Just a few hours ago, Trump ordered that all US airlines have to ground all Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircrafts and is no longer up to the discretion of the airline. As of right now, there is no saying how long this “grounding” will be, but it could go on for weeks or months.
Just yesterday, Southwest stated that passengers flying on an itinerary that included a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft could change their flight if it departing through March 18th. Now, you’ll actually be able to make the changes for flights departing through March 31st. Even if the aircraft is put back in the air, it will allow you to make a decision that you are most comfortable with. With that being said, I do see that most (although not all) flights with a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are not available for new reservations, so my assumption is if you have a flight in April or May that is affected, you’ll probably be able to change your itinerary within the next few weeks, once they figure out what is going on (if there is in fact an issue with the aircraft).
Checking Your Aircraft Type
If you want to know which aircraft your scheduled flight will be flying, you can do this by making a mock booking for your exact same flight on Southwest.com. Click on the flight number and a pop up window will appear with flight info. Down at the bottom it will show you the “aircraft type”. If it states “Boeing 737MAX8” that is in fact the aircraft that is being questioned. Keep in mind that there are a few different 737 aircrafts, so if they do not say “MAX8” you are in the clear. Also, if you notice that the flight is completely sold out (from all three fare buckets) this is also a good indictor.
Changing Your Reservation
Southwest is making it incredibly simple to change your reservation online. In your account, find your reservation and click on “Change Itinerary”. If your flight is in fact flying the Boeing 737 MAX 8, you’ll see a notice at the top of your reservation letting you know that you can change your trip at no extra cost. This will allow you to pick any itinerary you want, even if your new flight is more expensive. The only requirement is that your destination and arrival airports must stay within the same city pairs. For example, if your original flight is out of BWI, you can instead pick Washington DC or Dulles as your departure city, again at no extra cost.
Once you “Accept & Continue” the notice, you’ll then be able to select your desired flight. You’ll see that you will not pay any extra fare price, but the airline does have to be selling seats in your fare bucket. This means if you purchased a “Wanna Getaway” fare but your new desired itinerary doesn’t have any seats left for sale in that fare bucket, you will not be able to change your itinerary to that flight. You can pick a new flight within 14 days (before or after) your currently scheduled flight.
For those who are familiar with changing a Southwest flight when there is a weather issue, it works the exact same way.
I am not going to give my opinion on whether or not Trump should be banning on flights. I am definitely not an aviation expert, but I guess it is one of those “better safe than sorry” situations. I am happy, however, that Southwest is giving passengers up to 14 days grace period, when many other airlines aren’t as generous.