Effective immediately, you can now transfer AirTran credits and Southwest points back and forth. This is the first step in the upcoming full merger between AirTran and Southwest.
As always, there are benefits available for customers because right now there are some extended number of choices available.
A Quick Overview of the Transfer Possibilities Between Southwest and AirTran
In general, you can turn 1 AirTran credit into 1,200 Southwest points, and it takes 1,200 points to get 1 AirTran credit. If you have more complicated transfers (like old credits or freedom credits), you can research your options on the Southwest/AirTran conversion page).
Because Southwest now has a points based system and AirTran has a credit based system, there are savings possibilities. Below I’ll show some samples and give you an idea of when it is best to use AirTran and when it is best to use Southwest.
When Does Using Southwest Credits Make Sense?
1. When you are booking domestic flights that cost less than $160 one way.
As an example, I searched sample flights between Buffalo and Denver on a selected date in October.
AirTran would require 8 credits for this flight and does not have availability on the exact date I’m looking for. On Southwest I could get a ticket for 7,740 points. 9,600 Southwest points gets 8 AirTran credits (8 *1,200), so clearly Southwest would be the better option for this flight.
Which to do? Since it would take less Southwest points, I’d convert 8 AirTran credits into 9,600 Southwest miles and then only use 7,740 for the flight.
2. When there is a possibility that your plans might change. Southwest changes can be made free of charge, but AirTran changes will cost $75.
When Does Using AirTran Credits Make Sense?
1. International Travel. I looked at a flight from Buffalo to Cancun, and the cost is 8 credits. Since Southwest doesn’t have international destinations that they service, clearly AirTran is the go to airline for Mexico and the Caribbean.
2. Domestic flights that cost over $160 each way or $320 round trip. The more expensive the trip is with dollar, the better value you’ll get out of the AirTran credits.
* The one factor that will impact your math is if you plan to take a bag. AirTran charges $20 for the first bag and $25 for the second. If my family of five was traveling with five bags, we’d need to find tickets cheaper than $180 one way or $360 roundtrip to break even.
3. When you want to fly business class. Again, this one is obvious because of the fact that Southwest doesn’t really have business class. Southwest does have business select, but that only allows you to board early and pick better seats. AirTran actually has larger business class seats.
4. When you don’t have enough points for a full flight redemption. If you have a small Southwest account balance (4,800 or more), you could turn your stray Southwest miles into 4 AirTran credits. If you purchase an AirTran ticket, you can use 4 credits to upgrade (oneway) to a business class seat.
* A note about AirTran credits: There is limited availability for using the credits. Be sure you find flights with availability using credits before assuming that AirTran is the better way to go.
To get more information, you can visit the official site.