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Compared to all the other US airlines, Southwest has the best change/cancelation policy out of them all. While I know many people are anti-Southwest, their flexibility with changing and canceling flights really makes them a winner in my opinion. This flexibility has allowed me to make speculative flights and cancel at any point (even after the flight has taken off!). Changing Southwest flights is extremely easy!
The below scenarios are for Southwest’s “Wanna Getaway” fares, which I believe the majority of the people book.
Southwest has no fees for changing or canceling your flight!
For changing a flight, however, you will need to pay the fare difference if the price has increased, but other than that there are no additional fees like other airlines charge – some charge up to $150 per passenger!
Here are the four scenarios on how you will get refunded for your reservation:
- Purchasing a ticket with a credit card: If cancelled, you will receive a credit back in the full amount you paid valid for one year from when the ticket was purchased. Unfortunately, these credits are not transferable.
- Purchasing a ticket with Southwest credit or a voucher: If cancelled, you will receive a credit back in the full amount you paid, but the expiration date will stick with the original voucher expiration date. This will not extend the date. Again, these credits/vouchers are not transferable.
- Purchasing a ticket using points: If cancelled, you will receive the full amount of points used back into your account. The points will go back into the account from which they were pulled from even if they were used on another passenger. There is no fee at all!
- Purchasing a ticket using a free ticket: If cancelled, you will receive the free ticket back into your account. This will not extend the expiration date. If the ticket was used for another passenger, it will still go back into the account from where the free ticket was pulled from. There is no fee at all!
For all four scenarios, you will also receive the full amount of taxes back to your credit card. If you cancel the reservation via the phone, however, many times they will not tell you this and instead give you a credit to be used for future travel for the taxes. Make sure to request that the taxes go back to the credit card. When canceling online, you will receive the two options below “Hold for future use” and “Request a refund of the refundable balance”. The “Hold for future use” is automatically selected, so make sure to change that option.
UPDATE AS OF 5/9/17: If you change a flight, any flights that were booked as a fully refundable fare will turn non-refundable (this impacts: flights booked with points, business select fares, and anytime fares; this does not impact paid wanna getaway fares). This means if you cancel a flight that was changed, you’ll receive the money back as a travel voucher, not back to your credit card. Learn more here.
Southwest now requires that you cancel or change a ticket prior to the flight departing. This is a new-ish rule for Southwest and you must cancel/change at least 10 minutes prior to take off. If you don’t Southwest will not credit you back the amount/points if you miss your flight. I still think this is a VERY reasonable policy as changes/cancelations can still take place day of departure for no fee!
Now, since there are no fees at all, if the price of your flight goes down you are able to get a credit. Here are the two scenarios on how you will get the fare difference back:
- Paid flight: If you pay for your flight, you will receive a voucher for the difference to be used one year from the date the flight was purchased. This voucher is non-transferable. The voucher will be tied to the confirmation number of the original flight booked, so make sure to keep this number handy when used for future reservation purposes.
- Flights booked using points: If you booked your flights using points, the difference in points will go back into your account.
You can follow the exact steps to do this in this prior blog post. After selecting the exact same flight you were originally scheduled for, you’ll see the new and exchanged ticket total at the bottom of the page along with the difference.
You will then see the new ticket price listed.
Since I have a good amount of Southwest points due to the two Southwest credit cards I applied for in November 2011, I am able to book flights on a whim and not have to worry about canceling them. Sometimes if I am not 100% sure of the exact desired dates, I can book for both dates and cancel the one that doesn’t work. I also do not have to strategically decide when the best flight price will be, because if the price goes down I’ll get the points back! I must admit though, if I have Southwest flights reserved, I do check the prices every morning. For example, I booked a flight for my sister a month ago and the price has already dropped twice $40 less. This flexibility works out great for me and my booking habits for domestic travel.