Step by step: How to change or cancel your Southwest flight

Lots of MMS readers and writers love to fly Southwest for so many reasons — two free checked bags and the Southwest Companion Pass, to name a few. But the ability to change flights or outright cancel a reservation is top on our list. It makes it less stressful to book an upcoming flight knowing you won’t be charged for changes or cancellations.

Let’s look at each step you need to take to change or cancel a flight on Southwest.

Changing or canceling a flight on Southwest with no fees could save you thousands of points. (Bruno Ismael Silva Alves/Shutterstock.)

Southwest doesn’t charge for changes

Southwest makes a big deal about not charging its customers change fees. Some airlines charge as much as $150. It’s especially family-friendly to have the built-in flexibility of knowing you can change your flight when you’re traveling with kids. I can’t tell you how many times my kids have gotten sick right before a trip.

If you want to cancel your flight, whether or not you will get a full refund depends on the type of fare you purchased. Most travelers try to book Wanna Get Away fares because they’re the cheapest, but a Wanna Get Away fare is the only fares type that is not fully refundable if you paid in cash or with a credit card.

The type of refund you receive depends on the fare you purchased.

Although you will not get cash back or a credit to your card with Wanna Get Away fares, you will receive what Southwest calls “travel funds.” These funds, which include taxes and fees, can be used toward any purchase with Southwest, but they come with an expiration date that is typically one year from the date issued.

If you book with Southwest points and need to cancel, no problem. Your points are instantly credited to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account. But, because you had to pay the ~$6 mandatory government security fee with cash/credit, that refund will come in the form of travel funds. Be sure you note the confirmation number and the person’s name for each set of travel funds so you can reuse them later. We’ll discuss how to redeem travel funds below.

You can change or cancel a flight up to 10 minutes prior to your departure time and receive either a full refund for refundable fares or travel funds for Wanna Get Away fares.

How to change or cancel your Southwest flight

Step 1.  Sign in to your Southwest account

It’s easy to change or cancel a flight on Southwest. To start, go to and click “Log in” at the top right.

Enter your account number or username and your case-sensitive password.

Step 2.  Manage your reservation

After you log in, click the “Flight” tab and you’ll see a dropdown menu. From there, you can click “Manage Reservations” and you’ll be able to click through to either the change or cancel reservation screen.

Alternatively, if you’re trying to change a flight, you can click “Change Flight” and skip the next step.

Step 3.  Select your self-service option

Next, click either “Change reservation” or “Cancel reservation.”

Regardless of which you choose, you’ll be asked to enter your confirmation number, first and last name. Then click “Continue.”

Step 4.  Complete the change or cancelation

From there you’ll be able to either change or cancel your flight.

Tips for managing a Southwest flight

After you enter your confirmation number and name, Southwest will find your reservation. Review the information to make 100% sure this is the flight and reservation you want to change or cancel. If you’re canceling your flight, you will be asked if you’d like a refund credited back to your card or if you’d like a Southwest credit in the form of travel funds.

If you have a refundable Southwest fare (which includes Business Select or Anytime fares) and want to change your flight, you should cancel the ticket first, request a refund (which you will be prompted to do online or can do by phone) and then book your new reservation. Changing your refundable reservation turns a refundable fare into a nonrefundable fare, according to Southwest.

If you cancel a nonrefundable ticket, you will not get a refund to your card. Instead, you’ll receive a credit in the form of Southwest travel funds. The travel funds expire one year after they are issued unless there are travel funds from an older ticket associated with this reservation — the new reservation inherits the earliest expiration date from any of those funds. The expiration date will be in the confirmation email you receive.

If you’re changing your flight reservation, you’ll be able to search for alternate flights, review the new flights and prices and finally, purchase the ticket you want.

How to redeem travel funds

You will get travel funds if you cancel a nonrefundable reservation that you paid for in cash or credit. You will get travel funds for the ~$6 security fee portion of a canceled nonrefundable ticket booked with Southwest points. These funds are great to use in the future on tickets booked with points to cover the cost of the security fee for the same person.

To redeem travel funds when booking a flight on Southwest, you’ll see an option for using them on the purchase page. You must have the confirmation number of the funds and the name of the person they are associated with. You can only redeem them for that same person.

Again, they expire within one year of the date of issue, but you will receive an email that clearly states the expiration date.

Ways to earn Southwest points

There are a variety of ways to earn Southwest points, but fastest way to rack up points is by earning a nice welcome bonus from Southwest credit cards:

Currently, the three personal cards have a welcome bonus of 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

Earning bonuses from these cards will count toward the Companion Pass. So by opening one personal and one small-business Southwest credit card, you’ll have enough points to immediately qualify for the Companion Pass.

You can only hold one Southwest personal credit card at a time, but you can have one or more business Southwest cards, in addition to a personal card. And when you hold a Southwest credit card, your points will never expire.

If you need help deciding among the cards, read our Southwest credit card comparison guide. Once you’ve racked up some points, you’ll want to dig in to the ways to redeem points on the carrier’s dynamic award chart.

Bottom line

The ability to change or cancel a reservation with Southwest is a huge benefit when unforeseen circumstances force you to alter travel plans or when you find a fare at a lower cash or points price.

It’s a simple process that can be completed online in just a few steps, and could potentially save you thousands of points.

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