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Southwest Airlines is known for having one of the most generous change and cancellation policies out of any US airline. You can often make changes for no fees and even make cancellations with no penalty depending on the type of fare that you purchase. However, there are some rules and restrictions that you should know about so that you don’t end up making costly mistakes.
In this article, I will discuss the Southwest Airlines change and cancellation policies for the different types of fares including Wanna Get Away fares, Business Select, and Anytime fares. I will then show you step-by-step how to make a change to your Southwest flights and how to cancel your flights.
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Southwest Airlines flight change policy
Southwest Airlines is one of the only airlines that allows you to change your ticket without paying a fee. This is very significant because those change fees can be quite expensive with the other legacy airlines such as United, Delta, and American Airlines. For example, Delta change fees for non-refundable tickets start at $200!
With Southwest you never have to worry about going into your wallet to make a change to your reservation but you should still be aware of a few things related to the change policy.
The deadline for making changes is 1 hour prior to departure. If you miss that deadline you’ll need to cancel your flight which you can do up to 10 minutes prior to departure.
If you make a change in your booking and there is a difference in the fare price, you will be responsible for paying the difference if the price is higher. However, if the price is lower you will be reimbursed depending on the type of fare that you purchased.
For example, if you purchased a ticket for $200 and your new fare comes out to $250, you will be responsible for paying the $50 difference.
But let’s say you’ve purchased a ticket for $200 and your new fare comes out to $150. If you purchased a refundable fare like a Business Select ticket for an Anytime ticket, then you will be eligible to receive a $50 refund. However if you purchased a Wanna Get Away fare then you will be issued $50 in travel funds.
Southwest travel funds will expire one year from being issued and you will have to take that flight within that one year time period (not just make your booking).
Customers calling Southwest to request a refund or to research travel funds for a specific ticket must provide their confirmation number, ticket number or flight information (date, origin and destination). You can search for your Southwest travel funds here.
Southwest Airlines cancellation policies
The Southwest Airlines cancellation policies depend on what type of fare that you originally booked.
Here are the different type of Southwest fares that you can book:
- Business Select
- Senior fares
- Wanna Get Away
Tip: If you’re looking to cut down on your airline expenses, consider getting a card like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. It offers an early spend bonus worth $500 in travel after meeting the minimum spend and is great to cancel out all sorts of travel expenses like Uber.
Business Select fares are the most expensive type of fare Southwest Airlines offers. These fares are fully refundable but they also come with additional perks.
These perks include:
- Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding
- Fly By lane access
- Free premium drink
- 12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent
You can read more about these Business Select perks here.
If you fail to cancel your Business Select fare prior to 10 minutes to take off then your funds will be converted into Southwest travel funds. The terms and conditions state:
All remaining unused Business Select, Anytime, and Senior funds will be converted to reusable travel funds for the originally ticketed Passenger only. If you no show your reward travel reservation, the points will be redeposited to the purchaser’s Rapid Rewards account.
Any taxes and fees associated with your reward travel reservation will be held for future use in the form of reusable travel funds under the name of the traveler(s).
Anytime fares are also fully refundable. They also have the same no-show policy. So if you failed to cancel 10 minutes prior to take off then your funds will also be converted into travel funds.
Thus, if you are booking a Business Select or Anytime fare you need to cancel at least 10 minutes prior to departure to receive a full refund.
Wanna Get Away
Wanna Get Away fares are not refundable. However, if you cancel them you can get a credit applied toward future travel on Southwest Airlines for the originally ticketed passenger only. This means that you can’t cancel and then do a name change and expect to use those travel funds for the new passengers.
You also need to make sure that you cancel your ticket at least 10 minutes prior to departure. If you fail to do this then you will lose ALL of your funds.
The terms and conditions state:
Customers who fail to cancel reservations for a Wanna Get Away fare segment at least ten (10) minutes prior to travel and who do not board the flight will be considered a no show, and all remaining unused Wanna Get Away funds will be forfeited
However, if you made a points booking and you failed to cancel, then the points will be redeposited to the purchaser’s Rapid Rewards account.
24 hour exception
If you call or cancel online at Southwest.com within 24 hours of booking, Southwest will offer you the option of refunding the airfare back to the original form of payment, or retaining the credit to be used toward future travel.
This actually a requirement from the Department of Transportation’s consumer rule “Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections” (14 CFR 259.5(b)(4), which requires carriers to hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty.
Southwest Earlybird is a great way for some people to secure a better seat by allowing them to automatically check-in for their flight. However, Southwest Early bird is a non-refundable purchase so you will lose this if you cancel a flight and you will not be reimbursed. This is regardless of the type of fare that you purchased.
To find out more about Southwest Earlybird you can click here.
How to change a Southwest flight
Log in to your account and then go the main Southwest Airlines homepage and then click on cancel/change flight.
At that link, you’ll need to input your flight details, including your name and confirmation number. You will then select “Change Flight” or “Cancel Flight.” In this case, simply select change.
You will then need to select your flight and then input the details for the desired change and hit “Select new flights.”
You will notice there is no field for entering a name change as it’s not possible to change the name of a ticket. An exception would be if you were recently married and you’d need to contact Southwest using one of the phone numbers below in that case (you will likely need to fax in documents like your old and new IDs and marriage license).
You’ll then see the standard schedule and prices for the flights but with a twist. You’ll see the difference in price. In this case, the prices shown for the Wanna Get Away fare were lower and I selected a fare that was lower than the original amount that I booked. This meant that I would receive a refund of 653 points.
I then selected that flight and walked through the normal booking process. I was eventually shown that I would be receiving a credit for 653 points and would owe $0 in taxes and fees since I had already paid the $5.60 in fees.
After verifying the passenger details, I was able to confirm the change to the booking and I received a new confirmation number.
How to cancel a Southwest flight
Log in and go to the main Southwest Airlines homepage and then click on cancel/change flight.
At that link, you’ll need to input your flight details, including your name and confirmation number. You will then select “Change Flight” or “Cancel Flight.” In this case, simply select cancel.
You will then see the cancelation and refund details for your specific flight. Since I used Rapid Rewards for this booking, I was able to see that a refund would be issued into my Rapid Rewards account and I was able to select the type of refund that I wanted for the $5.60 in taxes and fees that I had paid.
You can choose to have those taxes and fees applied toward a future travel fund or you can request a refund. In this case, I simply requested a refund. After hitting the cancel button, my flight was immediately canceled and I received an email confirming the same.
You can also cancel your reservation via phone or via the mail. If there’s any issue related to weather that might call for a cancellation, you should give Southwest a call via phone.
- Reservations Department: 1-800-435-9792
- Southwest Airlines Customer Relations: 1-855-234-4654
P.O. Box 36649
Dallas, Texas 75235-1649
Changes to the Southwest change policy
Earlier in 2018, Southwest made a pretty uncharacteristically negative change to their change policy. Southwest airlines introduced a new policy where if you changed a refundable airfare ticket, that ticket would essentially be changed to a nonrefundable airfare.
This brought about a huge negative reaction against Southwest and eventually Southwest Airlines changed their policy. So now, when you change a refundable tickets ticket will remain refundable so long as you made your purchase after October 10, 2018.
Their terms and conditions now state:
For Business Select, Anytime, or Senior fares purchased on or after October 10, 2018, the reservation may be modified without needing to cancel and rebook to maintain refundability. This refundability improvement does not apply to Business Select, Anytime, or Senior Tickets purchased before this change went into effect on October 10, 2018. If a modification is needed for Business Select, Anytime or Senior Tickets purchased before October 10, 2018, the Ticket must be canceled, refunded, and rebooked.
If you need to change a previously booked itinerary that includes a Southwest-operated international flight, you would follow the same process as you would for a domestic flight and only the difference in fare would apply (there are still no change fees).
If changes are made between fare classes, there are few exceptions to note. For example, if you originally booked a refundable Anytime fare and are changing to a Business Select fare, the original dollar amount paid for the Anytime fare will be converted to reusable travel funds and the difference in fare will be refundable if any additional changes or cancellations are made in the future.
Additional Southwest Airlines tips
If you enjoy flying Southwest Airlines, then you should check out my 24 tips on flying Southwest. In that article, I talk about things like how to find the best seats on a Southwest plane and how to know when to use your Rapid Rewards.
You might also want to look into the Southwest Companion Pass. The Southwest Companion Pass is a pass that allows a companion to fly for free with you on Southwest flights for up to two calendar years — it’s generally considered one of the most valuable travel perks available. You can find out more about it here.
Southwest Airlines has one of the best policies for changing and canceling your flights. As long as you remember to make your changes one hour prior to departure and cancellations 10 minutes prior to take off, there should be no issues with you ever unexpectedly losing out on points or cash.
You should also make sure that you are aware of the differences between the fares so that you know which type of tickets are refundable and which type of tickets are nonrefundable.
UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses 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.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.