How to Get a Southwest Airlines Refund
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If you’re traveling on Southwest Airlines and you have to cancel your flight (or Southwest cancels your flight despite it not being your choice), you chose one of the better airlines to fly with in terms of refund policies. The Southwest refund policy is pretty generous and easy to navigate.
In fact, Southwest is the only airline in NerdWallet’s annual analysis of airline rewards programs to get a perfect score in the fees category. It has few fees across the board (e.g., you can fly with two free checked bags). Plus, there’s one aggravating fee that’s common with other airlines but that you won’t see on Southwest — the airline charges no change or cancellation fees.
Even with Southwest's lower-cost, Wanna Get Away airfares — which don’t entitle you to a full cash refund — you’re typically able to retain the value of your airfare in the form of Southwest travel funds. These funds don’t expire and can be used toward future flights.
Here’s how to know whether you’re entitled to a Southwest refund and how to actually get it.
Southwest Airlines refund policy
Can I cancel my Southwest flight and get a refund? Possibly — let’s look at the different scenarios.
All flights and fare types can be canceled within 24 hours of booking, without penalty, for a full refund to the original form of payment. For cancellations outside that window, it depends on the airfare you bought.
Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus tickets are nonrefundable (but still qualify for future travel credits).
Business Select and Anytime tickets are always fully refundable to your original form of payment.
Canceling Wanna Get Away tickets
Wanna Get Away tickets, which are generally the lowest-cost airfares you can purchase from Southwest, are nonrefundable.
But you’re not out completely. There are no cancellation fees, and instead — if you cancel your flight — the value of the ticket will be converted to a flight credit you can use to fund a future flight.
Southwest flight credits do not expire.
Canceling Wanna Get Away Plus tickets
Wanna Get Away Plus is Southwest’s newest fare type, sandwiched between Wanna Get Away and Anytime in terms of benefits. Like Wanna Get Away, the Plus version is also nonrefundable. Again, though, the cancellation policy is generous: You can convert funds from canceled flights to a flight credit with no cancellation fee.
Or you might opt for this fare class’s potentially more appealing option: a transferable flight credit.
With Southwest travel funds, only you can use the value of those funds. But with transferable flight credits, you can transfer that value to someone who also holds a Southwest Rapid Rewards account.
That can be useful if you think you may need to cancel a flight — and you might also never fly Southwest again but you have a friend who would. Like Southwest travel funds, transferable flight credits created on or after July 28, 2022, do not expire.
Canceling Anytime and Business Select tickets
Business Select and Anytime tickets offer far more flexibility; they are fully refundable and will give you the cash value back when canceled. While you can choose to hold the value of the ticket as a flight credit, you might as well take advantage of the option to receive a full refund to your method of payment so you don’t have money tied up in your Southwest account.
Method-of-payment refunds are usually made to the same form as the original payment, though you likely won’t get the money immediately. It typically takes up to seven business days to get your money back for purchases by credit card or 20 days if paid by cash.
If you want a refund because Southwest chose to cancel your flight
If Southwest Airlines cancels your flight, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a Wanna Get Away or an Anytime fare — you’re entitled to a full refund.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, travelers are entitled to a full refund if the airline calls off their flight, regardless of the reason, and they choose not to travel on another flight paid for by Southwest.
Airlines are required to make refunds promptly within seven business days for purchases by credit card or within 20 days if paid by cash or check.
Refunds for other travel expenses around cancellations
Southwest has been known to be fairly generous about issuing additional compensation for flights that it cancels.
Exact compensation varies by situation, but the airline has promised to provide airport meal vouchers and help arrange overnight lodging and transportation for delays of three or more hours if the situation was within Southwest’s control.
If it doesn’t offer vouchers or arrange travel for you, Southwest has also said it will “consider reasonable requests for reimbursement” of other expenses such as meals, hotels and ground transportation.
Though if the situation is outside Southwest’s control, such as severe weather, Southwest won’t make the same promise. But you might luck out anyway.
Take, for example, the giant Southwest holiday meltdown that started in December 2022 and was initiated by severe winter storms. While other airlines recovered relatively quickly, the Southwest chaos continued into January 2023, resulting in more than 16,700 canceled flights.
Southwest was liberal about the types of refunds it issued. Travelers who waited out the delay or opted to drive instead of fly to their destination reported getting reimbursed by Southwest for rental cars and hotels. Southwest even refunded some surprising expenses like rebooking fees for missed theater performances.
On top of that, Southwest sent out vouchers to some customers containing coupon codes for 25,000 Rapid Rewards points, which NerdWallet estimates are worth roughly $375. Plus, it extended elite status and Companion Pass benefits for some affected folks.
If you’re in a situation where your flight is canceled and you incur extra expenses, submit your receipts via Southwest’s Email Us webpage. From there, select from Complaint, Comment/Question or Compliment, then click on Travel Disruption, and then click on Expense Reimbursement Request.
Steps to getting a refund from Southwest Airlines
If your airfare is eligible for a full refund, you can cancel on Southwest’s website or through its mobile app by navigating to the Manage Reservations option. From there, click on the button that says “Cancel your flight.”
Be prepared to input your full name and confirmation number. Upon canceling, you’ll be able to select whether you want the money back as travel funds or returned to the original payment method.
If you booked on Southwest points, you’ll get the points refunded to your Rapid Rewards account. You can choose whether you’d prefer the taxes and fees be refunded to your original payment form or as a future flight credit.
If you purchased a nonrefundable airfare, follow the same steps to cancel your flight. But you’ll only get the option to receive travel funds.
You can also call Southwest at 800-435-9792 for help getting that refund.
How to know whether you purchased refundable Southwest Airlines tickets
You can confirm the type of ticket you purchased by:
Viewing fine print on your original booking confirmation email.
Calling Southwest Airlines Reservations.
Logging in to your Southwest Airlines account to see your booking details.
» Learn more: Plan your next redemption with our airline points tool
Are Southwest flights refundable? Yes, in certain circumstances
With the right planning, submitting a Southwest refund request doesn’t have to be a headache.
Consider booking nonrefundable Southwest Airlines flights (Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fares) only if you’re fully confident that you won’t have to cancel and require a cash refund.
If possible, purchase flights that are eligible for a refund so you can get your money back ASAP if the trip falls through.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card