In 2011, the Rapid Rewards program underwent a transition from “1.0” to “2.0”. RR 1.0 was a system in which award seats were either available or not on a flight, and you could redeem one flight credit for a free flight, and these credits expired in one year. The new “2.0” system is a system of points, where each point has a fixed monetary value. More expensive seats cost more points—it’s pretty straightforward. I will focus entirely on RR 2.0 in this section.
Partner flight redemption:
Technically, yes, but their points prices for “partner” flights are ridiculously high. Also, they are gradually integrating AirTran into their system, so that’s kind of like partner, but it will all be the same airline in the coming years.
Off-peak and special deals:
Southwest’s Companion Pass is one of the best deals in the airline industry. Louisa and I had it for all of 2012, and we got over $1,000 value out of it by traveling all over the US. Essentially, your “companion” can fly with you for $2.50 on any flight you book—even when you book with points! How do you get it? Rack up 110,000 qualifying points in one calendar year. The easiest, cheapest way is via two 50k credit card signups. Daraius from Million Mile Secrets explains it beautifully here (link).
Southwest has no off-peak awards, but they do have great fare sales all the time. This means that if the cash prices go down with a sale, so do the points prices! I’d recommend signing up for their email list to jump on sales when they happen.
Nothing special—no stopovers allowed. As for open-jaws, you can piece together any number of one-way tickets and do whatever you want.