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The 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
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
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What about international flights? I was needing to cancel an international SW flight and its past the 24 hour period
As far as I know, the Southwest cancellation policy is the same for international flights as it is for domestic flights. Try pulling the flight up in your Southwest online account and see what it says and let us know!
Yes, the policy is the same, but no, nothing can be done online. You can’t even pull up the flight details online, has to be done over the phone
You might want to black out your RR # in the 1st image?
Sheesh – I got both record locators but missed that one – thanks!
Keep in mind that Rapid Rewards tickets are different. They are all fully refundable, regardless of the class of service (including Wanna Get Away). No redeposit fees, and the taxes are refundable. They also aren’t subject to the no-show policy (as is also the case for Anytime and Business Select revenue tickets).
Correct – I did mention the differences in that Anytime and Business Select tickets are always fully refundable but thanks for mentioning that they are also not subject to the Southwest no show policy!
However you do lose early bird if you paid for that. Also can’t change or cancel online is you are using a companion pass
I change and cancel our tickets including the Companion Pass.
You said “The Southwest cancellation policy is one of the best out there…” I would say it is THE best out there. Is there ANY airline that won’t ding you if you want to make changes or cancellations?
Yeah you’re right – I don’t know of any airline that has a better cancellation policy or change policy! Hard to beat “no fees”!
When using the funds from a canceled ticket, be sure to be aware that the new ticket you use the funds from, if canceled, will have all funds expire at the date of the original canceled ticket. I learned this one the hard way. Used literally a $5 credit I had left from a ticket that had been canceled 11 months earlier. When to cancel the new ticket after a few weeks when plans changed, and saw that the expiration date for *all* credits was just 2 weeks into the future. So using that $5 credit cost me $215 since I wasn’t able to use the new ticket’s credit in those next 2 weeks. I contact southwest customer service to no avail on this one, even with my status.
Pretty much the EXACT same thing happened to me, only with a $4 voucher and a $391 flight. Does anyone know a way to address this? It seems unfair that this is NOT clear, like in other airlines.
I’ve had to call because I typed in my name or wrote my parent’s bday as my own before. I called within the hour and it was an easy fix. Noticed when I got the email confirmation.
The Southwest cancellation policy is not exactly as advertised. There’s an undisclosed deadline for using the credit you get on cancellation — and it’s less than one year. Just tried to use a credit to book a flight using a credit and was told that it would expire before my planned travel (which was much earlier than a year after the initial reservations). They offered to extend the deadline but would deduct $100 from my credit (and a new deadline would apply). And they never credit you with teh amount you spent on early bird check in.
Mark – When you say it’s less than one year.. what do you mean? Less than one year from when you cancel maybe but it IS one year from when you book it. And it’s made clear that Early Bird is NOT refundable.
I just ran into this and is why I am posting now.
I thought you had to book by that date – NO
You have to USE (Fly) within the specified time period.
My time was definitely less than a year. How many people afford that kind of $/money for vacation travel?
If I book today for a flight that leaves tomorrow night does that still fall into the 24 hrs policy?
Hi Vicki – I am not sure about that – I suggest calling into Southwest to make sure.
I canceled a Southwest flight well in advance by my mobile app. It was confirmed on my screen. All done. But Southwest never got the cancellation and listed me a noshow and no refund; customer service refused to budge. Any recourse?
I just experienced the exact same thing as Paul Booth above. Literally we could have written the same comment. I cancelled a flight via the Southwest app. The next day I received a “no show” cancellation. After a lengthy call with a customer service agent I was offered no refund.
Southwest claims there are “no issues” with the application.
Paul Booth please let me know if there is anyway to reach out to you. I am guessing we are not the only two to experience this.
Did you ever have any resolution to this?
What happens if you have funds credited but cannot fly within a year? Can you use these funds to buy points or are they going to be lost totally?
If you had an award booking and used points to book your flight, your points are refunded back to you and fall in the normal Southwest Rapid Rewards expiration policy. If you paid cash and get that refunded, if you don’t use it, I believe you just lose those travel funds.
1. Do you know if you have to BOOK or FLY by the expiration date, and
2. Do you know if you can use those funds for car rentals or hotel booked through Southwest?
Definitely have to FLY by the expiration date. I’m not sure about your 2nd question
I just have to comment about the issues people have had with submitting things. I made an international booking and never got an email so contacted them to see what was going on and they said I hadn’t made a reservation. Every time I went to make the reservation, it would say it timed out and I had to do each leg of the trip 2xs (6 times total if you count the one that didn’t work and I had to do that one 2xs again). Something is definitely wrong with their reservation system. Make sure you get confirmation emails for everything!!
Quick question. If I buy 2 tickets (for myself and another) using Rewards Points and then have to cancel, do I get the points back for both tickets?
I see on here that it specifically says the travel funds go to the name on the ticket, so I wasn’t sure.
Additionally, I see people saying that even if you book ‘wanna get away’ with your rapid rewards points and have to cancel, the points simply get added back to your account without restrictions.
All points used will be refunded back to the account they came out of.
You will get all points back regardless as to what fare “bucket” they were booked at.
So you have to fly before the cancel date, not the booking date, right?
I cancelled a ticket and have money remaining unused. Not needing to fly again before the expiration can I use the credited amounts on upgraded boarding position at the gate? What else can it be used on?
I canceled within 24 hours, how will I be notified that I am getting a refund? Thank you
How much in advance notice do you need to give for a cancellation or change of flight? How many hours if anyone knows.
I’m looking for an answer to this same question. No one knows?
I believe you have until 10 minutes before the flight to cancel your flight for a refund. But make sure you do it before your flight, not after, or you will lost your funds.
I cancelled a “Wanna Get Away” fare. Can I apply those travel funds toward an “Anytime” fare and potentially get a refund if I don’t use? Or is it a moot point to book anything other than “Wanna Get Away” with the credit?
Ah, just saw this fine print — “All nonrefundable funds applied toward the purchase of a new reservation remain nonrefundable.”
Correct. Non-refundable, but like in store credit, still usable.
I used a $50 travel fund credit of a $319 ticket. Since their policy is that all travel must be completed by the date of the original issued ticket date ( & I am unable to travel by that date) I was told 2 different stories 1. By email… I loose the entire amount 2. by phone.. call back at the expiration date 10/ 29/16 & pay a $100 fee to extend the expiration date for 6 months. Any similar experiences? Please advise
is there a way to cancel just 1 person’s flight on a reservation with 2 people? my plans have changed due to work so i was going to cancel my flight but it appears that it only allows the ENTIRE reservation to be cancelled (therefore my fiance would also have her flight cancelled) and we booked these flightsd months ago for THanksgiving and i don’t want to risk her having to rebook at a higher price or not have availability on the flight..
for cancels and you can use within a year, a year from when, payment / booking date or the cancel request date. Thanks!
Original booking date
I have a $65 travel credit from changing a flight I booked in January of this year so the expiration date says 1/27/2017. The confusing thing to me is it says the original fare was cancelled but it wasn’t, it was just changed. Even the confirmation and ticket numbers remained the same when I changed the flight. Anyone have any experience with this? It seems they treat changes the same as cancellations. I was planning to buy a ticket in January for July, but it doesn’t let me use it for any dates past 1/27. Thanks.
Yup – you’ll need to fly by 1/27
I purchased 2 round trip sr. citzen tickets in Oct 2016 for travel on Dec 30,2016 and return on Jan 31.2017. the fare was $478.90. That very same flight plan today is $935. This is very unfair. The flight was cancelled on Dec 27,2016 when I was admitted to a hospital on an emergency basis. I was discharged on Dec 29,2016 and was told not to travel. the $478.90 is being held for me until Feb22,2017 when I have to use it or loose it. I can not afford the difference. what can I do?
I have 4 flights booked all under my own credit card and all family members have the same last name , will I be able to use all the flights or only the one actually allocated to me
Tom – I’m not sure I understand your question. Your best bet would probably be to call Southwest and ask them
If you cancel all 4 flights, you can only use the credit for the ticket you were going to use. The other 3 get credit to be used for a future flight that they will take. It doesn’t matter who paid for it or how, the credit is only usable for the original traveler.
Southwest has saved me so much money and anxiety. I’ve rebooked for lower fares on the exact same flight. I’ve been able to cancel or reschedule flights a number of times, such as when my grandfather died, whereas with another airline that would have been cost-prohibitive. They make planning an airline trip much less stressful. I always get anxious with airfare purchases, but Southwest has taken that burden off of me. I also like their car reservation system with a similar flavor of being able to cancel without penalty.
I saw a comment that indicated the $11 you have to pay when using reward points for a flight is refundable. Is that true?
I think I am going to book my infant a seat using reward points to hold a seat on the plane so we can put him in his car seat. However, I plan to also had him as a lap infant to my ticket and then to cancel his seat just before departure. (I realize there could be standby passengers if the flight is full and my infant may still not get a seat) I figured it would cost me the $11 fee, but you are implying I could get that refunded too?
Cancelled a flight to Las Vegas last November would like to use those dollars to schedule a flight to Las Vegas on May 29,2017. I know will probably have to pay a little extra that is fine, what do I need to do, do not have information on previous flight, ie numbers etc.
I would call Southwest
We purchased wanna get away tickets for 2 of our sons vacationing together. Problem is that l accidently put my name on one instead of my son. Will they allow me to fix this? My friend told me no because they are non transferable. I haven’t called customer service yet .
Call Southwest customer service – they should be able to help. If not, then cancel the tickets (for free) and rebook them.
Quick question.. I cancelled a flight that I booked on July 2016 so my funds that were held expire in a few days. I do not want to lose this credit, but I am not able to travel anytime soon. Should I book a random ticket and then cancel it? Will the funds then be held for another year (July 2018)?
No – that won’t work. Your funds expire one year from the date of the original flight, regardless if you book a random ticket and cancel it. That will not reset the expiration date
So just to clear my mind before purchasing tickets if we buy and then find out we have to cancel we get our $ back without paying penalty do we have to fill out a form other than calling and cancelling within 24hrs ? Even if we buy the wanna get away if so this is amazing never heard of a company doing this ! I’m still fairly new at this flying stuff but the couple times we did it was always South West maybe that’s why they are the best !
Bonnie – if you cancel within 24 hours you’ll get your money back (on Southwest or just about any US airline). Where the Southwest cancellation policy shines is that even AFTER the 24 hour period, you’ll still get a fare credit (voucher) if you cancel a Southwest flight
I do not think that what Dan said is correct, but please correct me if I am wrong. For many airlines, there are no refunds or they carry heavy fees. For Southwest, if you buy the cheapest category of tickets, you can cancel anytime (up to 10 min before the flight) and get credit for future flights. If you buy the higher class of tickets, you can get your money back.
has anyone found a loop hole in getting a wanna getaway ticket refunded (cancelled after the 24 hour limit) instead of the resuable fund credit?
My son is in military and all enlisted AND their families are now prohibited from any travel. He was supposed to go to Florida with us and we booked flights on Southwest. The cost for their flights was over $1000. I would really like the money back as they do not fly often Shouldn’t they give us a refund due to his military obligation.