Southwest’s extremely flexible change and cancelation policies


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With many travelers now looking to change their flights due to the Coronavirus, Southwest still offers one of the most flexible change and cancelation policies. These policies are not just due to the virus, but policies that are in place always — offering customers the most flexible options regardless of the reason. To cancel a southwest flight, you’ll never be hit with a fee — regardless of the fare type. Same goes for changing a southwest flight. You can also simply modify your reservation online without even having to pick up the phone.

southwest cancelation coronavirus
Book flights now and cancel Southwest flights later if you need — for no fee.

Canceling Southwest paid reservation

Southwest offers customers the options to purchase fully refundable (Business Select or Anytime) or non-refundable fares (Wanna Get Away). However, do not let the non-refundable fares fool you. You can still cancel these fares at any point, you’ll just end up with a Southwest Travel Fund credit. The Business Select and Anytime fares are much more expensive, although when you cancel those flights, the amount paid goes straight back to the credit card used. With all fares, just make sure to cancel at least 10 minutes prior to your flight.

If you are canceling a Southwest Wanna Get Away fare and end up with a Southwest Travel Fund, you have one year from the date the flight was originally purchased to use the credit. Additionally, when you go to book a new flight using the credit, any extra amount put towards the fare will also become non-refundable and will inherit the same expiration date as the original credit used.

Related: Fly free in 2020 and 2021 with the Southwest Companion Pass

For example, let’s say you book a $100 flight on March 10, 2020 for a flight on June 1, 2020. If you cancel your flight prior to travel, you’ll end up with a $100 Travel Fund credit. This credit can be used at any point for travel through March 10, 2021. If your new fare is $200 — meaning you use $100 from the Travel Fund and put $100 on your credit card — and you cancel that new flight, all $200 will end up in a Travel Fund again. The thing to note is that this new $200 Travel Fund will still have a March 10, 2021 expiration date tied to it regardless of when the new flight was booked.

Canceling Southwest point reservations

Southwest has one of the best policies when it comes to booking flights with points. All fares are 100% refundable, even the lowest Wanna Get Away fares. Regardless of the cancelation reason, you can cancel your flight at any point and receive the full amount of points back into your account.

You will not be charged a redeposit fee, like many of the airlines charge, and even the taxes and fees paid will go back to your credit card.

This means you can fully make Southwest flights without the concern that you might have to cancel.

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Book worry free flights to the Caribbean — no fees for canceling a Southwest flight

 

Changing a flight with points or cash

Southwest also allows you to change a flight for free. Yes, absolutely free — no fees charged. This is not a policy put in place due to Coronavirus, but their mainstream customer-friendly policy that you always have with Southwest.

When making a change, if the flight is less expensive, you’ll receive a difference in the fare. If you paid for the flight, the difference will be given in a Travel Fund credit or if you used points, they’ll go straight back into your account. This also means that if the flight goes down in price, you’ll receive a credit ot your points back. You can also re-price your flights as many times as you’d like between making the flight and your actual travel dates. This can be done online and typically just takes a minute or two.

One reason you’ll want to simply change your flight (even it is for a fully different flight), instead of canceling and rebooking, is if you already paid for EarlyBird check-in. With EarlyBird check-in, Southwest will not reimburse the fee paid if you cancel. However, if you simply change your flight, Early-Bird check-in will follow the same confirmation number.

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Sign into your Southwest account and change a Southwest flight to the same flight or another flight — for free.

Overall…

I love that Southwest doesn’t need to put any special waivers in place for passengers to make fully flexible reservations. Coronavirus or not, you can go ahead and make a reservation at any point without being hit with a massive fee or change or cancel. This is one reason why using points is highly recommend since you can make as many reservations as needed and never be hit with a Travel Fund credit. Although, receiving a Travel Fund credit, even if you are paying for the flight, is still better than paying a hefty fee like many of the other airlines charge.


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Elijah
Elijah
3 years ago

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!

Elijah
Elijah
3 years ago
Reply to  dealswelike

Oh yeah! We never purchase EB for my wife, who always travels on my points. I tend to agree with you that EB is not a great buy.

But I LOVE A List auto check-in. 🙂

PSL
PSL
3 years ago

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
rmh
3 years ago

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
Atoya
3 years ago
Reply to  dealswelike

Funds still go back to credit card within 24 hours of booking your flight without the modification.

rmh
rmh
3 years ago
Reply to  dealswelike

thx! love your site!

Kelly
Kelly
3 years ago
Reply to  dealswelike

Question on this: If I change a flight that was booked with points due to a decrease in fare and then the fare decreases even more, can I change it again? Or once it becomes “non-refundable” because of the first change I made, can I not change it again? Also if I were to have to cancel, my fees/taxes would become a travel voucher but how does the voucher work? Is it the exact dollar amount of my fees/taxes? And what is the expiration timeline? Lastly, if I were to have to cancel – my points would just go back… Read more »

Kelly
Kelly
3 years ago
Reply to  dealswelike

Thank you! I just changed and got over 4,000 points back! Do you know how long it takes for the points to show up in my account?

Atoya
Atoya
3 years ago

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
Ken
3 years ago

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.

Ken
Ken
3 years ago
Reply to  dealswelike

Such a crazy rule. The business traveler whos company buys a refundable ticket, decides to spend extra money out of his own pocket for business select, ruins the ticket! Its an incentive to not give Southwest more money. Makes no sense.

Daniel
Daniel
3 years ago

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

Will
Will
3 years ago

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
Hoang
3 years ago

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
Susan
3 years ago
Reply to  Hoang

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
Bill c
3 years ago
Reply to  Hoang

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
Bill c
3 years ago

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
Rox
3 years ago
Reply to  Bill c

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

JF
JF
3 years ago

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
Jeff
3 years ago

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
Mary
3 years ago

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.).

Mary
Mary
3 years ago
Reply to  dealswelike

Thanks so you can keep changing it same as always. That makes sense. On another note, I did notice when I booked a flight last week I could only use 3 forms of payment, didn’t it use to be 4? I had 2 gift cards, a travel “voucher”, and wanted to pay the rest with credit card but it wouldn’t let me. I was able to get around it by using the 2 gift cards and the voucher on another flight then change it and use that voucher combined with my credit card. Seems a little ridiculous but it worked.

Hoang
Hoang
3 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Mary,

Be careful to do the combine with other voucher since if you cancel the flight your expiration date will be the date of previous voucher. Last January, I did it with the voucher expired early May only $5.60 and the rest with GC and I need to cancel due schedule the whole amount ~$200 is expired on May. I was able to buy new ticket for $180 but I lost $20 voucher !!!

Joe
Joe
3 years ago

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
TimmyD
3 years ago

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
JF
3 years ago

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
Rox
3 years ago

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

AndrewOneTheRoad
AndrewOneTheRoad
3 years ago

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
S Prah
2 years ago

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
Margo
2 years ago
Reply to  S Prah

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
Jackie
2 years ago

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
Aimee
2 years ago

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
Kay
1 year ago

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!

dan
dan
6 months ago

so, the policy is still the same ; curious to why posted this?

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