Why I’m Sticking With Southwest for Air Travel from Now On…

Southwest Airlines no fee to change reservations

I don’t do a lot of air travel. If my family is going somewhere, we almost always drive — at least domestically. It’s not easy to afford flights for five people and since we’d need to rent a car wherever we’re going anyway, it just makes sense to drive. Plus, we’re not daunted by road trips!

The only time I fly is for work — if I’m speaking (like next week in Silver Spring, weeee!) or attending a conference. That happens three or four times a year, tops.

Usually I book flights on Southwest because they typically have the lowest priced fares, plus I love their free bag policy, and their employees are just so pleasant and easy to travel with.

But earlier this month, I had a conference to attend in Charlotte and Southwest didn’t have direct flights. US Airways, on the other hand, did. Direct flights are pretty enticing, especially for someone who doesn’t love flying to begin with.

Well, needless to say, I booked a flight on US Airways, using some points I had accumulated from my work credit card. I booked a direct, round-trip from Cleveland to Charlotte and back. The flight cost $300, but I used $200 worth of points so I only had to pay $100 out of my pocket.

Everything was all set and then, at the last minute, we decided to go to back to Kansas City for Chol HaMoed Sukkot.

The only problem? I was supposed to be in Charlotte on the Sunday after Chol HaMoed — and I had a round-trip ticket booked from Cleveland, leaving at 10 a.m.

There was no way we could be back in Cleveland in time for me to take that flight, so I decided to look into changing it.

I called up my credit card company, through which I had booked my flight, and they connected me with US Airways. To change my flight, they told me, I’d have to pay a $200 change fee ($200!) plus pay any additional costs associated with the new flight. Since this was a pretty last minute travel plan, those costs were another $350.

Yes, I was going to have to pay $550 ON TOP of what I’d already paid for the first flight.

Then I had a bright idea — instead of changing my flight, I would just book a new one-way ticket from Kansas City to Charlotte, and then grab the Charlotte to Cleveland flight on the way back.

No can do. Apparently if you “fail to board” on the first part of your trip, they automatically cancel the return part. At this point, I was verging on getting irritated, but I went ahead and asked the agent how much it would cost to rebook my ticket as a one way.

Bear in mind I didn’t want to make any changes to my reservation, I just didn’t want to take one of my flights!

Well, again, it was going to be a $200 change fee, plus, I’d have to pay the additional costs associated with rebooking that flight as a one-way. Even though I had already paid for that flight.

After being placed on hold for a few minutes, the grand total was presented to me: $470 — just for opting to fly half of my already paid for reservation.

Now I was definitely irritated and said something along the lines of, “This conversation is like a commercial for Why to Fly Southwest!”

Among Southwest’s other awesome policies, they charge NOTHING to change your flights. If I just wanted to opt out of one leg of my trip, I’d simply cancel it. No crazy $470 tab to do so!

I ended up booking a whole new reservation from Kansas City to Charlotte and from Charlotte to Cleveland. Southwest was already booked for my needed flight times, so I went with Delta (which frankly, I was a bit anxious about, too!).

The grand total for this new flight? $232. Yup, that’s right, a whole new round-trip reservation was less than HALF what US Airways wanted to charge me to modify my original ticket.

Lesson learned: I’m sticking to Southwest as much as possible, even if it means not getting a direct flight!

Have you ever had a hard time changing airline reservations? Care to commiserate? Or share tips for getting your changes made without paying those exorbitant fees?


  1. We had this on our trip to South Africa to bring Lindiwe home. We needed to be in Johannesburg earlier and decided we could just drive and skip that leg of the our booked flights. We talked to our agent and she told us that if we didn’t get on that first flight our next flights to Atlanta and then home would be cancelled. We had no choice but to change our tickets for 5 people and pay $1200 to do so. I can think of better ways to spend that amount of money.

  2. Last February we were so grateful we had booked tickets to denver for a conference my husband was going to on southwest (especially since this was our first vacation without kids since our 12-1/2 year old was born!). It was during the one of ice storms in Atlanta and we were able to book 2 extra sets of tickets in advance of them cancelling flights so that once our flight did get cancelled we already had new tickets and then cancelled the spare set all with no extra fees. If we hadn’t been able to do that we probably wouldn’t have been able to get on any flight, at least 1/4 of the conference participants never made it.

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