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Use this quick trick to save on Southwest flights

A screenshot of a Southwest Airlines account.

You probably already know that airfares fluctuate. You may even know that it’s possible to request money back if a flight gets cheaper after you book it. But I bet you didn’t know how extremely easy Southwest Airlines makes it to do this! In fact, in about 10 minutes this morning, I got back about 3,000 Southwest points, worth about $40.

And then today, when I went back into my account to take some screenshots for this post, I found a new price reduction! With a couple of clicks, I added another $40 in points to my savings, bringing my total to $80. Not bad for about 15 minutes “work”!

Here’s how you can try this too:

Step one: Log into the Southwest web site and click My Account, in the upper right corner.

Step two: On the left side of the screen, you should see the heading “My upcoming trips.”

A screenshot of a Southwest.com account.
ON this screen, you can see trips you’ve already scheduled. To find out if the price has changed, click “details.”

Below this, you’ll see — you guessed it — all the trips you have reserved for future dates. Select a flight to check the price of, and click “Details.”

A screenshot from a Southwest Airlines account.
To find out if your flight price has changed, click “Change.”

Step three: On this screen, you’ll see info like your flight date and departure times. Make note of these. Then click the word “Change” on the upper right part of the screen. (And don’t worry — just clicking this button won’t change your flight. You can decide that after you see the prices.)

Step four: On the next screen, you’ll see each leg of your journey, with a check box. If you have a round trip flight, you could check both boxes to see the available prices for both flights at once. Or if you prefer, just check one box to adjust your flights one at a time.

Step five: After you check the box, a yellow button will appear at the bottom right that says “Explore options.” Click it.

Southwest.com screen shot.
I was so excited when I logged on just to take screenshots and saw that, since yesterday, the price of my flight went down nearly 3,000 points!

Step six: Finally, you get to see the prices! If you paid with dollars, Southwest will show you the $ price; if you paid with points, you’ll see these prices in points.

If you are not open to changing your flight time, locate the same exact flight on the page. If the price starts with a +, as in “+3,000 points, that means the price went up since you booked it. Better luck next time! To cancel this process, click on another part of the site or simply log out. I usually click “Account” on the upper right at this point, so I can start the process over with any other flights I may have.

If the price starts with a -, as in “-3,000 points,” jackpot! Your flight got cheaper since you booked it. Simply click the new price to proceed.

If the price says + 0 points, it means the price hasn’t changed since you booked it.

If you are open to changing your flight time to get a better deal, take a look at the other prices on the screen. Remember, the + and – prices you’re seeing are relative to what you already paid for your original flight. So if you see an acceptable flight that says “-$100,” that means you’ll get a $100 refund or credit if you switch to it. If you’re really flexible, you can even click on different days to see if you could save by flying on a different date.

Step 7: Click “review changes.” The next screen will tell you how many dollars or points you’ll be getting back.

A screenshot from Southwest Airlines.
This screen will show the credit you’ll receive. Click the yellow button to continue.

Step 8: If you like what you see, click “Review passenger and pricing” on the bottom right. This will take you to the screen where you can make a final check to make sure that you have selected the correct flight, that your phone number is correct, etc.

Step 9: Click the yellow button on the bottom right: “Confirm changes.”

That’s it! You’re done! If you’re lucky, you just saved yourself a few bucks — or points — with very little time and effort.

The one situation where this strategy doesn’t work

If, when you click details, you see a notice that starts with “Your flight was modified …” you won’t be able to save money by changing your flight right now. That’s because, when Southwest changes your flight, they open the system up for you to change to a different time or date with no price change. If you were just fishing for discounts, this can be disappointing, but it’s not all bad news!

Is there a time or date that would have worked better for you, but was too expensive before? Now’s your chance to change to the better flight for free. For instance, I would rather fly after 7 a.m., but sometimes the 5 a.m. flight is a lot cheaper. If I book the 5 a.m., and then Southwest changes that flight (maybe they moved the takeoff time by 10 minutes, for example), I can now change to the more expensive 7 a.m. flight without paying more. Or if I was staying at my destination an extra two days to save money (as a self-employed writer, I do that kind of thing), I can now move up my return home for free. Changes by the airline happen pretty frequently, so this is something to watch for. You’ll probably get an email when these changes happen, but they’re easy to miss.

Does this money-saving trick work only on Southwest?

It may also be easy to get a little money back when prices fluctuate on other airlines, too. I’m just super familiar with the Southwest system, so this is what I know! If you have this process down pat for another airline, I’d love to hear about it.