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Lyn writes about how to fly nearly free on Southwest at GotoTravelGal.com. And has created a Southwest Toolkit with 5 spreadsheets to help you manage your Southwest bookings, online shopping, minimum spending, and more.
I’ve asked Lyn to walk you step-by-step through how to change or cancel a flight on Southwest.
Lyn: I love to fly Southwest for so many reasons. But the ability to change flights when you find a better deal or outright cancel if you need is tops on my list along with 2 free checked bags per person!
It makes it much less stressful to book an upcoming flight with that in mind. We often cancel and re-book when the points price for a Southwest flight decreases during a sale. And recently saved 16,000 Southwest points across my family of 4 by changing our reservations!
Southwest’s No Change Fees & Refund Policy
Southwest makes a big deal about the fact they do not charge their customers a change fee. Some airlines charge as much as $150 if you need to change or cancel your flight. Ouch! Especially when traveling with kids, it’s wonderful to have that built-in cushion of knowing you can cancel if you need to. I can’t tell you how many times my kids have gotten sick right before traveling!
If you want to completely cancel your flight, whether or not you will get a full refund depends on the type of fare you purchased. We nearly always buy Wanna Get Away fares, because they are the cheapest, and my goal is to make my Southwest points go as far as possible across my family of 4. But, Wanna Get Away fares are the only fare type that are NOT fully refundable if you paid in cash or by credit.
However, while you will NOT get cash back or a credit to your card with Wanna Get Away fares, you will receive what Southwest calls Unused Travel Funds. These funds, which include taxes and fees, can be used toward any future purchase with Southwest. But they come with an expiration date that is typically 1 year from the date issued.
If you book with Southwest points and need to cancel, no problem; your points are instantly credited to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account. But, because you had to pay the ~$6 mandatory government security fee with cash / credit, that refund will come in the form of Unused Travel Funds. You’ll want to be sure you note the confirmation number and the person’s name for each set of Unused Travel Funds so you can re-use them later. I’ll tell you more about how to redeem Unused Travel Funds in a bit.
You can change or cancel a flight up to 10 minutes prior to your departure time and receive either a full refund for refundable fares or Unused Travel Funds for Wanna Get Away fares.
How to Change or Cancel Your Southwest Flight
Step 1. Sign-In to Your Southwest Account
It’s easy to change or cancel a flight on Southwest so you can always be sure you are stretching those Southwest points as far as they will go! 🙂
To start, go to Southwest.com and click “Log In“ at the top right.
Enter your account number or username and your case-sensitive password.
Step 2. Choose “Change / Cancel Flight”
On the main screen after you log-in, scroll down to the “Change / Cancel Flight“ tab on the right-hand side of the screen.
Step 3. Enter the Confirmation Number and First and Last Name
Next, enter the confirmation number from your reservation, as well as the flyer’s first and last name.
You may have individual confirmation numbers for each person if their tickets were booked separately, or before Southwest upgraded to their new reservation system in May 2017. Or everyone could all be under the same confirmation number if booked together, or after the new reservation system came online. Any changes you make will affect ALL people on the reservation.
Step 4. Choose “Change Flight” or “Cancel Flight”
Depending on if you want to change or cancel your flight, choose the correct button on the right and then click “Search.”
How to CANCEL Your Southwest Flight
If you have a refundable Southwest fare (which includes Business Select, Senior, or Anytime fares) and want to change your flight, you will want to CANCEL the ticket first, request a refund (which you will be prompted to do online or can do by phone), and then re-book versus selecting “Change” on the home screen. Because according to Southwest, changing your refundable reservation turns a refundable fare into a non-refundable fare.
If you have a non-refundable ticket, you will NOT get a refund to your card. Instead, you’ll receive a “credit” in the form of Unused Travel Funds with Southwest should you cancel. And the Unused Travel Funds expire within 1 year of issue.
However, if there are any Unused Travel Funds from an older ticket associated with this reservation, the new reservation inherits the earliest expiration date from any of those funds.
The expiration date will be in the confirmation email you receive.
After you enter your confirmation number and name, Southwest will find your reservation. Review the information to make 100% sure this is the flight and reservation you want to cancel. You’ll also want to make note of any Unused Travel Funds that will be credited back to you and what confirmation number they are associated with.
Then select “Cancel Flight“ to finish the transaction. At that point, you will be asked if you’d like a refund credited back to your card or if you’d like a Southwest credit in the form of Unused Travel Funds. Make your selection and the process is complete.
How to CHANGE Your Southwest Flight
Before changing your flight, you’ll need to be logged-in to the same person’s Southwest account who made the reservation.
Step 1. Select the Flights You Want to Change
Review the flights included in your reservation and check the box next to the flights you want to update.
Step 2. Search for New Flights
Type in the new dates or cities you would like to search – or leave them the same if you are looking for better pricing on the same day – and choose “Select New Flights.”
Step 3. Select New Flights
Choose your new flights and then click “Continue.”
Step 4. Review Your Flights and Prices
Once you have selected your new flights, review your choices, and confirm the pricing – in points or cash. Then click “Continue“ and then “Purchase.”
How to Redeem Unused Travel Funds
You will have Unused Travel Funds if you cancel a non-refundable reservation that you paid for in cash or credit. You will get Unused Travel Funds for the ~$6 security fee per-way portion of a canceled non-refundable ticket booked with Southwest points. These are great to use in the future on tickets booked with points to cover the cost of the security fee for the same person.
To redeem Unused Travel Funds when buying flights on Southwest, you’ll see an option on the purchase page to use them. You will need to have the confirmation number of the funds and the name of the person they are associated with. You can only redeem them for that same person.
Again, they expire within 1 year of the date of issue, but you will receive an email that clearly states the expiration date.
Want More Southwest Points?
It’s also a good opportunity to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, which lets a friend or family member fly nearly free with you for up to 2 years, because you can earn all of the required 110,000 Southwest points by signing-up for just 2 cards. Download my free “Step-by-Step Guide to Earning the Southwest Companion Pass“ for complete details!
The ability to change or cancel a reservation with Southwest is a huge benefit you should take advantage of, not only in the event of an unforeseen cancellation, but to re-book a flight at a lower cash or points price.
It’s a simple process that can be completed online in just a few steps, and could potentially save you thousands of points!