With Southwest Airlines, Changing Flights Is Easy and Free

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With the exception of business travel, everytime I’ve stepped on an airplane the last five years it’s been onto one operated by Southwest Airlines (I’d say it’s at least 20 flights). I fly Southwest because they have the cheapest airline tickets, the easiest frequent flyer program, a major hub twenty minutes from my current house and another one twenty minutes from my childhood house, and is brave enough to put themselves on television. (That last one isn’t a reason to fly but that transparency is unparalleled) Yesterday, I had another reason I could throw on that list – switching your flight on Southwest Airlines is both easy and free. There is no flight change fee and you can do it entirely online. At other airlines, there is typically a $50 change fee on top of the difference in fare, which will usually be a full rate fare because “that’s how it is.” Often, an online e-ticket can’t even be changed at all. The flight change process with Southwest Airlines is entirely online too!

  • First, you must have your confirmation number and the name on the credit card used to initially purchase the flight.
  • Then, click on TRAVEL CENTER in the top navigation menu.
  • Under the Travel Tools column, click on Change Air Reservation.
  • Enter in your confirmation number and name on the card.
  • You’ll be presented with the legs of your flight, check the boxes for the ones you want to replace.
  • When you enter that in, the next page will look similar to the regular Reservations window. Just progress as usual. You won’t have to put in any personal information at this point because they already know it.
  • When you reach the summary page, you’ll notice that it’s similar to the regular Summary page except that the new price will be offset by the price of your existing tickets. For me, the price was the same so the final cost was $0.00.
  • Once you submit, you’ll be sent a new email with the details of your trip.

Notice there was no change flight fee, no heartburn, and it was all online. Every other airline should be as easy to deal with as Southwest Airlines.

{ 51 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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51 Responses to “With Southwest Airlines, Changing Flights Is Easy and Free”

  1. CK says:

    One small problem I have with Southwest is their standby policy. Unless you have a “full fare” ticket you cannot fly standby unless you pay the difference between your fare and a full fare. So say you’re booked on a flight at 1pm but there is a flight leaving at 11am with empty seats you’d like to hop on they won’t let you switch unless you pay the difference. The say it’s to keep people from gaming the system (buying cheaper flights then jumping on a more expensive one) but I find it mostly angers people.

  2. Chuck says:

    The only thing I sometimes hate about Southwest is having to remember to check in online 24 hours before the flight so I don’t get the dreaded “C” boarding pass. Then also having to play the “don’t make eye contact with people so they won’t ask to sit next to you” game as well once you are aboard.

  3. jim says:

    Chuck, You can easily avoid all that by paying more for a ticket on with another airline. 🙂

    CK – I do agree that policy is stupid because while it prevents someone from gaming the system, it also leaves empty seats on a plane when they can be filled. Letting someone game the system and getting a cheaper flight is better than compensating someone when their flight is overbooked.

    • frequentflyer says:

      Exactly. This happened a few weeks ago. I was booked on a one-stop flight. I asked an SWA rep about an earlier non-stop flight and was
      told I would have to pay the difference for an anytime fare.
      I declined. At the BWI stop, SWA was looking for volunteers.
      So, you’re right: Apparently SWA’s computer system does not handle
      these situations and they end up compensating someone for being
      bumped on the second leg and flying with an empty seat on the first leg.

  4. Matt says:

    The one thing I don’t like about Southwest is a fairly recent change. It used to be that online checkin for flights started at one minute past midnight, regardless of the flight time. This meant that I could just check in from work, reliably get an “A” group assignment, and then not worry about anything else. But now, with the checkin being a rolling 24-hour period, I have to make sure I’m awake at the same hour as my flight the day before it…and since Southwest flights tend to be in the daytime, this is a significant hassle for me.

    But there’s also now at least one company that promises to do your online check-in for you, and guarantees a spot in the “A” group. I’ll probably use them the next time I fly.

  5. Harry says:

    The free switching policy also creates opportunities for rebooking at a lower fare if there is a fare sale after you booked the original flight. You get to keep the difference as credit and you can use the credit on another flight in 12 months.

  6. BJ says:

    those of you complaining about southwest’s boarding techniques are whiners. The flight is not the main event for you, I hope. The worst part about southwest and every other airline out there is that there is no equal opportunity for wheelchair users to board the plane. If you are paralyzed, you cannot walk, but you have to risk your health transferring into a tiny, dolly-like contraption and being wheeled into the plane like cargo. Its atrocious. Wheelchair users can get on most buses, trains, and other transportation methods. But airlines apparently do not have to follow any ADA guidelines.
    I think you folks complaining about the little irritations of flying should be a little more thankful for your ability to hop on and off a plane with ease and save the moaning for something that is actually really a problem.

  7. Meg Ford says:

    I even got a “credit” back from Southwest after changing flights because the new flight I was taking was cheaper. I can’t think of any other airline that does that!

  8. Pam says:

    Why I fly SWA:

    1. They are typically cheaper than any other airline
    2. They have the best safety record of any airline in the US, and only one airline in the entire world matches them. They have never lost a passenger.
    3. (Newly relevant) They don’t charge for bags. On a recent flight my husband and I took, we had a choice of SWA or another airline. The ticket prices were identical, but… the other airline was going to charge us $20 for the first checked bag, $30 for the second, each way. With 2 checked bags, that’s $80 additional fees, on top of the airfare. We ended up with 3 checked bags, that would have cost us $120 on the ‘other’ airline’, it cost us nothing on SWA.
    The boarding — yeah, it’s not too great, but I’m not flying to fly, I’m flying to get where I’m going, safely, and for as little money as I possibly can.
    If you want an early boarding, check in online as soon as possible, and be at the airport at least two hours ahead of time. This will help you get on the plane ahead of most others.
    Regarding the ‘don’t look em in the eye’ thing, well let’s face it, you’re going to have someone sit next to you. Go to the bathroom before getting on the plane, take the window set, and bring an iPod. Problem solved.

  9. Ben Bennett says:

    I fly SWA whenever I can because they normally have better fares, they have no charge for the first bag and their customer service agents and flight attendants are friendly and courteous. Keep up the good work!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Changing flights is NOT EASY AND FREE for other airlines, especially FUCKING UNITED AIRLINES. I need change to my return flight for UNITEDS becuase my grandmother’s funeral got moved to the day that I was returning. I only purchased the ticket very recently. I only passed the 24 hour limit by a few hours when I found out about the change in time. It’s my grandmother’s funeral,so I can’t miss it. I call and ask to request a change and they told me that i have to pay $150 plus the ~$60 price difference. MY original return flight price was only $80 but they are fucking asking for almost triple that cost in additional to my original $80.

    FUCK THEM!!!!!!! I’m never booking with UNITED ever again and I think you all shouldn’t too. They’re all just a messed up bunch of jackasses.

    Fuck them! This is so fucking wrong!!I’m never flying UNITED ever a

  11. JL says:

    how many times are you allowed to change flights on southwest for free?

    • Jim says:

      I haven’t tested it but I have changed things twice. The only “fee” is that there’s a $1.25 landing fee (docking fee? segment fee? I forget the term) that isn’t refunded but I believe that’s charged by the airport.

  12. Eric McGrosky says:

    …not anymore.

  13. Terri says:

    I love Southwest too! They are by far the best airline. Last year I was forced to fly US Airways because Southwest didn’t fly to Atlanta. I ad to cancel my flight. After a huge penalty of $150.00 to rebook, I swore I would never fly that airline again. I also really appreciate the no baggage fee. Suthwest has my loyalty!

  14. Deb says:

    I agree. Southwest rocks. The change fees charged by other airlines are ridiculous.

  15. Tom says:

    I honestly feel the people that wrote the positive comments about Southwest must work for them. For the last month or so I have been seeing these stupid commercials on TV saying they don’t charge to change your fee and that is a blatant LIE! I am currently in San Jose trying to get an earlier flight than I have at the moment and they want to charge me $120 for the same ticket to the same destination but I would be leaving 2.5 hours earlier. FALSE ADVERTISING!

    • Jim says:

      That’s the cost of the ticket, have you ever tried to book a ticket the day you are flying?

    • Sayhello says:

      Jim is correct. You’re not being charged a fee to change your ticket. That is free. The $120 dollars is the increase in the cost of the ticket. It is NOT a fee to change the ticket. On any other airline, you’d be paying that $120 PLUS $150 as a change fee.

  16. Arturo says:

    So if I decided to leave a day later would I be able to change the flight for free?

  17. govenar says:

    I don’t think Southwest has ever even had a flight going where I needed to go.

  18. katie says:

    What if I want to change my times but they are on the original flight date, and my original price per way per person is 149 and the new price is 129do i get a refund in the difference?

  19. Mac Daddy says:

    Katie, you get a credit that is good for 1 year for the difference.

  20. Anonymous says:

    HA I tried changing a flight to an early time on the same day which is listed at the exact same price, but when I try to change it, it converts to a higher price. 40 dollars higher which was the old price the flight was at.

    • Jim says:

      When you try to change a flight at the last minute, it’s generally more expensive because tickets are more expensive. The difference is Southwest doesn’t charge you an extra fee to change it.

  21. GiGi says:

    I think the reason why South West is always my and my families airline is because of the first 2 free baggage and no penalty for changing flights. I know that they lost the seat on that particular plane but at the same time you haven’t lost the seat or the money after all. The passenger will occupy a seat on another plane. Also even if you call there could be a possibility that the flight is so close to the day and it goes up in price and wont sell. Also I think that they should think about their customers. As me and my brother being in the military things always change. I know we get breaks due to active army but what about our families is not their fault if a training came up and they can’t visit anymore or as an experience I was having a date for induce labor and baby decided to come on its on. My had to call US airways changed her flight ticket for that afternoon and made it in time.

  22. Sara says:

    If needed, when I make my “change” can I change to a totally new destination? And…if I don’t know my new destination/dates yet, is the credit just there until I can use it?

    • Amanda says:

      When you change/cancel on Southwest, the funds just sit waiting for you to use, wherever you’re flying. I recently flew to Orlando, and use three different sets of funds that were sitting from previous changes/cancels. I fly Southwest whenever I possibly can – the rest of the airlines just irritate me.

  23. Steve says:

    How soon before your flight can you change? Do you need to have another flight picked out? or can you just get a credit to use when you decide? Does it have to be the same destination?

  24. Shirley says:

    I love Southwest and always look for the opportuity to fly wit them.
    I am waiting for SW to open their scheduling dates further into November. Does anyone know if that happens at midnight on a given day?

    • Rob says:

      You can change the ticket as many times as you want (from what I’ve noticed). I’ve changed a round trip flight 5-6 times so far (4 for the arriving flight and once or twice for the departing flight).. all the exact same flight, just the price keeps dropping.. so I re-book at the cheaper rate and keep the credit. As of today, I have a $113.00 credit just from changing the tickets to the lower fare.. obviously, I wish I had just waited to buy the ticket at the discounted rate, but at least now I have a credit to use for future flights that on any other airline wouldn’t be available.

      • crystal says:

        Thanks! This was helpful! My family and I recently had to cancel a vacation and now I am planning a new one in 6 months. I wanted to do this the smartest, cheapest way possible. I just wanted to make sure I could lock in a rate and use my credits, as well as be able to change the flight if a cheaper one comes available. Thank you for the information;)

  25. CD says:

    I tried to change are ticket to an earlier time. When I reviewed the prices to purchase it was the same as my original ticket. When
    I tried to change the ticket, the same price was now over $100 more. I don’t buy it!! I could have bought a new ticket cheaper than changing the flight I already had!! IT’s a lie!

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