How to re-price a Southwest flight when the fare decreases
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
No, we’re not talking about how to book your tickets. We’re talking about what to do after you book them.
Confused? Read on.
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Why Southwest's change policy is notable
Booking an airline flight is a gamble. You never know what the price might be a few days or months down the line, and it's hard to know if you're booking the lowest possible rate. Should you book now? Hold off a few days? A few months? It can be a stressful process, especially when buying tickets for an entire family.
Although most airlines dropped their hefty change fees during the pandemic, there's no guarantee those policies will last through the future; we saw this when British Airways scrapped its "Book with Confidence" policy this week. If those fees — which used to soar into the $200 range — start creeping back, it most likely won't be worth it to rebook if a fare drops in price.
However, there is one airline that will not charge you any fees when a fare decreases: Southwest. Whether you booked using points or paid cash, you can always rebook your flight and get the difference back. Some other airlines do waive their fees for those with status but on Southwest, it doesn’t matter who you are. All customers can rebook a flight to get the best price available, elite status or no elite status.
Southwest even allows you to rebook an unlimited number of times. You can rebook anytime from the initial booking up until 10 minutes before the flight’s departure. Southwest doesn't limit travelers to a 24-hour rule like most other airlines or allot passengers a one-time courtesy. Plus, all fare classes are eligible. It's a huge perk and a great option for travelers who want to reduce their overall costs, whether that be in points or dollars.
Many Southwest members — myself included — have been able to rebook upcoming flights and get the fare difference back in their pockets.
What happens when you find a lower price
If you happen to find a lower price, you’ll either receive a Travel Funds credit or your points back, depending on how you initially paid for the fare.
- If you paid for the flight: If you booked the lowest-price Wanna Get Away fares, you will receive a Travel Funds credit for the difference in the fare. You have one year from the date you initially booked the flight to use the credit (not from the date you rebooked). Travel Funds credits are nontransferable and can only be used for the same passenger. For the new Wanna Get Away Plus fares, you will receive transferable flight credits that allow you to transfer your flight credit to someone else. Note that you must both be Rapid Rewards members and only one transfer is permitted. The expiration date is 12 months from the date the ticket was booked. For more expensive Business Select and Away fares, you'll receive a cash refund instead of credits.
- If you used points for the flight: The difference in points will automatically go back into the account from which those points were deducted.
Steps to rebook your Southwest flight
Whether your flight was booked on points or a revenue ticket, the process to rebook (and thus re-price) is extremely easy.
First, sign in to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account. On the “My Account” page, you’ll see all of your upcoming flights. Click on “Change flight.”
Then, select your flight. Your original departure and arrival airports as well as the date will auto-populate. Change these if you want and then click “Explore options.”
You’ll see the amount the particular flight has increased or decreased in points or price. If your original flight has decreased (noted by a minus sign), select the fare.
Then, click “Review changes.”
You will see the credit you are receiving at the bottom of the page. If you want to continue, click "Review Passenger and pricing."
On the next page, the passenger information will already be populated, and you’ll just need to confirm your changes. After confirming your change, you should receive an email within a few minutes. You’ll notice your flight confirmation number has stayed the same. If you used points, the difference will be credited back to your account immediately. If it was a paid reservation on a nonrefundable fare, you now have Travel Funds available.
When you go to book a future flight, select the “Apply Flight Credits, LUV Vouchers, and gift cards” link in the payment method section to redeem those Travel Funds. You’ll see a new section open up. Select the “Flight Credit” tab and enter the original confirmation number that the funds are tied to, as well as the passenger’s first and last name.
Note: If you are paying for just a portion of your flight with Travel Funds, any additional funds added will inherit the earliest Travel Funds expiration date. This is important to know in case you end up canceling your flight.
Re-pricing a flight is an extremely easy process and, once you get the hang of it, it shouldn’t take more than a minute or so to complete. This is also the same process as changing a flight to a different date, time or completely different route.
How does rebooking a flight work with the Southwest Companion Pass?
If a flight goes down in price and requires you to rebook, there are a few extra steps to follow if you have already added a Companion Pass to your reservation.
The Companion Pass allows you to bring a designated friend or family member for (almost) free on any Southwest flight you take. You’ll just need to pay the taxes and fees like you would on an award ticket. This is especially valuable because it applies to both paid and award tickets; it allows you to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points for yourself and then bring your companion without using any extra points.
Before you can change your flight, you’ll need to cancel your Companion Pass reservation. However, since you only paid taxes and fees on the companion’s ticket, make sure to request the amount paid back to your original form of payment. This will credit the card you used, so you are not left with a travel voucher. (If you used a gift card originally, the amount paid will result in a voucher and will not be credited back to the original gift card.)
Once you rebook your flight with the lower price, you need to add your companion’s reservation back onto your original reservation. Do not forget this step as you don’t want to be left without a seat for your companion if the flight sells out.
What happens if I paid for EarlyBird Check-In?
If you’ve already paid for EarlyBird Check-In, rebooking your flight will not cancel this add-on option. As long as the confirmation number stays the same, you are 100% in the clear.
The real issue is when you cancel a reservation and then rebook. For the most part, this is primarily an issue when you rebook a reservation booked with a Companion Pass. Since this reservation is canceled and you received a new confirmation number, your EarlyBird Check-In is wiped away. The $15 to $25 you paid initially for this passenger is nonrefundable, and it will not be credited back to your account. You’ll be on the hook again for the fee if you want to continue to include this option.
If you are a family who wants to purchase EarlyBird Check-In, I suggest you hold off on paying for the EarlyBird Check-In add-on for the Companion Pass until you're pretty confident that fares will not go lower. (Keep in mind, though, that your boarding position with EarlyBird Check-In is based on a few factors, including how early you add it to your reservation.)
My No. 1 tip for all Southwest travelers is to check all upcoming Southwest flight prices as part of your morning routine. Southwest flight prices change quite often, and there is no reason you shouldn't get the best price available. The process is extremely simple, and it could ultimately save you hundreds of dollars (or the equivalent amount in points) with hardly any extra effort.
Additional reporting by Melissa Klurman.