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southwest-cancellation-policy-logoThe Southwest cancellation policy is one of the best ones out there.  Whereas most airlines will charge you a large fee on TOP of making you pay any additional costs associated with your new tickets, the Southwest Airlines cancellation policy will let you cancel any flight booking at any time,

Option 1: How to cancel a Southwest flight within 24 hours of booking

The Southwest cancellation policy says that you can cancel any flight booking as long as you call within 24 hours of making the reservation.  This applies to all fare types, even the cheapest “Wanna Get Away” fares.

Here’s how to cancel a Southwest flight within 24 hours of booking – simply call 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (435-9792) and ask to cancel your flight.  Your payment will be refunded in the manner in which it was paid, so credit card back on the credit card, voucher funds back on the voucher, points back in your account.  This is consistent with the fact that the US Department of Transportation requires all airfares to be refundable within 24 hours of booking.

Option 2: The real magic of the Southwest cancellation policy

But the real amazing part about the Southwest cancellation policy is that even if you want to cancel your Southwest flight AFTER the 24 hour period, the Southwest flight cancellation policy STILL allows you to cancel your flight without any additional change fees.

You can call Southwest at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (435-9792) to cancel your flight, but you can also cancel your Southwest flight online.  Here’s an example from my upcoming flight plan to visit the Family Travel for Real Life conference in Orlando this spring

a screenshot of a computer

That will take you to a confirmation page, where you can choose to cancel or not cancel your Southwest flight


You can see that because I booked a “Wanna Get Away” fare, and because it is past the 24 hour grace period, my funds are all “nonrefundable” but if I were to cancel the flight, those funds will be held for future use.  These funds would be good for travel for 1 year, and ONLY for the person named on the original ticket.  In my case I chose “No, Do Not Cancel” because I want to make this flight!

Note that the Southwest cancellation policy applies to all fare types, including the cheaper Wanna Get Away fares, though the Southwest cancellation policy is even more liberal with the more expensive Business Select or Anytime flights – for those fare types, the Southwest Airlines refund policy allows you to get a full refund back on your credit card (or Rapid Rewards points balance!)


That’s it!  Even after the 24 hour “grace period”, there is no Southwest cancellation fee!

Southwest flight change policy

If you want to change a Southwest flight, the same thing goes – there is no Southwest change fee either!  Here’s how to change a Southwest flight – again, you can call in or you can do it online.  Choosing “Change” will take you to a page where you can select which flights to change (in this case, because I booked it as a roundtrip, there are 2 flights I could change)


Then simply search for your replacement flight and that’s it!  After you select your new Southwest flights, at the payment screen you’ll either be asked for additional payment (if your new flights are more expensive) or be credited with the difference in cost

But watch out for the Southwest no show policy

Although the Southwest cancellation policy and change policies are among the best in the industry, you do still need to actually CANCEL your flight if you’re not planning on flying it.  The Southwest no show policy is pretty strict, so if you just don’t show up to the airport, your funds will NOT be refunded and you’ll just be out of luck (and your money!)

One problem with the Southwest cancellation policy is that it affects the Southwest standby policy. If you’re on a Wanna Get Away fare, it’s impossible to fly standby on Southwest (unless you want to pay the fare difference)

The best time to take advantage of the Southwest change policy is when Southwest announces one of their periodic sale fares – oftentimes the same tickets that you booked a few months ago are now on sale, and you can change to the lower cost tickets with NO ADDITIONAL charge! Talk about free money!

(SEE ALSO: Check out the Southwest cards and compare it to others here)

What about you?  Have you ever used the Southwest cancellation policy?  Let us know in the comments

Here are some tips on how to take advantage of the generous Southwest cancellation policy

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