marriott/SPG Platinum status and United Silver.

Get your United MileagePlus Premier Silver status

To get your United MileagePlus Premier Silver status you’ll then need to sign up for RewardsPlus. It should only take about a week for your Silver status to show up on your United account but if you need to get it expedited you can call and request that it be done.

United MileagePlus Premier Silver status will offer you:

  • Complimentary economy plus upgrades (which is nearly guaranteed)
  • Business class upgrades (more rare)
  • Priority check-in, security, and boarding
  • 7X on mileage earnings per base dollar spent
  • One free checked bag
  • Waived or lower change fess

And a number of other benefits that you can read about here.

Final word 

It’s not very difficult to obtain United Silver status without ever stepping foot inside of a United plane. However, if you do plan on eventually flying United a hand full of times and would otherwise pay for economy plus upgrades and to check a bag, then “buying” your way to Silver status through hotel elite programs like Marriott could make sense and be worth it in the end.

Is Southwest EarlyBird Check-in Worth it?

Southwest’s EarlyBird check-in is a tempting add-on for many people when flying with them. Some swear by it and others swear it’s a sham designed to incentivize you to spend more than what’s necessary. It’s supposed to help your boarding process and seat selection be a lot smoother and convenient, but is it worth the extra cost?

Here’s my take on whether or not Southwest EarlyBird check-in is worth it.

For more tips on flying Southwest Airlines, click here.

Southwest’s boarding policy

Southwest Airlines embraces an “open seating” policy that most people either love or hate. This means that you can’t reserve your exact seats before your flight. Instead, you are lumped into different boarding groups, such as Group A, Group B, or Group C.

You’ll be given a position within each group ranging from 1 to 60 and then you will board the aircraft according to that that order. It’s a surprisingly efficient process when it comes to lining up for boarding but it comes with the stress of not knowing exactly where you’ll be sitting on the plane.

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How are you given your boarding position?

Typically, you are assigned your boarding group and position when you check in, which begins 24 hours before your flight, although international flights sometimes are a bit different. 

What is EarlyBird?

Early bird costs $15 each way (increased from $12.50 in March 2016) and presumably helps to make sure that you receive a better boarding position and therefore seat.

Specifically, EarlyBird provides you with an automatic check in within 36 hours before your flight. This means that you don’t have to worry about going online and checking in right at 24 hours before your departure.

Does EarlyBird guarantee you’ll be in Group A?

Early bird check in does not guarantee that you will receive boarding in Group A.

Instead, you’ll likely receive boarding in Group A or low to mid Group B, depending on several factors. As a point of reference, anything lower than mid Group B, is typically good enough for a window or aisle seat and should provide you with room for your overhead, although YMMV.

Some things to know about EarlyBird check in

  • EarlyBird check in Customers will receive boarding positions after Business Select and A-List Customers.
  • Customers who have purchased Anytime Fares will receive priority over Customer’s who purchase Early Bird with other fare types. So for example, if you purchase a “Wanna Get Away” fare you’ll automatically be put after someone who purchased a more expensive “Anytime” fare.
  • Boarding positions are assigned based on the time stamp of the EarlyBird check in purchase relative to passengers within the same fare class. So if you purchased your Wanna Get Away fare before 10 other people purchased their Wanna Get Away fare, you should be positioned before them.
  • There’s no limit on the number of passengers that can purchase EarlyBird check in.
  • You can add EarlyBird check in to an existing itinerary, so long as you do so 36 hours before your departure time. This is often recommended if you’re using an airline credit to make the purchase. Just keep in mind that if you have multiple passengers on your itinerary, everyone must purchase EarlyBird check in.
  • There are no refunds for EarlyBird if you cancel your flight, but if your flight is canceled by Southwest they will refund the fee.
  • You cannot use gift cards for EarlyBird check in.

So with all of those factors in mind, you might be wondering is EarlyBird check in worth it?

Is EarlyBird check in worth it?

I think that for most passengers, EarlyBird check in is not necessary and thus often not worth it, except for certain circumstances.

Let me first explain why it would not be worth it for certain passengers.

Business Select or A-List

I’m not even sure if Southwest allows Business Select passengers to purchase EarlyBird check in (hopefully they don’t or they flag your transaction or something). However, since you’re automatically given priority boarding there’s no need for EarlyBird check in. The same reasoning goes for A-List members.

  • To find out more about Business Select, click here

Solo travlers

If you’re traveling solo you will almost always still be able to access an aisle or window seat by checking in 24 hours before your flight. Thus, in most cases, if you just want to get an aisle or window seat, I don’t think that you would need EarlyBird check in.


I think the same reasoning often applies to couples. In the majority of cases you will not need early bird to ensure that you get aisle or window seats and since one of you will likely be sitting in the middle, you should be fine. 

Large families with kids 6 or under

I don’t think large families need EarlyBird in many cases. For example, if you are traveling with a kid 6 or under, you should be able to board in between Group A and Group B so you should have plenty of options for picking your seats.

For other families with kids over 6 or large groups not using EarlyBird check in, the situation can vary depending on factors listed below.

Inside a Southwest Airplane
Inside a Southwest plane. Photo by Michael Gray.

When it’s worth it to get EarlyBird check in

I think there are four reasons it might be worth it to get Early Bird check-in.  

You’re flying a known busy route or connecting flight

If you have a lot of connecting passengers on your flight, it’s possible that they will be boarding before you since they were able to check-in before you.

If that flight also has quite a few A-List, Business Select, family boarding groups, and EarlyBird check ins, it’s possible that checking in without EarlyBird could land you pretty far down the line even if you attempt to check in right when the 24 hours window pops up. In that case, you might just feel better about your flight if your purchase EarlyBird check in.

You stress over where you’ll sit and store luggage 

Let’s face it, many people get very stressed out about getting a decent seat and having space to store their carry-on. If you’re one of “those people,” then EarlyBird check in is basically designed (whether rightly or wrongly) for you.

If your preference is to avoid the middle seat at all costs and you know you will be worrying about this until you’re finally sitting comfortably in your seat with your carry on stored above you, then it might be worth it to go with EarlyBird check in for the peace of mind. 

You won’t be available to check in

This is the most legitimate reason for getting EarlyBird check in — when you know you’re not going to be available to check in on line. 

For example, I’ve taken trips down to the Caribbean on Southwest where I’ve been in the ocean scuba diving when my check in window opens up. Obviously, that’s a case where EarlyBird check in comes in handy because if you wait for hours after your window opens, you’ll probably get stuck with Group C and getting window or aisle seats becomes much more difficult.

Other times you might be in a meeting, some place without service, or you might just be super forgetful and don’t want to worry about checking in. In those cases, I think it’s worth it to shell out $15 for EarlyBird check in.

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You’re a dag-blasted seat saver

If you’re a seat saver, you can get away without purchasing Early Bird Check in for everyone and just have one person save a few seats. Personally, I don’t mind if people save seats within reason, especially because sometimes Southwest has spit out vastly different boarding positions to people on my same itinerary. However, many people really hate when you save seats and think it’s poor etiquette.

Tip: To minimize confrontations, I recommend you stick to saving seats near the rear of the plane, where people are a little more laid back about seats. 

Why I almost never pay for EarlyBird check in

Brad and I fly everywhere together and he is built like a collegiate nose tackle. Also, I’m not exactly “petite.” Therefore, we really enjoy flying with no other passengers in our section of our row and always go for the exit row. To ensure that we get that exit row, we simply upgrade our tickets to Business Select for $30 or $40, depending on this distance of the flight.

This is well worth it to us, and I often see people do the same thing to get the exit row seats with extra leg room. On very short flights, this isn’t a big deal to use since we can manage without it, but on flights of 3 or 4 hours, we like to do it. This might not be practical on routes with heavy business travelers but because we’re often flying to places like Mexico or elsewhere in the Caribbean on Southwest, we’re usually A1 and A2 or very close to it.

We use travel credits like those on the Ritz-Carlton card to cover the cost of the upgrades, too.

Final word

Overall, I don’t think EarlyBird check in is necessary for most people.

Unless you’re the type of person who just needs peace of mind about your seating position and/or know it will be impossible or inconvenient for you to check in manually, you probably don’t need it. However, for people with specific preferences for their seating, the $15 is well worth it.  

Cover photo by BriYYZ via Flickr