Southwest International Is a Mess, Fly Spirit?


The devaluation of Southwest is two days away and I have no game plan. Somehow I have three return flights booked and two outbound ones. Something isn’t adding up.

A good deal I found was 8000 points from Washington to Cabo San Lucas. Another decent one was 7000 from Punta Cana to Fort Lauderdale. As you see these don’t really go well together. One weird thing from my perusal of Southwest’s site is the amount that points tickets cost. Returning from Dominican, the taxes are $101. Checking ITA I noticed that a flight on the dreaded Spirit was $127 making that 7k great deal not great at all.

Oh Spirit
Oh Spirit

Taxes returning from Cabo are $66 which is reasonable because paying out of pocket runs $266 on Southwest, $200 on American.

As of right now, I’m not convinced that RapidRewards + International Tickets are the way to go. More research is necessary.


  1. Being based in Florida, I’ve flown a fair amount on Spirit. More often than not they’re by far the cheapest option for me, and I’m willing to live with a couple of uncomfortable hours to save 50% on my ticket relative to the next cheapest airline. I am a light packer, have a bag which fits within their “free personal item” dimensions, and very rarely need to pay for baggage with them.

    I also have a SW Companion Pass, so I’ve definitely run into this international conundrum as well.

    I’ve found that most of the international routes and dates I’ve looked at are still better deals on Spirit, even with a Companion Pass since you’re still paying taxes on both passengers. With many Spirit flights priced just $20 or $30 above the unavoidable taxes and fees, the value simply isn’t there for using RR points – for me at least.

    Of course there are the intangible benefits of better service on Southwest, the freedom to bring bags for those who need them, and better routes from much of the country – I realize not everywhere is as well serviced by Spirit (for as cheaply) as I am.

  2. You are 100% right. I have been spoiled by SWA’s domestic points program and thought it would be extended internationally. Spirit is definitely the better option (wow I just said that) if you are living in South Florida because of the taxes (*2 if companion).

    Southwest makes sense if somehow you live in Baltimore or Chicago where the $100 tax isn’t so steep considering where you are going.

    Curiously, flying to Atlanta (AirTran’s old hub) priced out with the same taxes PLUS more points.

    May be time to ditch the idea that Southwest + International + Companion=windfall.

    Thanks for the great comment.

  3. I did a post a few months ago about the variety of airport taxes and fees at various Caribbean locations. They’re really all over the place!

    We ended up going to Puerto Rico because we were just looking at “somewhere warm” and it counts as domestic US ($5.60 each way)

    I came to the same conclusion you did – why would I want to pay hundreds of dollars for my “free” flights?!?!

    I decided if I’m going to some of these Caribbean places in the future, I’ll likely use points or something like Arrival or FlexPerks points, and find a fare where the base fare is low

    • I tweeted at you a few posts ago when Club Carlson got devalued and with the looming SWA devaluation for how I should use the combo…no response! It may have to be PR then Avios to Caymans. Still working on it.

  4. If you have any of the credit cards (with the high fees!) that offer airline reimbursement, this is a good way to offset the high SW int taxes. We flew 4 of us (with 2 comp passes) for ‘free’ to Jamaica. All of our taxes & fees were reimbursed to our Ritz Carlton cards. Also did the same thing with Cancun and again Jamaica (for 2 people) with the Amex Platinum card.

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