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How to Cancel a Southwest Flight

Southwest does make it easy to cancel your flight for wanna get away, business select, anytime, or senior fares. When is it not possible?
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

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Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024

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If you’re scheduled to fly Southwest and your plans change, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be out of pocket. Southwest has a great policy which means that you won’t be charged any cancellation or change fees, but you need to understand how this policy works.

Generally, if you paid cash for your flight, you should be able to get your money back as a flight credit. If you paid for your fare with your Rapid Rewards points, you can get a full points refund.

Southwest does make it very easy to cancel your flight and the process is similar for both paid and award fares. You can initiate the cancelation online by visiting southwest.com/cancel or by looking up your reservation within the Southwest app. You’ll need to enter the passenger’s name and the reservation confirmation number. You can also call the Southwest reservations line.

If you included your Rapid Rewards number on your initial reservation, you can log into your account and find the flight on “My Account.” You’ll need to enter the flight number and you can then see the refundable amounts that are attached to your confirmation number.

When Is It Possible to Cancel?

Southwest has different fare types and the exact refund policy varies according to which you’ve booked.

These are the lowest Southwest price fares and are a popular choice for personal travel. This does mean that the flight cancellation rules are slightly tighter than the other fare types.

If you’re purchased your fare, you can cancel your flight and receive reusable flight credits for the entire purchase price. You can use these credits for your future travel plans with no expiration on your credit. Additionally, if you had booked a Wanna Get Away Plus fare, you can transfer your flight credits.

If you booked your fare with Rapid Rewards points, you will receive a refund of all your points into your account. Any taxes you paid for the ticket will be held as a reusable flight credit.

With this fare type, you can cancel up to 10 minutes before your scheduled departure.

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These fare classes have an even more generous cancellation policy, but they are more expensive fares. If you need to cancel one of these fare types, your purchase price will be entirely refunded to your original payment method. So, whether you paid cash or used Rapid Rewards points, you’ll get a 100% refund.

Another key difference with these fare classes compared to Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus is that if you simply fail to show up for the flight take off, your ticket purchase price will be converted to a flight credit which you can use for another flight. Your Rapid Reward points will also be redeposited into your rewards account.

If you are traveling on a companion pass and you need to cancel, any taxes paid when you made the booking are fully refundable. These amounts will be refunded to your original payment method.

Flight tickets and Southwest credit card
(Photo by Artem Oleshko/Shutterstock)

When Is It Not Possible to Cancel?

Southwest has a generous cancellation policy, but there are still some scenarios when canceling is not a good idea. These include:

If you booked a Wanna Get Away or a Wanna Get Away Plus fare and don’t cancel up to 10 minutes before the scheduled departure, you will be considered a no show. With these fare classes, you don’t receive any type of refund for no shows.

If you’ve booked a Business Select or Anytime fare and make changes to your reservation, your ticket is now non refundable. This means that if you need to cancel the flight, you will receive flight credits rather than getting a refund to your original payment method.

So, if you do need to make changes to these fare types, it is best to cancel the original flight and then rebook a new seat to ensure that you retain the fully refundable status.

How to Make the Cancellation

Southwest also makes it very simple to cancel your flight. If you booked directly through Southwest, you can cancel the flight online. This applies even if you booked a round trip, but only need to cancel one direction.

The first thing you’ll need to do is log into your Southwest account. You will then be able to see all of your upcoming Southwest reservations. To cancel your flight, you will need to click on the “Cancel flight” link on the appropriate flight.

Bear in mind that canceling in this way will cancel all of the passengers booked on that itinerary. If you only need to cancel one seat on a multi person reservation, you will need to call Southwest to help you.

The process for canceling a flight is the same regardless of whether you purchased the fare with cash or used your Southwest points or companion pass. For points and award reservations, Southwest will ask the method for refunding your taxes and fees. If you don’t want travel funds, you will need to select “Refund to method of payment.” This will ensure that the refund is credited to your card.

If you don’t feel confident about canceling your flight online, you can call the Southwest customer service team for assistance.

Things to Consider When Canceling a Southwest Flight

Although Southwest has a straightforward cancellation policy, there are some things to consider before you take action.

  • Be Aware of Your Specific Departure Time: Timing matters for Southwest refunds, particularly if you’ve booked a Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fare. So, it is important to be aware of the specific departure time. Ideally, you should cancel as soon as you’re aware your plans have changed, but don’t leave it too late.
  • Err on the Side of Caution: If the unforeseen happens on your way to the airport and you’re delayed, it is best to err on the side of caution. If you’re classified as a no show for the flight, you may only get a flight credit rather than a refund, or in the case of Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fares, no refunds at all. 

How to Make a Change to Your Flight

If you need to make changes to your flight, there are no fees for making a change. However, you will be liable to pay any price difference should your new itinerary cost more. But, if the cost of your new flight is less, you will receive a travel credit or refund for the difference.

The process of making a change to your reservation is similar to the cancellation process. You can make any changes online through your Southwest account and it is possible to change one leg or the entire round trip. You simply need to click the “Change flight” link beside the appropriate flight.

This will display the original flight itinerary and you can then select new travel dates or even a new destination. You also have the option to reprice your flight by clicking “Explore options,” so you won’t lose the previous information until you’ve decided what you would like to do.

You will be able to see immediately whether a new option will cost more or less than your original flight. The price difference will be shown in dollars or Rapid Rewards points, depending on your original payment method.

As with a cancellation, if you make changes to your flight via the online platform, it will be applied to all passengers on your itinerary. If you need to change the flight for only one passenger, you will need to call the Southwest customer helpline.

Southwest flight cancellation
(Photo by Elliott Cowand Jr/Shutterstock)

Can I Change the Name on the Ticket?

It is important that the name on your Southwest ticket matches your other travel documents. If you’ve made a typo on your booking information or you’ve recently married or divorced, it can lead to problems when you come to travel. Fortunately, Southwest does permit name changes on tickets, but only under certain circumstances.

If you’ve mistyped the passenger name on your booking or your legal name has changed due to a change in your marital status, you can make changes on the Southwest website. You’ll need to log in and click on the “Manage Booking” section. On the appropriate reservation, you can click on the “change reservation” and follow the online instructions. Once you’ve entered the correct name, simply save the changes.

It is important to note that while Southwest does not charge a fee for this, you are only permitted to make a change once. Additionally, you can correct spelling mistakes, but you will not be able to change the entire name on the reservation. If your name has legally changed, you will need to provide supporting legal documentation. Finally, any changes should be made a maximum of 24 hours before your scheduled departure.

If you have any difficulties making the changes, you can call the Southwest customer support helpline for assistance.

Can I Change the Flight Fare, Seating or Food?

Southwest has a Same Day Change policy, which allows you to change your seat or cabin without incurring a fee. This service is included with all fare types apart from Wanna Get Away, which will incur a charge for the fare difference.

You can log into your Southwest account and find your flight details under the “Manage Reservations” section. You can then check to view the available seats and select a new one. Once Southwest has processed the request, they will send a text or email confirmation containing a link for your new boarding pass.

Bear in mind that if you want to upgrade to a different cabin, requests are processed according to priority. Higher tier reward program members have higher priority for upgrade requests, so there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to get into the new cabin.

In regards to food, Southwest allows passengers to bring food with them to consume on board. This means that you can stock up on your favorite snacks at the terminal before you board.

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Has Southwest Been Canceling Flights?

Southwest made headlines in late 2022 for its record number of canceled flights. During the severe weather in December, Southwest cut 70% of its scheduled flights and for several days only operated a third of its schedule.

Unfortunately, the new year did not bring an end to these issues. In April 2023, Southwest suffered technical issues and over 1,800 flights, which accounts for 44% of Southwest’s schedule, were impacted by delays and cancellations.

The recent technical issues were not related to the upgraded scheduling software which caused the issues back in December, making it a completely separate technical issue.

cancel Southwest flight on app
You can cancel your flight on Southwest app (Photo by OpturaDesign/Shutterstock)

What Happens If Southwest Cancels My Flight?

If Southwest cancels your flight, you’re likely to receive a text, email or call. In most cases, Southwest will message you to let you know you’ve been automatically rebooked on another flight to your destination. If you’re happy with the new itinerary, you don’t need to do anything.

If you are not automatically rebooked or the new itinerary does not work for you, you have the option to change your flight for a new itinerary up to 14 days from your original travel date at no additional cost. Alternatively, you can cancel your flight and receive a refund or a flight credit you can use at a future date.

If you’re away from home and the new itinerary is not for a few days, it is a good idea to try to book another flight right away and then cancel your Southwest flight. It is also a good idea to speak to a Southwest gate agent or customer service representative. Southwest is not obliged to provide compensation for any inconvenience, but they may offer some form of recompense in the form of meal or hotel vouchers.

FAQs

There are no fees for canceling a Southwest flight, providing you initiate the cancellation at least 10 minutes before your scheduled departure. If you leave it too late, you may not qualify for a refund.

Southwest should credit your card within seven days as a refund for your fare.

Yes, if you’ve booked your flight with Rapid Reward points, you can still cancel it. Your points will be recredited back to your account and the cost of taxes will be refunded to your original payment method.

Southwest does not sell flights via third party websites, so you should still have the Southwest credentials to cancel the flight using the Southwest website or by calling the Southwest helpline.

You don’t need to provide a reason for canceling your Southwest flight and you’ll not incur any fees. So, even in a medical emergency, you can simply cancel your flight as detailed above. Providing it is more than 10 minutes before the scheduled departure, you should have no issues.

You can check the refund status by logging into your Southwest account and looking at the “manage booking” section.

Yes, even if you’re already checked in, if you cannot fly for some reason, you can still cancel your flight. Just try to cancel it with at least 10 minutes to spare before your scheduled departure time.

If it is less than 10 minutes to departure, you’re classified as a no show. In this case, Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus fares are non refundable and other fare classes can only be refunded as flight credits.

Southwest has a toll free helpline if you need to cancel a flight. You can speak to the Southwest team by calling 1-800-435-9792.

Picture of Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
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Welcome Bonus:
80,000 points 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership

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