Second to none: Here’s what makes Southwest’s generous change policies so good
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Positives in the travel industry are hard to come by in recent months — so we’ll take a win when we can.
One positive change is the removal of change and cancellation fees with most airlines. With shifting coronavirus case counts and ever-changing U.S. state and country restrictions, flexibility in travel is more important now than ever before.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
That’s why it’s remarkable to remember that one airline — Southwest — has never charged a fee to change or cancel any ticket it sells, so long as you make your change no later than 10 minutes before departure.
Change and cancellation fees (pre-COVID)
One of the more egregious fees airlines have added — and even increased — over the last decade is the change and cancellation fee. That’s the penalty airlines like to charge for altering a ticket after buying it, even if the change is being made months in advance of the flight.
It’s not unusual for these fees to reach hundreds of dollars just to change a flight by a day or two, and that cost doesn’t even include any actual increase in the airfare itself. However, almost industrywide, the change fee has been eliminated — at least in the short term.
The Southwest change and cancellation policy
Earlier this summer, Southwest went so far as waiving any difference in airfare when changing flights — but that is no longer the case.
However, if the price of a new ticket is less than the old one, you’ll get credit for that. Any extra money left over from a lower airfare will become a travel credit if you purchased one of Southwest’s cheaper Wanna Get Away fares, or you can get the money back if you’re traveling on a higher-priced ticket.
Southwest’s already-flexible policy is even more generous during the pandemic. For already-booked trips, Southwest has extended the validity for any existing travel credits that were originally set to expire between March 1 and Sept. 7, 2020 to Sept. 7, 2022. Any new credits issued between March 1 and Sept, 7, 2020 will remain valid through Sept. 7, 2022.
This generous policy also applies to tickets purchased with Southwest Rapid Rewards points, so any award flight can be canceled at any time without penalty. And if you’ve purchased either a cash or points ticket ahead of time and find your flight later decreases in price, you can trade in your ticket for the lower-cost one and get the difference returned to you.
Finally, Southwest recently announced the ability to convert travel vouchers into Rapid Rewards points. However, as TPG’s Zach Griff noted, the value in this conversion may not make sense for everyone.
Southwest is very proud of its “no change fee” policy, and it should be. It’s very customer friendly and just one reason you should strongly consider Southwest when making travel plans.
Additional reporting by Julian Kheel.
Featured photo by John Gress Media Inc/Shutterstock.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 2X points on Southwest purchases and 1X point on all other purchases. This card also comes with an annual $75 Southwest travel credit.
- Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.
- 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary each year.
- $75 Southwest® travel credit each year.
- 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
- 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi.
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases.
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees.