Southwest Airlines Asks Whether You’ll Pay More for Same-Day Flight Changes, Credit Transfers

March 25, 2022

Southwest Airlines is adding a new airfare option called “Wanna Get Away Plus” that allows customers to transfer flight credits to others or take an earlier or later flight to the same city on the same day.

The Dallas-based airline is rolling out the new ticket type this spring, adding a fourth category to its existing Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select tickets and hoping that customers will pay a bit more for added flexibility. Southwest executives wouldn’t say how much the fares will cost, but the prices will be somewhere between the ticket prices of its cheapest and middle categories.

The new fares should launch late in the second quarter of this year.

Southwest first hinted at the fare overhaul in December to analysts. It’s the first major change to the way Southwest sells tickets since 2007, when the carrier introduced its Business Select class that includes priority boarding and complimentary drinks.

“The use cases for this really run across business and leisure,” said Southwest Airlines vice president of marketing loyalty and products Jonathan Clarkson. “You can imagine those occasions for a business where there’s an employee that was going to take a trip and now that person can’t make it they want another one go in their place.”

Or for instance, business travelers who buy a Wanna Get Away Plus ticket and finish a meeting early or late will be able to switch to a different flight to the same destination on the same day without incurring a charge.

As part of the fare changes, Anytime and Business Select customers will also have the option to roll frequent flyer points from canceled flights to other passengers.

This new category is borne out of the changing dynamic in the airline world from the COVID-19 pandemic, namely the fact that leisure customers are growing and business travel has been slow to recover. The last two years have also caused concerns among travelers who are reluctant to book airfare knowing they might not be able to travel later because of surges in COVID-19 variants, illness or other concerns.

The new Wanna Get Away Plus adds some flexibility without the full refundability that customers get through the more expensive Anytime tickets.

Southwest Airlines chief commercial officer Andrew Watterson said the company didn’t want to create a new fare type by reducing perks for its base class travelers who buy the nonrefundable Wanna Get Away tickets.

“We’re not taking anything away,” Watterson said. “The airline industry, in our perspective, is a repeat purchase business, and a positive experience with a quality product brings customers back for the next flight.”

There are a few other perks, such as earning more points in the company’s Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program.

Southwest has already narrowed the cost difference between its Wanna Get Away and Anytime fares during the pandemic. Right now there is $50 difference in fares between Wanna Get Away and Anytime on a one-way ticket from Dallas Love Field to Chicago Midway Airport in the middle of May.

Wanna Get Away Plus would fall somewhere between the two.

Since Southwest Airlines doesn’t have specific first- or business-class sections, the airline can only sell more expensive tickets by offering more services.

Watterson said the company expects a “marginal” number of customers to buy the new ticket type, but it is part of the carrier’s plan to add about $1.5 billion in revenue over the next year along with other initiatives such as new booking options for business customers.

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