With all my Southwest flying coming up, I’ve had plenty of practice booking flights!
…and cancelling others.
Although the Southwest cancellation policy is fairly generous, there are two distinct categories of airfare: travel booked with points, and paid travel. Each of these comes with its own cancellation rules.
Flights Booked with Rapid Rewards
In my opinion, the easiest way to cancel a flight is to log in to your account, and navigate to “My Trips.” This will be on the main account screen, simply scroll down until you find it.
Under “Upcoming Trips,” you’ll see everything you’ve booked with Southwest for future travel.
Select “Cancel Reservation” for the flight you’ll no longer be needing.
Select your refundable option. For points bookings, if you paid for the taxes and fees with a credit card, you should be able to “Request a refund of the refundable balance.” I highly recommend this option if available to you. The paid portion will simply be refunded your credit card. In my experience, this process takes approximately 3-4 business days to process on your card.
If you opt not to “refund” the paid portion, the funds will be tied to the confirmation code and passenger’s name in the form of a Travel Fund. The Travel Funds will have an expiration date of one year from the original date of booking. I’ll explain this more below.
Points used will be refunded immediately.
The flight may still show up in “My Trips” for some time. Everything I’ve cancelled has been reflected on my account within about 15 minutes. You’ll also receive an email that “your account balance has been adjusted.” That’s just Southwest letting you know the Rapid Rewards previously used to book your flight are back in your account, ready to be used for another trip. Note that if you use Gmail, the message might sneak into the promotions tab.
For paid flights, the process is the same, though the options may be a bit different. Business Select and Anytime fares are fully refundable. That is, you’ll always get the money you spent on those flights right back in your pocket in the event of a cancellation before the trip day.
But if you Wanna Get Away, you’re more limited. Your flight will fall into one of two categories:
Within 24 hours: Fully refundable. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Virtually all US carriers have some kind of similar rule regarding the 24 hour timeline, based on recommended guidelines from the Department of Transportation. The purchase will be refunded to the original payment method.
After 24 hours: Waited more than a day? You’re a bit more limited. You can cancel the flight, but you won’t get your money back. Well, not quite. The cost will be refunded in the form of Travel Funds. As I mentioned earlier, these have an expiration date of one year from the booking of travel. So…
If I book a flight from Boston to Chicago, leaving the airport on October 14th. Of course, I’m not a last minute kind of guy, so I book the flight on June 19th. Ever striving to be frugal, I choose a Wanna Get Away fare.
Oh no! I forgot my underwater basket weaving conference is on that weekend! I’ll have to cancel my flights. I do that today, but since I’m past the 24 hour window, I can only get my purchase refunded in Travel Funds. These funds will expire on June 20th, 2017, and are tied to my name. If I try to apply the funds to anyone’s flight other than the Financial Hippie, no luck. Obviously, Southwest Travel Funds are much better than nothing, or exorbitant cancellation fees. Just keep the funny rules in mind, and you’ll be fine!
Otherwise, the process is fairly simple. Personally, I’ve had great luck recently with Southwest’s customer service line when having issues booking or redeeming funds. I’m sure you can call if there are any issues. Or, ask me in the comments! Always happy to help if I can.
For those of you flying Southwest often, or perhaps changing your mind about your upcoming Southwest flight, I hope this is helpful!