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Unofficial "Flat Tire" Policy

FlyWithLUV
Active Member

I was looking at an old forum and TheMiddleSeat referenced Southwest's unofficial "flat tire" policy.

 

Does this policy apply to Wanna Get Away (discounted fare) customers, or does this only come to "full-fare" customers (Anytime & Business Select)?

 

I know that Southwest charges Wanna Get Away customers a fare difference if they wish to standby for an earlier/later flight, whereas Anytime & Business Select tickets get a free same-day change. If you miss your flight and are traveling on a WGA ticket, do you get to standby for the next flight for free?

 

This sounds too good to be true, but that's typically the case when it comes to Southwest so I just wanted to confirm.

6 REPLIES 6

Re: Unofficial "Flat Tire" Policy

FlyWithLUV
Active Member

I was also looking at Herb Kelleher's article, "Why Can't I Just Fly Standby?"

 

This confused me a little since if anything, it stated that the "Flat Tire" policy does not really exist. Could someone clarify?

 

Many customers would like for us to waive the "standby upgrade," the difference in fare we collect when a customer holding a discounted ticket wants to take an earlier flight. Because Southwest employees are known for "bending" the rules in customers favor, our adherence to this one is often perceived as an "exception the exception."
To illustrate why our customers flexibility exempts this policy, I'd like to share with you some inside history of the business. Long ago, there was only one ticket, called full (or walk-up) fare. However, there weren't always enough full fare customers to fill up the frequent flights they wanted to choose from.Yet, to lower the fare enough to sell all those seats would mean losing money on nearly every trip!
So restricted fares were born, making air travel affordable to more people than ever. However, Southwest did not raise full fares to make this discounting possible. We simply lowered prices on a limited number of seats per plane, adding restrictions acceptable to customers who could plan their travel well in advance.
Presently, under this arrangement, everyone benefits. The full-fare customer can stand by or change reservations among a wider selection of flights, with transaction costs already built into the fare. The bargain traveler is able to fly (rather than drive), and can still change plans by adapting to new restrictions, or by becoming a full-fare customer - typically paying less than our competitors walk-up fares.
Full-fare privileges at full-fare prices. Restrictions at discounted prices. It is really nothing new: Movie theaters have has matinee specials for decades. However, they don't accept matinee tickets at Saturday-night shows. Neither do we allow discounted, restricted tickets to be used like full-fare tickets.
But what about Southwest vaunted flexibility toward our customers? Unfortunately, exceptions to this particular rule would have a way of becoming habit, habit of becoming norm, and in short order, no one would see any reason to buy a full-fare ticket. We would then have to raise discounted fares to make up for lost revenue, pricing the budget traveler out of the airplane and scrapping the mutually beneficial relationship between the bargain and business traveler. Without sky-high first class and walk-up fares (like our rivals!) to compensate, Southwest Airlines would no longer mean lower fares for everyone.
Of course, our employees still have the flexibility to help customers in verifiable dire circumstances. Normally, however, the agreement we make with customers at the time of ticket purchase should be kept - on both ends. It is the only way to be fair to the full-fare customer and still offer the low fares and high flight frequency people enjoy when Southwest serves their hometown.

-Herb Kelleher

 

Thanks, guys!

Re: Unofficial "Flat Tire" Policy

TheMiddleSeat
Top Contributor
Solution

When it has been discussed before, the flat tire "policy" is applicable to all fares.  However, the fun part about unofficial policies is they may work or they may not.  No one can guarantee what happens if you were to show up at the airport as your flight is departing.  You can certainly say "I had a flat tire" and hope for the best.  Southwest could put you on the next flight for free, or all flights could be full and you're stuck, or an agent decides to charge you the fare difference, or worst case scenario you miss the flight and you receive no credit and have to pay full fare for a flight later in the day.

 

Perhaps I'm reading into your inquiry too much, but it almost seems as if you are asking so you could abuse the "policy", purposefully missing your flight, claiming flat tire, just to get on a later flight for the same price.  Please don't do this.  If you need to take a later flight do the right thing and make an official change to your flight.

 

--TheMiddleSeat

Re: Unofficial "Flat Tire" Policy

dfwskier
Top Contributor

My experience is that Southwest treats all fares the same way.

 

If you get to the airport late and miss your flight (due to flat tire, or flooded roads, or accident on your road, etc)

 

1) You do not pay more

2) You are put on the standby list for the next flight -- you may or may not get a seat -- that's the risk - nothing is guaranteed..

 

What happens if you don't get out on the day you were originally scheduled to fly?  I dunno.

Re: Unofficial "Flat Tire" Policy

FlyWithLUV
Active Member

Hi!

 

Thanks so much for elaborating on your answer! I appreciate it! It's amazing the length that Southwest goes to in order to ensure their passengers are cared for. That's why they are my 'go-to' airline and always will be!

 

I wanted to ask because I had booked a really early flight on a WGA fare and wanted to be able to account for a possible contingency plan in the event worst comes to worst. I'm a planner and always have a Plan B when something goes wrong.

 

I, along with you, hope that this policy does not get abused. It's never okay to take advantage of someone's kindness for your own benefit. I definitely understand why this policy is in place, and realize its importance to passengers who were dealt a bad hand the day they travel. It would never be my intention to abuse such a policy.

 

I usually always book an Anytime ticket just to account for this (because of the added flexibility + extra points per dollar) but was flying WGA on travel funds and wanted to see how this policy would apply.

 

Thanks for the additional information! Glad to learn about another way Southwest cares for its customers!

Re: Unofficial "Flat Tire" Policy

DancingDavidE
Top Contributor

@FlyWithLUV wrote:

Hi!

 

Thanks so much for elaborating on your answer! I appreciate it! It's amazing the length that Southwest goes to in order to ensure their passengers are cared for. That's why they are my 'go-to' airline and always will be!

I wanted to ask because I had booked a really early flight on a WGA fare and wanted to be able to account for a possible contingency plan in the event worst comes to worst. I'm a planner and always have a Plan B when something goes wrong.

...

I usually always book an Anytime ticket just to account for this (because of the added flexibility + extra points per dollar) but was flying WGA on travel funds and wanted to see how this policy would apply.

 


Definitely book the flight you think you'll be on - if you do miss the next flights might be full so it could be a while before they slot you back in.

 

If it is dicey I would tend to book the later flight and then try for standby earlier. Or bring something to do in the airport if you do get there way early.

 

They must keep track of that also, if someone was doing this often I'm sure it would be flagged. 

 

 

 

 

Home airport MDW, frequent visitor to MCO to see the mouse.

Re: Unofficial "Flat Tire" Policy

DancingDavidE
Top Contributor

@FlyWithLUV wrote:

I was looking at an old forum and TheMiddleSeat referenced Southwest's unofficial "flat tire" policy.

 

Does this policy apply to Wanna Get Away (discounted fare) customers, or does this only come to "full-fare" customers (Anytime & Business Select)?

 

I know that Southwest charges Wanna Get Away customers a fare difference if they wish to standby for an earlier/later flight, whereas Anytime & Business Select tickets get a free same-day change. If you miss your flight and are traveling on a WGA ticket, do you get to standby for the next flight for free?

 

This sounds too good to be true, but that's typically the case when it comes to Southwest so I just wanted to confirm.


A couple of clarifications - Anytime and BS can rebook their tickets for later flights but same-day standby is only for earlier flights. 

BS also gets a travel fund automatically if the flight is not canceled 10 minutes prior and then missed where the others are forfeit in that case, except points bookings are refunded for all fare types. 

 

*Edit: Anytime fare is a refundable fare and will also automatically be converted to travel funds if flight is missed. 

Anytime and BS at full fare will be able to rebook if seats are available since the fare will be the same. WGA could expect a fare increase for a same-day booking in many cases, which varies by route. 

Then the Flat Tire rule unofficially is only applicable if you show up at the airport to claim it within two hours of your original flight. So the idea of gaming the system is limited to a brief window before you’d be forfeit and rebooking at additional cost. No missing your flight in the morning and showing up at 5 p.m. that we know of.

 

I did use this one time - major wreck on I75 coming back to Orlando from Sarasota (Southwest didn’t fly SRQ at the time, now we fly there) and our side was just the gapers delay - but we made it to MCO within the two hour window and there were plenty of seats open, we made it. 

 

 

Home airport MDW, frequent visitor to MCO to see the mouse.