DO NOT Change a Southwest Flight


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With the implementation of Southwest new reservation, there is one major thing to know – ALL RESERVATIONS THAT ARE CHANGED WILL BECOME NON-REFUNDABLE IF YOU CANCEL. That is a huge change from how the previous system worked. Now, you might now be unexpectedly hit with a travel voucher if you cancel a flight that was originally fully refundable. UPDATE: This is no longer the case. For all reservations booked October 10, 2018 or later, changing a flight will continue to keep your fare refundable. 

Fully refundable flights include…

  • Flights booked with points
  • Business Select fares
  • Anytime fares

With those three types of fares, if you book with a credit card and need to cancel, everything will be fully refunded to the credit card (or points) on file. Even the taxes paid if it is a points reservation.

Card Benefits

Now, if at any point you change your flight due to any reason, your reservation will turn to a non-refundable fare. That means, if you need to cancel your flight, the funds will go to a travel voucher. In the past it would always go back to the the credit card on file. That is for fully refundable fare types. For point reservations, all flights were treated as fully refundable. With this new change, the points will go back to your account, but the taxes paid will go to a travel voucher. This is the exact same policy that always held true for international reservations, but is now the case for all reservations.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 4.33.33 PM
Southwest now gives you this warning when you go to change a flight.

In the past, if you faced the above scenario for an international flight, you’d be able to call Southwest Customer Relations. They would manually credit the amount paid to your credit card instead of a travel voucher. From some of the reports I’ve read and after speaking to Southwest’s Media team directly, they will no longer do this. Although there could always be those one off good-will gestures for some customers.

Cancel and Rebook… Do Not Change!

Despite the changes, there is still a way to keep your fare fully refundable. All you have to do is cancel your reservation and re-book. This will keep your reservation as a fully refundable fare incase you need to cancel. This will take a few extra minutes of your time, but is absolutely worth it in my opinion.

There is only one downside to canceling and rebooking. If you paid for EarlyBird check-in, the $15 paid will be loss. There is no way to get that fee paid, unfortunately. Southwest will also not apply it to a new reservation. If you were to change your flight (instead of canceling), the EarlyBird check-in follows the reservation since the reservation number doesn’t change. If you cancel and then re-book, you’ll have to re-buy the EarlyBird check-in option. I always recommend waiting a little to adding EarlyBird check-in to your reservation to ensure you will not be canceling the flight, although the earlier you add it onto your reservation, the better number you’ll receive.

I personally am not a huge fan of EarlyBird check-in and would never pay for it. It is expensive and I would prefer to use that money elsewhere. But, if you typically purchase this additional service, keep this in mind.

Overall…

While this adds an additional annoyance to folks, as long as you are aware of how the system works, you should never be blindsided with a travel voucher. You should always be able to get your money back. I still appreciate that Southwest still allows these fully refundable fares and does not charge any change fees. Even for the Wanna Get Away fares (which are the only non-refundable fares), you can still cancel and not pay any change fees.

If you do get stuck with a travel voucher because you were not aware of the new rules, I highly suggest calling Southwest Customer Relations (not their reservations line) and see if they’ll do anything for you.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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Elijah
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Elijah

Regarding the part about Early Bird…this is only applicable if you are buying an Anytime fare since WGA are non-refundable anyway. If you are buying Anytime and adding Early Bird, you are not maximizing your purchase. Anytime + EB is often extremely close to the Business Select price. Book BS, don’t stress about the check in, and get way more points!

PSL
Guest
PSL

Disappointed about this policy change although, since I usually pay with points, it will not affect me much. As for the value of Early Bird check-in, I have found it extremely worthwhile on longer flights because I have often been lucky enough to get an exit row seat, or, as I like to call it “Southwest First Class.”

rmh
Guest
rmh

so, if you book with points now, the ONLY change is that all of your taxes and fees will NOT have the option of going back to your cc? they will ONLY become a travel voucher?

is that correct?

great post!

Atoya
Guest
Atoya

Everything you said is correct, but the only thing to point out is that Southwest Customer Service is Reservations but I know you meant Customer Relations.

Ken
Guest
Ken

Note also if you buy a Anytime Fare and pay the few extra dollars to upgrade it to Business Select later, this will count as a change and make the fare non refundable.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

I’ve never been able to get a fully refunded flight, it has always turned into a credit line.

Will
Guest
Will

If you have purchased earlybird, then changing is the only way not to lose it. This is not a very well thought out article.

Hoang
Guest
Hoang

When you find the fare is lower than your reservation, you can’t not “change” to get the new lower fare, you have to cancel then book the new one. However, you may take a risk if suddenly the new price is higher. I just wonder you just go ahead book the new one before cancel the old one but then computer may cancel your reservation due to double booking. The best way may be opening 2 windows and hit the button for cancel just before you are already fill out most information for new reservation. What do you think?

Susan
Guest
Susan

Since the Wanna Get away fare is already non refundable you can just change it and not cancel and rebook. That way you don’t take the chance of losung your current fare.

Bill c
Guest
Bill c

You will be fine to momentarily have two reservations but don’t leave them both active for too long. Southwest will randomly cancel one of them but it isn’t something that happens immediately.

Bill c
Guest
Bill c

Note that if you are making a change because of a fare reduction it would be best if it was originally booked as two one way tickets because it is likely that while one leg may have decreased in price the other may have increased. If you cancel a round trip to rebook one leg you will have to rebook both legs at the current fares.

Rox
Guest
Rox

Good Point Bill. Thanks for reminding to book two one-way fares

JF
Guest
JF

I called SWA about a month or 2 ago when I started seeing this “pop-up” about making the flight non-refundable and was told that this did not apply to points reservations. This just makes me want to remind everybody that you should ONLY reserve 1 ways. Has anybody called and asked what the time frame one has before the computer cancels both reservations?

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

This is still better then any other airline out there. If I have to rebook on the other airlines I get hit with a fee of $175 or more,

Mary
Guest
Mary

Would love to see this spelled out a little more clearly for those of that book with points and pay early bird. So it’s non longer possible to change those flights AND keep the early bird? I will hesitate to pay for that up until the last minute but I have always paid for it to relieve stress on flights that are full of kids and would have huge family boarding #s (looking at you Orlando.).

Joe
Guest
Joe

I have several award flights booked with points + $5.60 taxes. I just went to try to cancel them and now I only get the “nonrefundable” option for taxes (credit voucher good for 1 year) — even though these were paid with a credit card and never changed. Has anyone tried getting these refunded to credit card?

TimmyD
Guest
TimmyD

I wonder if two things I do a lot count as changes – add a companion and add a lap child. The worst part about the credits is that Southwest can’t tell you about all the credits you have. If you constantly change which card you use for them, you end up losing out. Obvious solution to that in retrospect.

JF
Guest
JF

Today I’m getting some weird stuff from Southwest.com. I was in the middle of refaring my reservations and I noticed one of them had gone down from 8050 to 7848. With the new changes I went to “buy” a new reservation so I can just cancel the old one and get the taxes and points refunded. When I’m trying to buy the new reservation the points are at 11,952 for the same flight. So is SWA now tracking your browser? I have used different computers and have come up with the same issue. Anybody experience this lately?

Rox
Guest
Rox

When canceling award tickets, how is the tax/fee refunded when it is paid with southwest gift card + Credit card?

AndrewOneTheRoad
Guest
AndrewOneTheRoad

I agree with you in general about paying for Early Bird not being worth it except for cases where I will be predisposed and unavailable when check-in opens 24-hours before the flight.

This would most likely be a case where I would be using Southwest to get home from an international arrival city and thus I might be on a long-haul international flight when online check-in opens or in a country where Southwest blocks access to it’s website. In that instance Early Bird was a big help getting home from our Singapore Suites flight to JFK.

S Prah
Guest
S Prah

I am a longtime southwest RR / Companion fare flyer. The last 4 times I have tried to cancel a flight reservation, I have repeatedly received an error message and had to call Southwest to cancel. Has anyone else encountered this issue and have you been able to have it resolved without using the call center?
Also, since they have outsourced their call center, the service has gone from helpful to borderline antagonistic …

Margo
Guest
Margo

I too have been unable to cancel my points reservation without a phone call . The representative seems not to know of any issues/complaints . This has happened several times over the last few weeks.It is as if Southwest is trying to make it more challenging to adjust for price reductions.

Jackie
Guest
Jackie

I booked 3 round way Wanna Get Away tickets in July to get on a cruise in FL. Now the cruise line says we “may” not disembark early enough to catch our return flight. How do I go about changing the return flight home without penalties or fees? And can I just get a later flight the same day? I am not concerned about points, just a flight home.

Aimee
Guest
Aimee

I booked a wanna get away online and then had to add my lap baby. We decided to change to wanna get away flight back to another day but could only get an anytime flight. Then we decided to just change back to the wanna get away flight and I had to call to both change the flight to the anytime and then back to the wanna get away because of addition of the lap baby. No where when I called did they say that I couldn’t change the anytime flight without getting a refund. I understand I wouldn’t get… Read more »

Kay
Guest
Kay

Just read your post about cancelling and change a Southwest ticket. So in the case where I book my southwest tickets with US bank RTR with flex points, if I need to cancel will I get all points back? Thanks!

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