Southwest Airlines has the most lenient policy of all U.S. airlines when it comes to making changes or canceling tickets. This has never been more important than right now when travelers are looking at their plans and wondering if trips they planned, either for work or for fun, will actually happen.
It’s a straightforward process to make changes or cancel flights on Southwest’s website. While Southwest’s policy is customer-friendly, there are still things that trip people up.
We’ll walk you through both processes and let you know the details which tend to confuse people the most.
Changing a Southwest flight
Southwest doesn’t charge any change fees. That sounds great, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to just switch from the flight you’re on, to another flight, for free. You’ll get credit for the amount of money (or points) you spend on your current ticket and will have to pay the difference for the ticket you’re changing to. If you’re making a last-minute change, a new Anytime ticket will cost significantly more than the Wanna Get Away fare you booked three months ago.
The advantage of this policy is that if a Southwest flight goes down in price, you’re able to rebook and get credit (not a refund) for the difference. If you paid with points, the difference is redeposited in your account.
The process starts at the Southwest website. Here’s a flight I had planned from New Orleans to Orlando that I needed to change or cancel.
I looked to see about changing the flight.
I selected the flight I wanted to change. I picked a different date with the same city pairs. This is a flight I booked with Southwest points I earned when I signed up for the Southwest Priority credit card.
Southwest shows the difference (per person) between the points I spent on the original flights and the choices I have.
I picked flights that would be 363 points less expensive per person.
If I made this change, I’d get back 726 points.
One important thing to know is that if you’ve paid for Early Bird seating, you’ll lose that money if you change your flights online. To keep Early Bird on your new flights, you’ll need to call Southwest to make changes.
What if you need to cancel your flight?
Canceling a Southwest flight
You’ll start at the same place as making flight changes, but this time you’ll click on Cancel flight.
Because the reservation was for both of us, a pop-up box warned me that I could only cancel all passengers on the reservation online. If I wanted to only cancel one person from the booking, I’d have to call.
The next page is the confirmation screen.
Since I booked with points, I’d get them refunded to my account. I had to choose how to get the $11.20 in taxes back. I could get them added to a travel bank or as a refund. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t take the refund.
If you paid with your ticket, there are certain things to know when canceling a flight.
- The credit is issued through the Confirmation number on the original reservation. It’s up to you to remember that you have the credit, and I’ve seen nowhere online where you can look it up.
- The credit can only be used for the same passenger as the original ticket. You can’t cancel your ticket and then use the credit for your spouse.
- The credit will expire one year after the PURCHASE DATE of the original ticket. Not the date of the flight, but the day you bought the ticket.
- You need to complete your flight by the expiration date of the credit.
You’ll also lose any extras you paid for, such as Early Bird, but losing $20 is much better than other airlines that charge from $75-$200 to change or cancel a ticket.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary