Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
One of the longstanding perks of booking with Southwest Airlines is the ability to take advantage of the airline’s periodic sales and price drops by banking some of the Rapid Rewards points used when the cost goes down and/or even getting a credit to use toward a future flight when the price goes down on a cash booking.
Details on how to re-price your Southwest flights are always worth knowing, but it is a skill especially worth brushing up on now, with a widespread 40%-off sale on many Southwest flights this fall going on through June 15.
This may be your opportunity to stretch your Southwest points and cash for flights even further by just pushing a few buttons at the right time. If that’s confusing to you, read on and we’ll help you out.
Related: Airlines that offer you a credit if the price drops
Why Southwest’s change policy is notable
Booking an airline flight can feel like a gamble. You never know what the price might be a few days or months down the line, and it’s hard to know if you’re booking 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.
Although most airlines dropped their hefty change fees during the pandemic, there’s no guarantee those policies will last. If those fees — which used to soar into the $200 range — start creeping back, it most likely won’t be worth it to rebook.
However, with Southwest, whether you booked using points or paid cash, you can always rebook your flight and get the difference back. Some other airlines do waive their fees for those with status, but on Southwest it doesn’t matter who you are. All customers can rebook a flight to get the best price available, regardless of elite status.
Southwest even allows you to rebook an unlimited number of times up to 10 minutes before the flight’s departure. Plus, all fare classes are eligible for rebooking. It’s a huge perk and a great option for travelers who want to reduce their overall costs, whether that be in points or dollars.
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Many Southwest members — myself included — have been able to rebook upcoming flights and get the fare difference back in their pockets.
Related: These are the best Southwest Airlines credit cards
What happens when you find a lower price
If you happen to find a lower price, you’ll either receive a Travel Funds credit or your points back, depending on how you initially paid for the fare.
- If you paid for the flight: If you booked the lowest-price Wanna Get Away fare, you will receive a Travel Funds credit for the difference in the fare. You have one year from the date you initially booked the flight (not the date you rebooked) to use the credit. Travel Funds credits from these fares are nontransferable and can only be used for the same passenger. For the new Wanna Get Away Plus fares, you will receive transferable flight credits that allow you to transfer your flight credit to someone else. Note that you must both be Rapid Rewards members, and only one transfer is permitted. The expiration date is 12 months from the date the ticket was booked. For more expensive Business Select and Away fares, you’ll receive a cash refund instead of credits.
- If you used points for the flight: The difference in Rapid Rewards points will automatically go back into the account from which those points were deducted.
Related: How to redeem points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards program
Steps to rebook your Southwest flight
Whether your flight was booked with points or cash, the process to rebook (and thus re-price) is extremely easy.
Then, select your flight. Your original departure and arrival airports, as well as the date, will automatically populate. Change these if you want, and then click “Explore options.”
You’ll see the amount the particular flight has increased or decreased in points or cash. If your original flight has decreased (noted by a minus sign), select the fare to get a credit.
Then, click “Review changes.”
You will see the credit you are receiving at the bottom of the page. If you want to continue, click “Review Passenger and pricing.”
The passenger information will already be populated on the next page, and you’ll just need to confirm your changes.
After confirming, you should receive an email within a few minutes. You’ll notice your flight confirmation number has stayed the same. If you used points, the difference will be credited back to your Rapid Rewards account immediately. If it was a cash reservation on a nonrefundable fare, you should now have Travel Funds available.
Related: Comparing the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, Premier and Plus credit cards
When you go to book a future flight, select the “Apply Flight Credits, LUV Vouchers, and gift cards” link in the payment method section to redeem those Travel Funds.
You’ll see a new section open up. Select the “Flight Credit” 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, it shouldn’t take more than a minute or so to complete.
Related: How to change or cancel a Southwest Airlines flight
How does rebooking a flight work with the Southwest Companion Pass?
If a flight goes down in price and you rebook at that lower rate, there are a few extra steps to follow if you have added a Companion Pass to your reservation.
As you may already know, the Companion Pass allows you to bring a designated friend or family member for (almost) free on any Southwest flight you take. You’ll just need to pay the taxes and fees, like you would on an award ticket. You can use the Companion Pass on both paid and award tickets, which allows you to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points for yourself and then bring your companion without using any extra points.
But before you can change your flight to get a lower-priced one, you’ll need to cancel your Companion Pass reservation. However, since you only paid for the taxes and fees on the companion’s ticket, make sure to request the amount paid back to your original form of payment. This will credit the card you used, so you are not left with a travel voucher.
Once you rebook your flight at 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 leave your companion without a seat if the flight sells out.
Related: Lessons learned from having the Companion Pass for over a decade
What happens if I paid for EarlyBird Check-In?
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 canceled and you received a new confirmation number, your EarlyBird Check-In is wiped away. The money you paid initially for this passenger is nonrefundable, and it 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 on a new reservation.
If you want to purchase EarlyBird Check-In, I suggest you hold off on paying for the EarlyBird Check-In add-on for the Companion Pass until you’re pretty confident that fares will not go lower. Keep in mind, though, that your boarding position with EarlyBird Check-In is based on a few factors, including how early you add it to your reservation.
Related: Top Southwest international destinations for families
My No. 1 tip for all Southwest travelers is to periodically check all upcoming Southwest flight prices — especially during big sales.
Southwest flight prices change quite often, and there is no reason you shouldn’t get the best price available. The process of re-pricing is extremely simple, and it could ultimately save you hundreds of dollars (or the equivalent amount in points) with hardly any extra effort.
Additional reporting by Melissa Klurman and Summer Hull.