Travel News

How Southwest Gets the Last Laugh on All the US Airlines

Written by Charlie

US airlines rushed this week to announce their cancellation of change fees. Even with those gone, here is why Southwest still gets the last laugh on them.

In what was probably the fastest change/reaction time ever for US airlines, United started the ball rolling last week by dropping change fees “permanently” and the other airlines quickly followed suit. But, while this is good news for their customers, there is one airline that is sitting in the corner just snickering the whole time. 🙂

Southwest Still Has Airlines Beat on Change Fees

The Background

Before this week, legacy airlines (American, Delta, and United) had years-old change fees that were horrible for customers. Basically, if you wanted to change a domestic ticket (maybe you found a cheaper price or maybe you could not travel when originally planned), you would have to pay like a $200 change fee – plus whatever cost change was applied for the new ticket (if it was more expensive).

Keep in mind that airlines have always been free to change the schedule on you if things changed for them – like the schedule no longer worked for them for that particular flight or they switched aircraft meaning they had fewer seats. When this happened, you were at their mercy to some extent because, hey, they make the rules.

The “Now” for Airline Change Fees

But, now that has all changed – in the words of United, “permanently”. Alaska, American, Delta, and United have all waived those change fees. Here is a quick hit on each airline’s change fee waiver/policy/elimination now:

Alaska Airlines Change Policy
  • No change fees on any Main or First Class fare
  • This applies to wherever Alaska flies
  • Saver fares are not eligible for changes
  • If you change to a cheaper fare, you will get the difference back as a voucher for a future trip
American Airlines Change Policy
  • No change fees for Main Cabin, Premium Economy, Business Class, or First Class
  • This applies to any of the 50 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Basic Economy not eligible for changes
  • If you change to a cheaper fare, you will get the difference back as a voucher for a future trip
Delta Air Lines Change Policy
  • No change fees for Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+, Delta Premium Select, Delta One (domestic), or Delta First Class
  • This applies to any travel within the domestic U.S., Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Basic Economy is not eligible for changes
  • No refund to a voucher if you purchase a cheaper ticket
United Airlines Change Policy
  • No change fees for all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets
  • This applies to any travel within the 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Basic Economy is not eligible for changes
  • No refund to a voucher if you purchase a cheaper ticket

While all of that is good news, at least from where they all came from, this still falls quite a bit shy of the already fantastic Southwest Airlines with their no-fee policy. Before we dive in, let’s give them the same treatment as the airlines above:

Southwest Airlines Change Policy
  • No change fee applies to any ticket
  • This applies to anywhere Southwest flies
  • Receive a credit or points if you purchase a cheaper ticket

See what I mean 🙂

Southwest Still Rules This Area For Many Reasons

Southwest took quite a few online shots at their competitors as they welcomed them to the no-fee change club. However, with these airlines still saving their cheapest tickets in the “no-change” category, each airline’s policy can be a bit confusing for customers.

Super Easy to Change Flights with No Fees at All

Instead, Southwest makes it incredibly easy – any ticket, award or cash, can be changed or canceled with no fee. If you used a credit card to buy your ticket, you will receive a voucher that is good for one year from the day the original flight was booked. If you used points, you get them all back right away.

Get Points or Credit for Cheaper Flights

Also, you can make changes as often as you want so when there are sales, you can literally get credit or points back in less than a minute by switching to the new lower price. You can also cancel anytime up to 10 minutes before the flight’s departure.

Still No Bag Fees

Plus, you still do not pay bag fees with Southwest (you do with other airlines unless you have some things in your travel “bag”). You also do not pay close-in booking fees on awards (though in fairness, you will likely pay a higher price since the awards are tied to the revenue cost of the ticket) and you never pay a seat selection fee. That is because Southwest has open seating so you pick whichever seat you want, that is open, when you board the plane.

Doesn’t Matter Where You Fly – All Changes/Canceled Tickets are Fee-Free!

Lastly, their no-fee on changes or cancelations also applies to every single destination Southwest flies to!

So, yes, even with all of these airlines changing their change fees, Southwest still rules this area and can just keep laughing as the airlines adjust their way around to draw more customers.

Featured image courtesy of Markus Mainka –

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • I agree. WN has made it easy to change without a fee and that goes a long day. UA/AA/DL/AS put zero resources into making it easy to change flights. They look equal on paper but not the same customer experience.

  • Easy to utilize or not, the doing away of change fees lessens the differences between the airlines. Spin it as you like but the lack of change fees is no longer as large a competitive advantage for Southwest.

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