Advertiser Disclosure

google flights southwest

6 Reasons Southwest Showing up on Google Flights is Huge News

For the first time ever, Southwest fares are now searchable through Google Flights. And if you ask us, it's the biggest and best news we U.S. travelers have had in years. 

We were the first to spot Southwest fares showing up in Google Flights results early Wednesday morning, and Southwest confirmed it to us later that day. In a matter of minutes, our heads were spinning about just how monumental this seemingly small change will be for travelers and airlines alike.

By design, Southwest fares have been virtually invisible unless you went directly to Southwest.com. The airline purposely never made its fares available to consumers searching on almost any other site, from Google Flights to the big online travel agencies like Expedia to other popular sites and apps like Skyscanner or Hopper.


Southwest plane


Until now. By opening the doors to Google Flights, it's a massive win for the airline, the flight search engine, and – most importantly – everyday travelers. It gives consumers an instant way to compare prices between airlines, increasing Southwest's exposure with travelers who might forget to check Southwest … if they even knew it was an option. And it'll help travelers get a better deal – even if prices drop after booking.

And with Southwest now suddenly showing up alongside the likes of American, Delta, United, and a growing number of low-cost carriers, it could have some massive ramifications for the entire airline industry and how they all price flights. 

But for now, we're ecstatic about these new changes. Here's why. 


1. Google Flights Gets More Comprehensive Search Results

Google Flights was already far and away the best airfare search engine and has been for years. It just got even better.

Southwest fares don't show up on Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity, Priceline, Skyscanner, Hopper … pick virtually any site or search platform, and you won't see Southwest flights in your results. You'll see them in exactly three places: right at Southwest.com, the Chase Travel℠ portal (thanks to Southwest's tight relationship with the bank), and now Google Flights.

That is a major differentiator and a coup for Google Flights. It is now the only true one-stop shop for travelers looking to book flights. And with that, there's virtually no reason you shouldn't start your search for airfare with Google Flights.


Southwest fares on Google Flights


Previously, Google Flights was losing travelers to Southwest's own website – now it can get those eyeballs back. And as Google Flights' popularity has surged in recent years as a starting point to book flights, Southwest is finally relenting in hopes of getting more exposure. 

Before Wednesday, all U.S. travelers would see from Southwest was some route information and a grayed-out logo at the very bottom of the search results … with no price, merely a button that said “Visit site for price.” But now, those Southwest prices are clearly visible.

It should be a win-win for the airline and Google Flights, making the best search engine even better. But the biggest winner is the everyday traveler and consumer. 


2. Consumers Get to Compare More Prices

More choices is always a good thing for consumers – especially when it comes to flight prices. 

Competition between airlines always results in lower airfare, and the U.S. airline industry is full of cutthroat carriers competing for each others' passengers. But to benefit from that competition, you need to compare prices … and by excluding itself from Google Flights, Southwest made it much harder to see how its flight prices stacked up against Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, and United. 

No more. The days of opening up several tabs to check whether you could get a better deal on Southwest (or maybe forgetting to check the airline altogether) are over. 

It's all here in Google Flights. 


DEN to MSP Southwest GF


Southwest's best and worst fares will show up right next to the other airlines now, allowing us an instant at the rates for each in one glance. 

This means you can shift your dates and use Google's price calendar seamlessly as well. Finally, everything is in one place so you can just focus on finding the best fare. 


3. Southwest Gets More Exposure

Southwest has spent decades zigging while every other airline zagged, giving every passenger two free bags while its competitors charge even more for luggage and building diehard loyalty among passengers who love the airline for that simplicity. It worked like a charm, making Southwest a financial powerhouse before the pandemic. 

Things have changed, and Southwest is struggling lately. Southwest executives hinted at some major changes in the works with investors recently, entertaining the idea of ditching its controversial open-seating model and even installing bigger seats at the front of the plane.

But this is even bigger. Really, nothing could be bigger than how travelers find and book an airline's fares. For an airline that built its entire business model around going it alone, we never saw this pivot to Google Flights coming. 


Google Flights Explore search


“We’re extending the reach of Southwest.com by giving users of Google Flights enhanced visibility into our available flights, fares, and the benefits of our products and services,” the airline said in a statement about that decision Wednesday. “In our initial piloting of this partnership, we’ve made it possible for Google Flights users to compare our different fare options and click directly into Southwest.com to book their selected itinerary.”

In retrospect, it seems like Southwest understands – or at least accepts – that more and more travelers are starting and ending their travel-planning process on Google Flights. By finally throwing their fares into the mix, Southwest surely hopes it will pick up more business in the process. 

Now, for example, when travelers in New Mexico look into fares up to Denver (DEN) this summer on Google Flights, they'll see Southwest right there next to United for just $1 more. Look closer, and you'll see that's for a Southwest ticket that includes both a carry-on bag and two free checked bags, while United offers neither. 


Southwest fares


Just a few days ago, that Southwest fare wouldn't have appeared. Southwest is betting they'll siphon away some bookings from Southwest and other carriers that they never had a chance at getting before. 

And unlike working with Expedia or other big online travel agencies, these customers are still booking directly through Southwest.com in the end.  Google Flights is just a conduit to get them there. 


4. Google Flights Calendar & Price Alerts for the Win

Even diehard Southwest fans conditioned to heading straight to Southwest.com will have a reason to turn to Google Flights. This platform offers powerful features that you won't find on the airline's website. 


Google Flights Explore

The Google Flights Explore map lets you visually pore through all of the fares from your home airport to  … well, anywhere in the world on a map. It's frankly a mind-bending feature that makes finding cheap flights easy – particularly for those times where you just need a cheap getaway, no matter where an airline takes you.

Now, Southwest fans can get in on the action. 

Before, Southwest flyers would have to use the airline's route list and search manually, flight by flight by flight. Here's what that looks like.


Southwest route list
Southwest's route list on Southwest.com


Now, Google's Explore map (below) can show them exactly where they can go and when, not to mention at what price, too. 

Here's the same search for nonstop Southwest flights from Albuquerque (ABQ). This is an infinitely more efficient way to search for nonstop fares, because once you click the fare you're interested in, Google Flights will take you right there. 


ABQ Google Flights Explore


You can even filter to see only Southwest fares using this Explore map … with a workaround. 

Start through a normal Google Flights search and filter your results to only show Southwest Airlines. Then, change your destination to something like “United States” or “Mexico.” That will force Google Flights Explore to display only Southwest fares.


msp to denver southwest

Read our full guide to using Google Flights Explore and see what that tool can do for your travels!



Price Alerts and Southwest

Free change and cancellation has been a hallmark of flying with Southwest forever, long before other airlines wised up and ditched those fees during the pandemic. That's great for when plans change … but even better when prices drop, as Southwest makes it incredibly easy to rebook and pocket the difference as a credit. 

Teaming up with Google Flights puts that feature on steroids.

Not only can you see Southwest flights in Google Flights, but you can set Google Flights Price Alerts to track the price and get a notification via email when fares drop. That makes the process of saving more after booking with Southwest practically automatic. 

It's one of our favorite travel tips and a surefire way to make sure you always get the best price. Now, it's somehow even easier.

Here's a real-life example: I'm flying to Steamboat, Colorado (HDN) this fall for a family wedding and snagged some cheap Southwest flights to do so. But I'm holding out hope that these fares will drop.

But now that Southwest is on Google Flights, I don't have to manually check or wait for a sale email anymore. By setting a price alert on my flights, Google will email me whenever the price moves up or down – and give me valuable trend data, too. 


Minneapolis to Hayden price tracker


I haven't gotten an email that prices have dropped just yet … but my co-worker Jon did for his own flight home from Las Vegas (LAS) this summer. It works just like any other airline.


southwest flight price alert


Within a few clicks, he went to Southwest and rebooked his tickets for two (booked using Rapid Rewards points) to get almost 3,000 points right back!


southwest points back


Google Flights Calendar Tool

Southwest has always had its own Low Fare Calendar to help Southwest flyers find the dates with the cheapest fares. It's a great tool, but is incredibly crude compared to Google Flights' calendar. 

The Google Flights calendar tool allows you to see a calendar of fares with filters set. Want to avoid connecting flights and just look at the nonstops? Google Flights can do that – Southwest's can't. 

Let's say you want to go from Buffalo (BUF) down to Phoenix (PHX) for a desert retreat this fall. Before this week, all you had was the Low Fare Calendar, which would give you results like this.


Low Fare Calendar


Not bad, right? You can see the cheap dates, and you can put together a week-long trip to the desert. But when you “continue to flight times” you'll find that those lowest rates include connections through Chicago-Midway (MDW) or Baltimore (BWI) – even though Southwest does offer a nonstop flight. 




Pop over to Google Flights instead and do a simple search: Buffalo to Phoenix in September, filtered for to only display nonstop flights. Take your mouse over to the top right and click on either of those dates. 


Google Flights calendar


When you do that, a full calendar of fares will come up that includes those filters you've put in: It's only showing you the nonstop options and the roundtrip fares. 


Nonstop Google Flights Calendar



5. Southwest's True Value Will Shine Through … For Better or Worse

At Thrifty Traveler, we're running thousands of airfare searches a week for our Thrifty Traveler Premium flight deal alert subscribers, so we know two things to be true at once: Southwest has some of the lowest fares in the business …. and yet the airline regularly doesn't offer the cheapest prices.

When the airline runs its famous (and frequent) flash sales, you can get some stunningly cheap deals flying Southwest. But without Google Flights comparing them side-by-side against other airlines, it's hard to know how good of a deal it really is.

All the while, Southwest has built its brand around being a simple-yet-reliable budget airline. They've conditioned their customers to assume Southwest is always cheapest, hoping they won't shop around. 

That's not always the case. 

Let's use the same Buffalo (BUF) to Phoenix (PHX) flights as an example. Southwest is flying there cheap, but American Airlines is beating them by about $50 roundtrip between those two cities. 




This new and easy way to compare will show many travelers that Southwest is priced much like every other carrier than they thought – sometimes much higher.

But that's also not an apples-to-apples comparison. There's a difference between cheap and value.

Where Southwest's value really shines is how much you get with any and every Southwest ticket: Namely, a free carry-on and two free checked bags. The cheapest fares on American, United, and Delta are typically basic economy – fares that don't include free seat assignment, charge to cancel a ticket, have fees for checked bags, and may not even include a free carry-on bag.

When you add a filter for a checked bag and a carry-on, you see how valuable a Southwest fare really is. 


MSP to Chicago with bags


All of a sudden, United, American, and Delta slide right off the top of these search results – their fares including bags rise into the high $200s or $300s roundtrip. With Southwest, you don't have to worry about that.

Suddenly seeing Southwest prices stacked against its competitors could give some travelers sticker shock. But it could also highlight just how valuable the airline's bag-friendly fares really are. 


6. Does it Stop With Google Flights? 

It seemed unthinkable, but the door is now open. And it leaves us wondering whether the once-guarded airline will expand into other platforms. 

Could we see a day where Southwest flights are bookable through sites like Expedia or Travelocity? What about other credit card travel portals like Capital One Travel and American Express Travel? 


Southwest fares bookable with Chase
Southwest fares for sale in the Chase Travel Portal


In its statement to Thrifty Traveler, Southwest said the it was “piloting” its Google Flights partnership, leaving the door open to eventually pulling the plug if that pilot doesn't go according to plan. 

Yet later on, the airline said it was “excited to continue finding ways to expose more consumers” to its fares as well. So the door is also open to expanding into other fan-favorite online travel agencies and flight-booking sites.

But I have a suspicion that Google Flights might be it for Southwest. For one, it's the biggest (and best) search engine out there. Would Southwest want to pay another, lesser service for the same thing? 


Book with Southwest button


Crucially, Google Flights is just a marketplace for Southwest, a new way to advertise its fares. Travelers still book directly with Southwest. That's not the case with many other alternatives: When you book through Expedia, you're booking with Expedia. 

Would Southwest really want to hand off its carefully guarded brand (not to mention gobs of valuable data on customers) to a middle-man travel agency? We doubt it. 

The potential for other booking options is out there, but Google Flights clearly makes the most sense for Southwest to gain exposure to new travelers while still maintaining control.


Bottom Line

Southwest fares are now searchable through Google Flights. If you ask us, it's unequivocally great news. 

The partnership is great news for the search engine, the airline, and for consumers who now get to use Google Flights' suite of tools to search more effectively for great fares on the budget-friendly airline – even when they're not as budget-friendly as you might think.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Free Flight Alerts

Cheap international and domestic flight deal email alerts

Get Cheap Flight Alerts