Southwest Airlines has an amazing cancellation policy, by far the most generous of any other airline. With no type of elite status at all, you can change or cancel a flight on Southwest for no cost whatsoever. If you cancel your Southwest flight, your payment will either be refunded back to your original form of payment or you can choose a travel credit for future Southwest travel. However, Ooe downside of this awesome cancellation policy is that it affects the Southwest standby policy, which we’ll get to in a second
That’s why whenever we post about a Southwest fare sale, even if you don’t have any travel you’re wanting to book, it’s a good idea to check any EXISTING Southwest reservations. If the fare goes down, just cancel and rebook – in one easy step you’ve saved yourself some cash or points!
[Southwest just PAID me to take the same flight!]
Flying on Southwest Airlines with the Southwest standby policy
Recently I was in Chicago to watch my daughter march with her marching band in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day parade. There were 2 flights back from Midway airport – 1:10pm and 3:50pm. With the parade going from 8-10 a.m., I wasn’t sure how long the parade would take, how long it would take to meet back up with the band and get through parade traffic to the airport. I didn’t want to book the earlier flight and then miss it
If you’re wondering how does standby work on Southwest, the Southwest standby policy says that if you book a Wanna Get Away fare (which I’d say 95% of us do), then you can NOT fly standby without paying the difference in fare. And of course most if not all day-of-travel fares are incredibly expensive. In my case, it was either 24,000 points or over $300. So while it’s accurate that Southwest does allow standby for an earlier flight, in practice, Southwest standby on a Wanna Get away fare is not going to be a great option
I think that the reason for this Southwest standby policy is a direct CONSEQUENCE of the Southwest cancellation policy. If flying standby on Southwest was an easy option, then everybody would just book the cheapest flight of the day, show up to the airport for the flight they wanted, and just do a Southwest standby on an earlier flight of the day
The 3 things I did to get around the Southwest Airlines standby policy
The saga of all I did to get around the Southwest Airlines Wanna Get Away standby policy probably merits its own post. First I called the Southwest Airlines standby phone number, which is just their regular customer service phone number (1-800-IFLYSWA). The agent quoted the Southwest standby policy and would not budge. I just hung up, figuring I’d have better luck at the airport
At the airport, first I tried the Southwest ticket counter. The rep that I spoke to was sympathetic (it WAS Thanksgiving Day after all!) when I explained that I wanted to do a Southwest standby to an earlier flight, but said the last time he tried to circumvent the Southwest Airlines standby policy, he got in trouble. He did speak to his boss, who “stood by” the stand policy (pun TOTALLY intended).
So then I tried the gate agent. When I explained again that I wanted to fly standby on Southwest, they again quoted me the policy and asked me for my 24,000 additional points. I asked to speak to a manager, who was again very sympathetic, but said that there was nothing he could do.
Running out of options, I called the Southwest Airlines standby phone number again, and after getting denied to fly standby on Southwest Airlines (again), asked to speak to a manager, who DID (after a bit of running around) manage to get around the Southwest Airlines standby policy and get my daughter and I onto the earlier flight, right in time for Thanksgiving dinner!
One alternative to the Southwest standby policy
Now one thing that people have done to get around the (lack of) Southwest standby flights in the past was to just book both flights. So you’d be essentially booking your own Southwest standby tickets. And since you can cancel them for free, just cancel the one(s) that you weren’t planning on using. Unfortunately, Southwest has gotten wise to this trick and will now proactively cancel your flight if you try to book overlapping flights.
Another option to get around this Southwest standby policy would have been to just book the earlier flight and count on the fact that if things went south and we were delayed getting to the airport, that they’d have accommodated us onto the later flight for free (it had over 100 seats open on it).
Have you encountered the Southwest standby policy before? What happened to you?
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Being in retail, occasionally we get customers like this. For instance we fix cell phones. We have the customer sign a form and explain to them if their phone becomes unusable after the attempted repair or if more problems surface, we are not responsible. One out of 100 phones might have an issue after a repair. Out of those 100 phones one out of 100 customers claims the rule is bogus and shouldn’t apply to them. They will do the exact same thing, call and talk to every single person they can, threatening lawsuits even. We always just replace their phone just to get them to go away. So moral is, sure this is a way “around” the policy but really this is just being an obnoxious customer.
Perhaps an “obnoxious customer”.
If you think this through though the cell phone repair company “leveraged” their position.
They had the where with all to repair cell phones – I don’t. They had the advertising to tell customers about it and they had a team of people supporting that effort.
So if we exchange the word leveraged for sold, the cell phone company “sold” customers on their service. They used advertising, point of sale, trained employees a whole army to do this selling. They did it in such a way that the “sale” proceed a certain way. Requiring customer information, an agreement to a legal document and of course physically surrendering the phone.
Well, when it was done the “obnoxious customer” leveraged or sold to the cell phone repair company their position as a consumer. They persuaded the company that it was in their best interests to satisfy them. Is one different from the other? Either party could have walked away and not done business. Because the powers that be, at the cell phone repair company satisfied the customer to the company’s best interest, this should not cause it’s employee’s to think ill of either the cell phone repair company nor the customer who now has the label of obnoxious.
You said that “they’d have accommodated us onto the later flight for free” if you were late to the airport… is that a thing? I’m trying to book a Southwest flight where the 5am flight is $107 for the Wanna Get Away and every other flight that day is over $300 for Wanna Get Away fares… there’s absolutely no way I could beat the airport before 5am. Can I book the 5am flight knowing that I’ll miss it and will they put me on another later flight without charging me more?
I’d say there’s definitely a chance. How MUCH of a chance well… that depends on how much you want to risk it 🙂