Southwest Airlines Raising Fees Starting August 15th

Southwest Airlines, the largest U.S. domestic airline, is raising several fees effective August 15, 2023, the carrier has revealed to employees in a document reviewed by View From The Wing. They will be raising pet and unaccompanied minor fees, as well as fees for additional, oversize, and overweight bags.

  • Third and beyond checked bag goes from $75 to 125.
  • Overweight bags go from $75 for up to 100 pounds to $100 for up to 70 pounds or $125 for up to 100 pounds.
  • Oversized bags go from $75 to $125.
  • Unaccompanied minor fees go from $50 to $100.
  • Pets go from $95 to $125 per carrier, with no change to intra-Hawaii pet fees.

Southwest still doesn’t charge for seats (they don’t pre-assign seats), don’t have change fees or basic economy fares that are unchangeable, and they will continue to allot each passenger two free checked bags.

For the regular economy flyer, I consider Southwest to be the best overall value when price is equal to other airlines like Delta, United and American. In addition to free checked bags, which other carriers charge for:

  • They give you more legroom. Southwest is almost negligent in failing to market this aggressively, in my view. They generally offer 32 inches of pitch, the distance from seat back to seat back. That’s two more inches of legroom than most U.S. airlines, and you aren’t paying more for ‘extra legroom seats’ to get that.

  • Their flight credits don’t expire. If you can’t take a flight or need to change your plans, you can cancel for a credit. That’s true on most airlines, as long as you do not book a basic economy fare. Some airlines give you a year to use the credit, use it or lose it. Southwest credits never expire. You can take as long as you need to use the credit, making it almost as good as cash (discounted to present value for however long it takes you to fly) if you’ll ever take another Southwest Airlines flight again in your life.

  • Their employees don’t hate their jobs. Something that really sets Southwest Airlines apart is their culture of fun. Employees seem to like their jobs, which is a real contrast from employees at many other airlines. And that fun is infectious, from the announcements they make on board, to games played during delayed (like pass the toilet paper roll down the aisle), to friendly interactions when passing out snacks and serving drinks. Passengers often want most to be treated like human beings during air travel, rather than self-loading cargo, and that’s an area where Southwest shines.

Nonetheless Southwest Airlines is not immune from extra charges. As an elite or first class flyer I often get a 70 pound bag allowance, but just 50 pounds on Southwest (even with A-List status) and weight above that is charged. That price, among others, is going up.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The never-expiring flight credits are a VERY recent add to the value prop (I lost hundreds in stored credit during the middle-end of the pandemic) and when Southwest operations melt down, the fun of passing a toilet roll down the aisle sort of pales next to being stranded in an airport for hours or days with no access to information or a service recovery channel.

  2. I believe I have flown Southwest only one time but that time was a positive experience. Looking through their fees, I saw their unaccompanied minor fee. What is that fee paying for? Does the minor get looked after some of the time? The rest of the fees seem to be inline with what other airlines are charging. I wonder if any small groups have sent luggage with someone from the group on Southwest while the owner of the bag flew on a different airline (such as with a mileage seat).

  3. I think the reason they don’t market the fact that they have a 32 inch pitch on many of their planes is the fact that, well, not all of them do. The 700s have 31 inches, but it’s the 800s and Max that have 32 inches, and they make up slightly less than half of the fleet.

  4. this isn’t awesome for those of us that check bicycles. UA/DL/AS/AA have reduced bikes down to the standard checked bag fee (like skis) knowing that bringing sports equipment drives leisure travel, but WN insists on charging the oversized fee now $125. maybe they’ll get the message eventually.

  5. We use WN for our unaccompanied minor fairly often, while this doesn’t quite hit United’s fee of $150, that will definitely make their fares more competitive if we don’t need to send along a checked bag.

    I’ve also found Southwest more fun to fly, however they are my last choice during irregular operations. The legacy carriers, even Frontier, will get you booked on new flights or stand by on full flights, while Southwest just “gives you flexibility to rebook” but doesn’t really care if the next flight out is in 4 days.

  6. Funny how six months ago anything anyone could talk about was how Southwest airlines was done for, and now we’re back to “Something that really sets Southwest Airlines apart is their culture of fun.”

    Either our long term memory is garbage, or most of what people bitch about doesn’t really matter in the first place.

  7. I would disagree on the culture. The employees remind me of any other airline at this point. No one goes above and beyond and it just a basic response when their is an issue. At times they can be comedic on planes, but their customer service is not any better than United or Delta when their is an issue and are not anymore friendly or understanding. They just remind me of a legacy where there is a good and bad and you never know what to expect.

  8. Regarding the never expiring credits. I was given $300 credit for voluntarily giving up a seat. This was right before the pandemic. It had an expiration of I think 1 year. Then the pandemic hit and my credit was expiring so they gave me 6 more months, and as the pandemic went on, I still couldn’t fly so I asked for another extension and the representative said I got 1 extension and that was it. So much for being nice and never expiring.

  9. As far as I’m concerned Southwest has done nothing to atone for their shameful misconduct last winter.

    Let’s not forget Southwest not only cancelled flights without notice but had police threaten to arrest passengers who politely sought to be rebooked on another Southwest flight.

    Legroom means nothing when you can’t trust Southwest not to defraud you out of your ticket

  10. Of all of the choices out there, I would choose Southwest every time! For the money, I believe you can’t beat them. What other airline offers 2 free checked bags? I can bring my golf clubs for free!

  11. I prefer Southwest and like their boarding arrangement. To me, it’s worth $25 to get in the “A” group. I don’t feel as crammed in my seat either. I drive 4 hours to get to an airport that Southwest flies out of so I can get a direct flight to my adult children’s city. It’s the only way to get a direct flight. I just wish Southwest flew out of my little town’s airport. My only local choices are United and American and I won’t fly American.

  12. I have been flying SWA since 1977. I have never had a bad experience on flights, delays, ticket issues, etc. I have always liked their boarding process.

  13. Southwest Airlines is doubling its Unaccompanied Minor (UM) fee from $50 to $100 starting August 15th. To help supplement revenue and maximize the gouging of passengers, Southwest Airlines should market this fee as an “Unaccompanied Juvenial Delinquent” fee, and charge $150 per kiddo each way.

  14. I have flown 90% of my flights on Southwest Airlines since 2000. While I have had pretty good experiences with them, they are nowhere as friendly as they used to be. You can’t teach fun or pleasant and you see less of it this days.

    Recent flights is American and United have been quite a lot more pleasant as many of the older employees have retired.

  15. I love seeing all these comments! Good ones and lots of complaining and bitching that 99% of the passenger do no matter the carrier. Society is pathetic and we are tired of it! PERIOD

  16. If you have vouchers that expire soon just book a flight..any flight for approx the same price that your vouchers add up to, & then cancel it..& now you have a flight credit that doesn’t expire. Or better yet. Book a ‘wanna get away plus’ , cancel & now you have a transferable credit that doesn’t expire.

  17. Who says their employees like working there? They treat their passengers well; 100 percent…employees; not so much

  18. The unaccompanied minor fee doesn’t seem to recover any identifiable costs for providing an extra service, nor discourage a “bad” behavior about which people have a choice. It’s largely a tax on divorced parents who are trying to do right by kids even though they don’t have custody. Certainly not family friendly.

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