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How to change or cancel a Southwest Airlines flight

Aug. 06, 2022
12 min read
Southwest Boeing 737
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Southwest is your best bet if you’re looking for an airline with the most favorable policies for canceling or changing a flight.

Simply stated, you can change or cancel any Southwest flight without fees. While other airlines might charge you well over $100 to change an already booked itinerary, that isn’t Southwest Airlines‘ model. Plus, Southwest Airlines flight credits no longer expire.

The Southwest cancellation policy and Southwest refund policy are some of the most generous you’ll find. So, if you need to change or cancel a Southwest Airlines flight, you’re in luck. Here’s what you should know.

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Canceling a Southwest flight

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Southwest makes it extremely easy to cancel a flight. The process is very similar for paid and award reservations.

Canceling a paid Southwest reservation

Southwest offers four different types of fares — Wanna Get Away, Wanna Get Away Plus, Anytime and Business Select. The exact Southwest refund policy varies across these fares.

Most passengers find themselves booking Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fares, as these are the least expensive fare types. Neither of these fares is refundable.

However, even if you need to cancel your Southwest flight, as long as you do so more than 10 minutes before the flight’s scheduled departure, you’ll receive a credit for the exact amount paid. This fare credit no longer has any expiration date, but it's only transferable to another Rapid Rewards member if you booked a Wanna Get Away Plus fare.

Additionally, if you cancel a paid reservation within 24 hours of booking the flight, you can cancel your flight for a full refund (per the Department of Transportation rules). The amount paid goes back to the credit card you used to book the flight, so you don’t have to worry about a flight credit.

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Anytime and Business Select fares are fully refundable. If you need to cancel your flight, you’ll receive the amount paid straight back to the credit card you used to book the reservation.

Related: The best Southwest Airlines credit cards

Canceling a Southwest reservation booked with points

This generous Southwest cancellation policy also applies to tickets purchased with Southwest Rapid Rewards points, regardless of the fare type booked.

You can cancel award flights without penalty and the points you redeemed will go back into the account you originally used to book the flights. Even the taxes and fees paid for the award reservation can go back to the original credit card used for the purchase.

Related: Easy ways to earn more Southwest Rapid Rewards points

How to cancel a Southwest flight

If you booked your flight directly through Southwest, you can easily cancel your flight online. Even if you booked a round-trip itinerary, you can cancel just one direction if needed.

Within your account, Southwest displays all your upcoming reservations. To cancel your flight, click the “Cancel flight” link for the respective flight.

Note that canceling the flight will cancel all passengers on the itinerary. You'll need to call Southwest for assistance if you’re looking to cancel a single passenger from a multi-person reservation.

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Whether you booked a paid fare or redeemed Southwest points for an award ticket, the process is the same. However, with a reservation booked on points, Southwest will ask you how you want the taxes and fees paid to be refunded.

You’ll want to select “Refund to method of payment” to ensure that the amount paid goes back to your credit card. Otherwise, you’ll end up with Southwest travel funds.

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Related: How to get seats together as a family on Southwest Airlines

Changing a Southwest flight

Changing a Southwest flight is also easy and follows the same no-fee structure. Changing a flight comes in handy if you’re looking to take a different flight on the same day, travel on a different date or fly to a completely different destination.

The benefit of changing a flight — versus canceling and rebooking — is that if you purchased EarlyBird Check-in, the fee paid will stay with your reservation. If you cancel a flight after paying for this add-on, you won’t receive the amount back.

Changing a paid Southwest reservation

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

While no fees are associated with changing a Southwest flight, you’ll be required to pay the price difference if your new itinerary costs more.

On the flip side, if your flight goes down in price, you’ll receive the difference back either as a travel credit (Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus fares) or as a refund to your original payment method (Anytime and Business Select fares).

There’s no fee difference if you book a Wanna Get Away Plus, Anytime or Business Select fare and you’re looking to do a same-day change. With this option, if there’s a seat available, Southwest will allow you to change your flight to another flight on the same day and the same route for no fee.

Related: How to avoid airline change and cancellation fees

Changing a Southwest reservation booked with points

Changing a Southwest flight you booked with points is one of the best situations. While the terms are the same as a paid reservation, if your new itinerary costs fewer points than your current itinerary, the difference in points goes straight back to your account.

This also works if your flight has gone down in price. By going through the “Change flight” process, you can ultimately reprice your existing fare and quickly get the difference in points back to your account.

Due to this easy-to-use Southwest change policy, there’s no reason to delay booking your flights. After all, you can periodically check to see if the award price has gone down, especially during a Southwest sale.

Related: How to reprice a Southwest flight when the fare decreases

How to change a Southwest flight

Similar to canceling a Southwest flight, you can easily change a Southwest flight through your Southwest account online. You can change just one-way or the entire round trip.

Again, note that changing your flight online will make that change for all passengers on the itinerary. You'll need to call Southwest if you need to change just one passenger’s itinerary.

To change your flight, you’ll want to click the “Change flight” link for the respective flight.

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Your original flight itinerary will populate and you can select new dates or a completely different destination. Or, if you’re looking to reprice your flight, you’ll want to keep the information as is and then click the “Explore options” button.

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When looking at the new flight options, it will show you right away how much more or less each option costs than what you’d originally paid. Southwest will show the difference in dollars or points, depending on how you paid.

Related: Can you upgrade on Southwest Airlines?

Changing or canceling a Southwest flight during a travel waiver

When it comes to weather issues or schedule changes, Southwest is incredibly helpful with allowing you to find another flight that works best — with no fare increase.

If there’s a weather advisory (i.e., snowstorm, hurricane, etc.), the airline is very forthcoming with adding potential cities to the list as early as possible. This allows you to get ahead of the game and change your flight to another date to avoid potential cancellations.

Southwest allows you to change your flight 14 days in either direction, which is a longer grace period than you’ll see with any other airline.

You can even change your departure or arrival airport as long as it’s within the same region. For example, if you’re scheduled to fly out of Boston, you may be able to change your flight to depart from Providence, Manchester or Hartford.

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Southwest is also notorious for systemwide schedule changes. You’ll typically receive a “Travel Notice” email from Southwest with your new departure and arrival time when this happens.

If the new schedule doesn’t work, you can change your reservation to another flight 14 days before or after the originally scheduled travel date. And unlike other airlines, it typically doesn’t matter how little Southwest changed your flight.

Related: Southwest baggage fees and how to avoid paying them

There is no time frame on how quickly you must change your flight, so you can take your time and figure out the flight options that work best for you.

However, if you wait too long to make the change (in my experience, more than three days from receiving an email from Southwest), you may need to call Southwest to make the change instead of being able to do so online through your Southwest account.

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Selecting a new flight is similar to the regular “Change flight” process when your flight has a travel advisory. When you go into your flight details and change your flight, you’ll see a pop-up letting you know that you can change your flight for no additional cost.

For example, for a weather advisory situation, the pop-up message looks like this:

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Once you accept this notification, you can search for a new date and time (or city pair if it falls within the allowable region).

There’s no capacity control on booking a new flight; the only stipulation is that there must be at least one seat still available for sale. You won’t see any prices either. You’ll only see if the new flight is available.

If you find a route that works for you, you can continue with confirming the new reservation. Just be aware that you are only entitled to one change.

So if you confirm a new flight and later find out that the new itinerary doesn’t work, you won’t be able to change your flight again for free. Instead, you’ll then be subject to any fare differences.

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If there’s no other flight that works for your situation and you’re looking to completely cancel your flight, the same cancellation policies apply.

The points will go back to your account if you booked with points. If it’s a paid reservation on a Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fare, you’ll end up with a travel credit under the Southwest Airlines refund policy. If you booked a paid Anytime or Business Select fare, your flight is fully refundable.

Related: What to do when an airline changes your flight

How to change or cancel a flight with the Southwest Companion Pass

If a friend or family member is flying with you via the Southwest Companion Pass and you need to change or cancel your flight, you must cancel your companion’s flight first.

When canceling your flight, the companion can no longer fly on the flight. However, if you’re changing the flight, it’s a multi-step process. You must first cancel the companion’s reservation (which is a separate reservation number), change the original passenger’s flight and then add the companion back to the reservation.

Ensure at least two seats are available on the new flight before changing. You don’t want to change your flight and then realize you can’t add your companion to your reservation.

Related: How to use the Southwest Companion Pass

Bottom line

With Southwest’s extremely flexible policies, you know that you’ll never be on the hook to pay a fee if you need to change or cancel a flight.

Of course, you might end up having to pay more for your flight if you want to change to a more expensive flight. However, if prices drop, it’s nice knowing that Southwest will allow you to easily reprice your fare within minutes.

Additionally, when you redeem Southwest points, you can even avoid ending up with a Southwest travel credit if your plans change. If you need to cancel your award, the points go back into your account and you can refund the taxes and fees to your original payment method.

As such, you can book a flight without 100% knowing your travel plans since you can cancel without any ramifications.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.