Great news for Southwest Airlines Elite Customers: effective immediately, A-List and A-List Preferred Customers can now enjoy same-day standby privileges for flights outside of the current two-hour window.
Prior to fall 2016, Southwest had a more restrictive policy concerning same-day travel changes for all Customer tiers in case they wanted to change their reservation to leave on an earlier flight. While Southwest does not charge change fees, Customers had to pay the applicable difference in fare if they wanted to change to the earlier flight.
In September 2016, Southwest changed the policy for A-List and A-List Preferred Customers such that these customers could same-day change for free within a two-hour window of their original departure, so long as they were flying (a) prior to the original ticketed flight time, (b) on the same routing between the reserved city pairs, and (c) on the original date of travel. While this was a nice development for Customers traveling between high-frequency Southwest markets, it was less convenient for those who did not have options outside of the 2 hour window.
On March 8, Southwest officially changed the policy to permit these same Elite tiers to be able to same-day change to ANY earlier departure, provided that a). space is available and b). the same criteria is met for the prior two hour window policy (same day, same routing, earlier departure). This is a huge development that will greatly enhance the A-List and A-List preferred products.
However, there are a few things to be mindful of for Customers who wish to use this policy:
- As of right now, the request to Standby cannot be done over the phone, and must be done at the airport by visiting a Customer Service Agent at the ticket counter or the gate.
- It may be helpful to call Southwest ahead of time to gauge if an earlier flight may have seats available, but of course, there is never any guarantee.
- Once at the airport, you have to speak with a Customer Service Agent directly. The request cannot be done at a Kiosk, on Southwest.com or on the Southwest mobile app, although that may change in the future.
It’s also important to remember that this is for A-List and A-List Preferred Customers ONLY. This will not apply to non-Elites, or for those traveling in your party on the same PNR who are non-Elite. The A-List/A-List Preferred Customers can either a). split their reservation to take advantage of the benefit or b). have the non-A-Listers pay the applicable difference in fare.
For Companion Pass members, it appears that the Companion traveling with the Customer will not be able to use this Same-Day standby benefit either unless the Companion is also an A-List or A-List Preferred member. However, the policy of free standby for a Companion remains the same. In other words, the Companion will be able to LIST for standby without having to pay any applicable difference in fare, but are not confirmed until the regular standby list processing takes place.
Finally, it is important to remember that in all scenarios, flying standby will result in receiving a new boarding position for the new, earlier flight, if space is available. It is unclear whether passengers who paid for Early Bird Check-In will be refunded, but presumably, that is a benefit that the customer will forfeit in exchange for an earlier flight.
There are likely going to be additional questions concerning this new policy as well as updates from Southwest directly, but regardless, this is a major enhancement to the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program!
What are YOUR thoughts on the new policy? Have you had a chance to use it already? Share in the comments below!