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Best Practices for Handling Southwest Release Days

Southwest Airlines is unique in the sense that it limits how far in advance its customers can shop for airfare. When they open their schedules, every travel agency in America is competing for space.

Southwest Airlines is unique in the sense that it limits how far in advance its customers can shop for airfare. When they open their schedules, every travel agency in America is competing for space.

Southwest has a long history of doing things differently. 

While most of the airline world releases their schedules 330 days in advance of travel, Southwest famously holds back their inventory and releases it several days a year. 

For groups of 10 or more passengers, looking to book group contracts on Southwest, this causes a frenzy on “Southwest Release Days.”

On the morning that Southwest releases its schedules, travel agencies from around the world hit the phone lines at 7:00am eastern time in order to grab space. Here is a quick guide to navigating Southwest release days. 

Hold space on another carrier, because you might not get Southwest space

Southwest is a favorite with groups because of their baggage policies along with flexible seating. Having a backup group block on another carrier is advised. Other carriers, like American and United are charging booking fees to hold space and these fees on non-refundable in the case of a cancellation, but its best to run the risk of losing $100 rather than not getting the space you need.

Go through a travel agency

Don’t sit on the phone with Southwest yourself. Go through a travel agency who is used to calling and navigating the craziness of release days

Bulk request fares

If you have multiple contracts that you want priced, be sure to do them all at once. The space is competitive and the agents will sit on hold with you and price contracts as long as you want. Best to get organized – if you have 3 groups to request, do all three at once. 

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