Southwest Airlines Fees Review

By   

Photo credit: Chris Parypa Photography/shutterstock
best

Southwest assesses no change or cancellation fees and offers passengers two free checked bags, making it a no-brainer for travelers who don't want to be nickel-and-dimed. The few charges the airline does impose ($95 to carry on a pet, for example) are among the industry's lowest.

Southwest Airlines' fees are easy to keep track of, because there are so few of them. The airline has distinguished itself by keeping fees at a minimum as other airlines have added and raised the cost of checked bags and other "extra" services. And still, fares on Southwest are often as low as $49 one way. Southwest was the only low-cost airline to receive a 5 out of 5 rating for cost and fees in J.D. Power & Associates' 2015 customer-satisfaction study (and runner-up in the low-cost category overall).

No other U.S. airline offers passengers two free checked bags, in addition to a carry-on and a personal item. With many other airlines charging $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second, families traveling with lots of luggage can easily save hundreds on a round-trip flight. Southwest does charge $75 if a bag is overweight (more than 50 pounds) or oversize (larger than 62 linear inches). Travelers are also free to change or cancel a flight without paying a charge, a savings of up to $200 per passenger compared with the likes of Delta, United, and American. Just be sure to give notice at least 10 minutes before the flight; customers who fail to do so forfeit their fares. Passengers who book lower-priced Wanna Get Away tickets also must take their refund in the form of credit.

The boarding process at Southwest differs greatly from other airlines' procedures. Instead of being assigned a seat, flyers are given a letter and number code that determines their boarding order. When their group is called, they can choose any open seat. That means Southwest customers won't see any fees for preferred seat assignments or premium seats with extra legroom. Boarding order is assigned based on when flyers check in, which explains an optional $12.50 charge for EarlyBird Check-In -- 12 hours earlier than other passengers -- and a greater chance of finding an ideal seat. A recent change also lets Southwest customers pay $40 for a guaranteed Group A position.

Compare Southwest with other airlines using the charts on pages 2 to 4 of our guide and visit the company's website for a full list of Southwest fees.

Louis DeNicola

Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer who specializes in credit, debt, and practical money-saving tips. He loves stacking savings opportunities to get amazing deals, traveling for free using credit card rewards, and teaching others how to do the same. Connect with Louis by visiting louisdenicola.com.

See full bio