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Southwest Standby Rules

How to Fly Standby on Southwest Airlines

Although it offers standby and same-day travel changes, no specific policies for these are found on the Southwest Airlines website.

Not surprisingly, Southwest standby rules differ from nearly every other airline. Many Southwest passengers benefit, but others end up paying more.

Unlike most airlines, Southwest does not charge a fee for changing flights, but you must follow the rules discussed below.

Southwest standby space bar

Southwest standby space bar

Southwest Airlines flight change rules

  • When you change your flight on the day of departure, the same rules apply as if you changed your flight weeks or months before.

  • On Southwest, if there is a fare difference between what you paid for your reserved flight and your desired new flight, you nearly always have to pay the difference.

    Nevertheless, you will not be asked to pay an additional fee on top of the fare difference.

  • Those traveling on full fare tickets may have to pay little or nothing to change their reservations. Ditto those who want to change a discounted fare reservation while discounted seats are still available.

    The problem comes if you want to change a discounted reservation when discounted fares have sold out. This fare difference may end up being more than the change fees charged by other airlines.

    Happily though, Southwest Airlines roundtrip prices are actually two one-way fares. That means that you pay only the difference on the portion of the reservation you are changing.

  • Although it will not waitlist you in advance for full flights, Southwest standby allows you to show up at the gate. The agent will confirm you if he or she can. You will be asked to pay any fare difference.

    Use your existing boarding pass to go through security and then head for the gate of the flight you want. As with other airlines, elite Southwest Airlines frequent flyer members have priority over you.

    Even if a flight shows no seats available, travelers miss connections, do not allow enough time for security, or simply fail to cancel reservations that they will not use. A totally booked flight does not mean that you will not get on.

  • Southwest standby policies have been controversial

    Many negative comments about Southwest standby are found on the Internet. Most are outdated.

    Not long ago, most major airlines in North America allowed you to stand by for free on the day of departure. In contrast, Southwest charged any increase in airfare. This created customer dissatisfaction.

    These days, other airline standby fees typically range from $50 to $75.00, while you may end up paying nothing on Southwest.

    Moreover, you can change your Southwest Airlines flights anytime until departure by paying the fare difference, If done soon enough, you could end up paying nothing.

    Other airlines charge as much as a $250 fee when a reservation changes prior to the day of departure. Some tickets cannot be changed at all.

    Because airline rules change rapidly in the current environment, double check before you attempt to change your flight.

    Now that you know Southwest standby rules, enjoy your trip! space bar space bar


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