Traveling with a large number of people can be an extremely stressful experience. However, one of the major perks of traveling with a large group is that you can take advantage of special discounts and other benefits. Airlines like Southwest offer numerous advantages for group bookings and some of them can save you a lot of time and headache.
In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about the Southwest Airlines Group Travel policy. I’ll cover things like discounts, deposits, and I will also talk about the savings. I’ll also show you the phone number that you need to call for group bookings and what to expect.
What is the Southwest Group Travel policy?
If you are traveling in a group of 10 or more passengers you can get exclusive discounts and added flexibility with your tickets by booking through the Southwest Group Travel Program. There are no strict requirements for the group but many common groups consist of:
- School groups
- Religious groups
- Family groups
- Sports groups
What are the Southwest Group travel benefits?
By booking with a group of 10 or more passengers you can take advantage of the following benefits:
- Flexible Payments: No upfront payment required to create a Group reservation.
- No Extra Fees: No booking, ticketing, or change fees.
- Unlimited Name Changes: Unlimited name changes up to 72 hours prior to departure.
- Earn Roundtrip Tickets: Earn one roundtrip ticket to be used on your Group’s itinerary for every 30th passenger booked (taxes and fees will apply).
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Things to know
While there is no upfront payment required to make a group reservation for you will be required to make a $50 deposit per passenger. This $50 deposit will not go towards your airfare cost and instead will be refunded within five business days after you have made your final payment.
Depending on how it is processed with your credit card provider it could take a statement or two for the refund show up. This unfortunately does put a bind on those dealing with smaller credit limits.
Note: Credit card is the only approved form of payment for the deposit and payment may be made by uploading a completed and signed Letter of Authorization (LOA) form via www.swagrouptravel.com or by calling 1-800-433-5368.
Cancellation of your group reservation will result in forfeiture of the Deposit Amount. However, the passengers should still be eligible for travel funds, according to a rep I spoke with.
Southwest group travel phone number
The Southwest group travel phone number is: 1(800)433-5368. The line is open Monday through Friday from 5AM to to 12AM Central standard time. Group bookings must be made via phone and cannot be made online.
Something that you need to know about this phone number is that the hold times can be extremely long like this person who waited 4.5 hours. I doubt you will have to wait that long waits for over one or two hours are not that uncommon.
This is especially the case if you’re calling soon after a new schedule is released. So you should you’d be prepared to wait a very long time or try to call during non-peak hours.
Submitting passenger names
You will need to complete the Excel form which will allow you to input all the passenger names and then you can submit the form to the Southwest Airlines Group Travel Management page here. This spreadsheet template should be emailed to you after you contact Southwest via phone.
You will need to complete all of the different fields which include:
- Group Leader Name
- Departure Date
- Confirmation Number
- Passport information will be required for International Reservations
For the passengers you will need:
- Full legal name
- Date of birth
- Redress number (if applicable)
I would suggest trying to get an exact match with the person’s government issued ID and the names that you input on the spreadsheet. You don’t always have to have an exact match with a middle name but I think that it helps.
If you need to make changes to the passenger names you can do this by entering your updates on the “Changes” tab on the Excel Name Template provided by Southwest Airlines. Remember that the names can be changed up to 72 hours prior to departure.
Submitting your payment
If you have already submitted a complete name list, you may call 1-800-433-5368 to pay over the phone, using a credit card or PayPal. You may also upload a completed Letter of Authorization (LOA) form on the Southwest Airlines Group Travel Management page.
Southwest does not accept multiple payments.
If paying via wire transfer, be sure to call or email GroupTravel@wnco.com at least seven business days before your final payment due date to receive the detailed instructions for sending your wire transfer
Group Tickets are flight and date specific and cannot be changed, used or exchanged for travel on other flights.
How much are the discounts?
The amount of the discounted fare is just going to vary based on your flight. Southwest usually offers several different rates for the same flight and only a select few people can take advantage of each fare.
So for example, the lowest fare may only be available to 6 to 8 passengers, the second lowest fare may only be available to the next six to eight passengers and so on. I have no idea about the exact quantity of passengers but you get the idea….
When you book as a group you should receive a fare that is lower than the average price but probably not as low as the lowest available fare. In some cases, it could be cheaper for passengers to book their own individual tickets.
However, this probably depends on the size of the group. For large groups I would guess that you would be paying a below average rate and would be better off with the group travel rate, especially considering the added flexibility.
If you find a cheaper price online, Southwest is a little bit nebulous with what they will do. For example, that they answer this specific question by stating the following:
I saw a lower fare available on southwest.com versus what I was quoted through Group Travel Services. Can I get the website price in my group reservation?
southwest.com fares and Group fares differ in many ways, and each offers its own unique benefits. The best option for you is determined by your travel needs. southwest.com fares are often only available online and usually have limited quantities available. There may not be enough seats at the online price for your whole group. southwest.com fares tend to work best for small parties that don’t need much flexibility in their travel plans. Group fares work best for parties of ten or more who may require flexibility with name changes and payments.
This sounds like a nice way of telling you that you cannot get your price matched (or at least not a guaranteed match). It still probably would not hurt to call in and request the price match if you found it though. You never know what they might do.
You are not able to enter your Known Traveler Number when making Southwest Group Travel reservations. This means that the passengers will likely not receive TSA Pre-check. If you are not familiar with TSA Pre-check, it is a program that allows you access to expedited security screening and can save you a lot of time. You can find out more about the program here.
When you input the names of the passengers traveling you will not have a field to enter in the Rapid Rewards number. This means that the passengers will not automatically receive Rapid Rewards for their flight. However, it does appear possible to call in after the fact and request for Rapid Rewards to be issued.
Flights from multiple departure points
If you have a lot of people flying to a single place from different places around the country you might be wondering if you can also qualify for the group travel rates. Southwest does offer an option for situations like this but it will require a high number of passengers.
Southwest Airlines offers a formal meetings program for corporate meetings and conventions with a minimum of 150 Travelers through SWABIZ. To make Southwest Airlines the official airline of your meeting and find out if you are eligible, visit www.swabiz.com and submit a Meetings Agreement Request form.
The group check-in process
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.
Below are the specific instructions provided by Southwest.
1. Go to southwest.com and click “Check In” to reserve your boarding positions. Enter the confirmation number and first and last name of any one of your travelers.
2. You have the option to either check in the entire Group, or select specific Passengers.
3. The names of successfully checked in Passengers along with their boarding positions will begin to populate on the screen one at a time. Please note: Certain Passengers may not be eligible for online check in and must proceed to the ticket counter.
4. Once you arrive at the airport proceed to the ticket counter to receive your boarding passes.
1. Go to southwest.com and click ‘Check In’ to reserve your boarding positions. Enter the confirmation number and first and last name of any one of the travelers.
2. You will only be able to check in one Passenger at a time.
3. A valid passport and emergency contact information will be needed to complete the check in process.
4. Repeat steps 1 – 3 for each International Passenger.
4. Once you arrive at the airport proceed to the ticket counter to receive your boarding passes.
Southwest Group Travel boarding
If you are not familiar with the Southwest boarding process it works like this. You are given a boarding pass that falls into one of three groups: A, B, or C. You are then issued a number within that group and that is where you will line up to board the plane. There are no assigned seats so all seats are open to everyone. Read more about the boarding process here.
Traveling with a group, you might be tempted to save seats on the plane. But you should be aware that many people frown upon saving seats on Southwest. My advice would be to head to the very back of the plane where people are more forgiving about you saving seats.
You might be wondering about Southwest EarlyBird which is a service that allows you to check in automatically and secure a better boarding position for a fee of $15 to $25. Unfortunately, Southwest EarlyBird is not available to tickets purchased as part of a Group itinerary.
Southwest Group Travel baggage fees
Southwest will allow you to travel with your first two checked bags for free. The applies even when traveling as a group. If you are wondering about the fees for additional bags or for oversized bags then click here for more on the Southwest baggage fee policy.
The Southwest Group Travel program can be a great way to fly with a large group because you can save money and get added flexibility with name changes. However, you will likely have to deal with really long wait times on the phone and will have to go without some benefits like EarlyBird and Pre-check.
If you’re dealing with a smaller group I would suggest comparing the prices of booking them individually to help people save money but it could all just depend on the route.
Cover photo by Tomás Del Coro via Flickr.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.