I just earned 3,628 Rapid Rewards miles and $5.68 in travel credit for 10 minutes’ worth of work. All I had to do was log in to my Southwest account and click around for a little bit.
You see, Southwest’s currently having a truly major nationwide sale, with dozens of routes going for cheaper than $100 round-trip. And since Southwest allows free changes and cancellations, I simply rebooked myself on the exact same flights I will be taking, but at the lower price.
Confused? Read on.
Booking an airline flight is a gamble. You never know what the price might be a few days or months down the line and you are always wondering if you are, in fact, booking at the lowest possible rate. Should you book now? Hold off a few days? A few months? It can be a stressful process, especially when buying tickets for an entire family.
The Best Southwest Airlines Credit Card for Family Travelers
Most US airlines charge a hefty change fee of up to $200, which will most likely not be worth it if a fare drops in price. But there is one airline out there that will not charge you any fees when a fare decreases: Southwest Airlines. Whether you booked on points or a revenue fare, you can always rebook your flight and get the difference back. Some other airlines do waive their fees for those with status but with Southwest, it doesn’t matter who you are: All customers can rebook a flight to get the best price available.
A Southwest Boeing 737 taking off in Atlanta (Photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy)
Southwest even goes as far as to allow you to rebook your flight an unlimited number of times at any point up until the flight departs (well, really 10 minutes prior to the flight’s departure). You are not limited to a 24-hour rule like most of the other airlines or allotted a one-time courtesy, and all fare classes are eligible. It is really a huge perk and a great option for families who want to reduce their overall costs, whether that be in points or dollars.
Many Southwest members — myself included — have been able to rebook upcoming flights and get the fare difference back in their pockets.
Note that Southwest extends its calendar of bookable flights on Thursday, August 15. We often highlight that it makes sense to book when the airline extends its calendar, as you can always rebook if the price drops and get a credit to use in the future. (Southwest doesn’t extend how far in advance you can book a flight one day at a time, as many major carriers do. Instead, the airline extends its booking calendar in batches a couple of months at a time.)
What Happens When You Find a Lower Price
If you happen to find a lower price, you’ll either receive a Travel Fund credit or your points back, depending on how you initially paid for the fare.
If You Paid for the Flight: You will receive a Travel Fund credit for the difference in the fare price. You have one year from the date you initially booked the flight to use the credit (important, not from the date you rebooked). Travel Fund credits are nontransferable and can only be used for the same passenger. If You Used Points for the Flight: The difference in points will automatically go back into the account from which those points were deducted. Steps to Rebook Your Southwest Flight
Whether your flight was booked on points or a revenue ticket, the process to rebook, and thus re-price, is extremely easy.
1. Sign into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account. In the “My Account” page, you’ll see all of your upcoming flights midway down the page. Click on “Change Flight.”
2. Select your flight and click on “Select new flights.” If you have a round-trip flight, both the departure and return options will appear. You can select one or the other, or both at the same time. Note: Your original departure and arrival airports as well as date(s) will auto-populate.
3. You’ll see the amount the particular flight has increased or decreased in points or price. If your original flight has decreased (noted by the minus sign), select the fare, click “Continue” and your new trip price will appear.
4. You will see the credit you are receiving at the bottom of the page. In this particular situation, 1,223 Southwest Rapid Rewards points will be credited back into my account. On the next page, the passenger information will already be populated and you’ll just need to confirm your changes by clicking “Change flight.”
After confirming your change, you should receive an email within a few minutes. You’ll notice that your confirmation number for your flight has stayed the same. If you used points, the difference will be credited back to your account immediately. If it was a paid reservation on a nonrefundable fare, you now have Travel Funds available.
Southwest does not keep track of your Travel Funds in your account, so you will need to make sure to keep your confirmation number from the flight that was re-priced. When you go to book a future flight, in the Payment method section, select the “Southwest gift card, Travel Funds, or Southwest Luv Voucher” link and you’ll see a new section open up. Select the “Travel Funds” tab and enter the original confirmation number that the funds are tied to as well as the passenger’s first and last name.
Note: If you are paying for just a portion of your flight with Travel Funds, any additional funds added will inherit the earliest Travel Funds expiration date. This is important to know in case you end up canceling your flight.
Re-pricing a flight is an extremely easy process and, once you get the hang of it, shouldn’t take more than a minute to complete. This is also the exact same process if you want to change a flight to a different date, time or completely different route.
How Does Rebooking a Flight Work With the Southwest Companion Pass?
If a flight goes down in price and requires you to rebook, there are a few extra steps to follow if you have already added a Companion Pass onto your reservation.
First, you’ll need to cancel your Companion Pass reservation.
Since you only paid taxes/fees on the companion’s ticket, make sure to request the amount paid back as a refund by selecting “Request a refund.” This will credit the credit card you used so you are not left with a travel voucher. (If you used a gift card originally, the amount paid will result in a voucher and will not be credited back to the original gift card.)
Once you rebook your flight with the lower price, you need to add your companion’s reservation back onto your original reservation. Do not forget this step as you don’t want to be left without a seat for your companion if the flight sells out.
What Happens If I Paid for Early Bird Check-In?
If you’ve already paid for Early Bird Check-In, rebooking your flight will not cancel out this add-on option. As long as the confirmation number stays the same, you are 100% in the clear.
The real issue is when you cancel a reservation and then rebook. For the most part, this is primarily an issue when you rebook a reservation booked with a Companion Pass. Since this reservation is being canceled and you are receiving a new confirmation number, your Early Bird Check-In is wiped away. The $15 to $25 payment you made initially for this passenger is nonrefundable and will not be credited back to your account. You’ll be on the hook again for the fee if you want to continue to include this option.
If you are a family who wants to purchase Early Bird Check-In, I suggest not paying for your Companion’s Early Bird Check-In add-on until you are pretty confident that fares are not going any lower. (Keep in mind though that your boarding position with Early Bird Check-In is based on a few factors, including how early you add it to your reservation.)
(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)Bottom Line
My No. 1 tip to Southwest travelers is to make checking all upcoming Southwest flight prices part of your morning routine. Southwest flight prices change quite often and there is no reason to not get the best price available. The process is extremely simple and it could ultimately save you hundreds of dollars, or the equivalent amount in points, for hardly any extra effort.
If you’re looking to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points for your everyday spend, consider signing up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.
If you are a Southwest flyer, you may also want to read:
How to Earn Points With the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program How to Redeem Points With the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program Top 7 Southwest International Destinations for Families The Best Southwest Airlines Credit Card for Family Travelers Status Match to Southwest for A-List Elite Status Why Purchasing Southwest Early Boarding Rarely Makes Sense for Young Families How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass this Year 5 Trips in 2 Years: How One Family Maximizes the Southwest Companion Pass 11 Lessons from 11 Years With a Southwest Companion Pass 5 Things Families Should Know About the Companion Pass
Jennifer Yellin covers family travel deals for TPG and blogs at Deals We Like. Follow her family’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Southwest
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