[UPDATED] How Southwest Almost Overcharged Me THOUSANDS of Points to Change Flights

René’s Points for Better Travel has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. René’s Points for Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our advertising policy, visit visit this page.

Passengers board a Southwest 737 at Hollywood Burbank Bob Hope Airport (BUR) in Burbank, California.

Heads up, Southwest travelers. Hopefully it’s a glitch (or payback for my teasing them) but the airline of LUV quoted me two wildly different prices to change an award flight.

Quick Backstory

My family and I have an upcoming trip to Las Vegas for a friend’s birthday party.

We opted to fly Southwest from Burbank instead of Delta out of LAX for a few reasons:

  • LAX is a disaster right now (more than usual). Flying to Vegas from LAX would take longer than driving.
  • BUR is closer to our house. And much simpler.
  • I had Rapid Rewards points to burn, thanks to one of my clients who nearly always books us contractors on Southwest
Southwest 737s are parked at gates at Hollywood Burbank Airport / Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California. (BUR)

Southwest 737s at Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR)

I had enough Rapid Rewards points for one round trip, so I used them for my reservation. My wife and daughter booked using a separate Rapid Rewards account topped off with enough points thanks to a Chase Sapphire Reserve Ultimate Rewards transfer.

We originally planned to leave on a Thursday morning and return on a Saturday night.

A change in plans dictated we return home Sunday instead.

Changing Our Flights

I logged on to the Southwest app. Changes varied from about 4,000 Rapid Rewards to over 14,000. One way.

I wasn’t sure how many Rapid Rewards points were available for my wife and daughter to change their flights. When logged on to Southwest’s website, I saw drastically lower prices. Like, anywhere from a high of about 8,000 — to a low of points refunded.

I called Southwest and explained to the rep the different prices between the app and website.

“That’s weird,” she said.

The only prices she had available were the ones on Southwest’s website. She helped us process the changes and all was fine.

Still, though, the discrepancy stymied me.

Checking Back with Southwest

I checked my reservation again yesterday on the Southwest app and website. My logons took place within about five seconds of each other.

Here’s what I saw when I selected the “change flight” options for the same PNR with only one person to return on the same Sunday in question:

Fare differences between the Southwest Airlines app and Southwest Airlines website.

(For privacy purposes, I redacted dates and some other information. René has seen the original picture and can verify the dates and other travel information match.)

The 7:00 AM flight would run me a minimum of 6,507 Rapid Rewards if I used the app. On the website, however, I’d be credited 1,452 points. The 10:50 AM option runs 11,949 on the app — but just 3,990 on Southwest.com.

Worth pointing out that these prices are for the Wanna Get Away options. None of the prices on the app match anything on website.

I got in touch with a contact at Southwest. According to my source, the Rapid Rewards people said there should not be any difference between the app and website.

I sent the picture to the good folks at Southwest’s Twitter team. The rep’s response?

“That’s odd.”

She showed me the prices she had available — which were the same ones published on the website.

Always Compare Prices

I guess the moral of the story is to compare prices — between Southwest’s own app and website.

What Do You Think?

Several people have examined the photo. My wife and father-in-law saw in person the differences between the app and website.

Is there something I’m missing?

Was Southwest trying to exact revenge on me for some of the snarky things I’ve said about them?

Or are they hoping more people use the app — and pony up more points?

Please share your thoughts in the Comment section below! — Chris

UPDATE, 7:41 AM PDT

Some commenters offered help.

The app displays the new total cost. The website displays just the difference.

So I was incorrect: Southwest was not trying to overcharge me.

However, I don’t understand why Southwest displays one figure on their app and another on their website. They should adjust one of them so their figures are the same across the board. Even Delta’s IT gets this right!

What also is interesting is the Southwest phone and Twitter reps weren’t aware of these display discrepancies.

Leave it to our readers to know the correct answer! Thanks, gang!

–C

10 comments

  1. If I understood the other delta (bad pun) here is that one on medium you were looking for the prices for two people to change and on the other it was just for yourself. I think other airlines have a similar practice, but could it be that a second person caused a higher fare bucket in the app that you didn’t dip into a single person on the website? Sorry if I misread the post.

  2. Meh – Renee, being a travel expert and delta aficionado you ought to know about airline industry variable pricing. Seat price now varies on what type of computer you book with, whether you use a cell phone to book versus a computer and what type of cell phone you use to book. After the airline figures your implied wealth based on your communication media, an employee back in the home ofice spins a wheel and you get what ever price it lands on.

  3. The rate in App is the new total rate. You will see the difference to pay or credit in the next page.
    You have paid 7959 points. For the first flight, the new total is 6507 points as shown in the App, so that you will be credited 1452 points as shown at the website. For the second flight, the new total is 11949 points as shown in the App, so that you will need to pay 3990 points as the website.

  4. Hi Chris! It looks like on the app you are looking at booking a NEW flight where on the computer you are CHANGING the flight. On the app it is showing you the cost of purchasing a ticket from scratch. Take the first flight out of the day for example, it will cost you 6,507. However, if you were to change your existing flight to a new flight and pick that same first flight out, it is 1,452 points less than what you originally booked. If you look at your original confirmation, you’ll probably see that the flight you booked cost 7,959 Southwest Rapid Reward points. Southwest is not overcharging you at all, the number of points required are the exact same if you book through the app vs. the computer. Hope this helps!

  5. @Jen: Hi! Thanks for the comment! That makes sense.

    The Southwest app should simply show the cost of changing the ticket. I don’t know why they do it one way on the app and another on the website — confusing certain people (like me).

    Thanks again!

  6. @Nick: Nope. Just for me. However — as I’ve just learned — Southwest displays total fare on the app and difference on the website.

  7. That’s a relief. I am glad they weren’t being dishonest, although they should have been clearer since one of the apps was clearly misleading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *