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If you’re a frequent business traveler, you surely know the pain of having a meeting end early and needing to wait hours until your departing flight takes off. Or, maybe you’ve checked out of your hotel, but some rain is cutting short a day of sightseeing. If you’re flying on Southwest, your only option to get on an earlier flight is to re-book onto another flight.
While Southwest doesn’t charge change fees, you’d still have to pay the difference in fare — no matter your Southwest status — to take an earlier flight. Well, that’s changing today. Effective September 13, A-List and A-List Preferred Rapid Rewards members will now be able to standby on an earlier flight for free.
However, there are some significant caveats: The flight must be “within two hours of your original scheduled departure, between the same city pairs, and on the original date of travel.” This means that the new policy isn’t going to be helpful on many routes — as only high-frequency routes are likely to have another flight within two hours. But, this is good news for travelers who typically fly within Southwest hot spots.
Another restriction is that non-elites included in the same reservation won’t be able to utilize the same free same-day standby benefit. So, if you’re flying with non-elite friends or family, you’re going to have to split up in order to travel on an earlier flight.
If you want to utilize this new benefit, you’re going to have to see a Southwest agent at the airport. There’s no way of getting on the standby list online or at a Southwest kiosk.
We applaud Southwest for making this positive change to the A-List and A-List Preferred benefits. However, this isn’t a change to get overly excited about — due to the flight time restrictions and lack of applicability to travel companions. In practice, this benefit will only be useful for business or solo travelers traveling on popular routes.