Southwest International Block

Trouble booking a flight on Southwest airlines from outside the United States?

This is a topic matter we’ve been curious to research further for a few years now. If you try to reach southwest.com from outside the USA or one of the few destinations they fly outside the USA you will be presented with the following error message.

Southwest Access Denied
Southwest Access Denied

I’ve got a few issues with this, let’s start with the most basic one. This is horrible customer messaging, especially for a company which prides itself on customer service. There is just no need to display an error that makes the user think they have done something wrong. You can find many a post online of people being told to contact their ISP to see why they are blocking access, or to contact Southwest and report their website is down.

Here’s the thing, I do happen to think Southwest has generally great customer service and customer friendly travel policies compared to the other US airlines. This is something that would take someone very little time to pretty up and display a customer friendly message informing them they cannot book Southwest from their current location by design. Followed by a proper message on how to contact them via other means such as telephone or social media. This would also be a great place to list any disclaimers such as they can only sell tickets to people with a US credit card billing address or other qualifications.

Instead, if you inform Southwest customer service you cannot reach their site from overseas, over the past couple of years you will get some variation of this friendly reply.

Southwest Customer Service Response
Southwest Customer Service Response

This doesn’t do anything but compound the problem as it implies they are having an error and it will be fixed. You can check an hour, day or month later without success as it is by design with no current plans to fix it as stated.

If you happen to be traveling outside of the US or one of the few nearby countries Southwest flies to and need a connecting flight home on Southwest you are a bit stranded. The same applies if you booked a flight prior to leaving the country and would like to check out official flight status or check in for a flight on the Southwest website. Like a lot of US airlines you can also be hard pressed to even find a non toll-free number to actually call them from outside the US.

Southwest does not allow third party travel sites to sell their tickets so that is not a viable alternative. If you have a US based VPN you can utilize this as a workaround, but that is outside the scope of this article.

We reached out to Southwest for an official comment, and are happy to report they did respond very promptly and we have included their entire official statement below.

“Southwest proudly operates a network of 100 destinations in the United States and ten additional countries. Customers in the countries which we serve have full access to our website for booking tickets and checking fares.

As you might know, Southwest Airlines has been profitable over the past four decades by being strategically focused on keeping our costs low which allows us to offer low fares to our customers. To help maintain our legendary cost control and efficiency, we have evaluated the number of tickets we actually sell in countries that we do not serve against the cost of maintaining security controls and full website access in those areas. We are always looking for ways to offer our unique brand of Southwest Hospitality to customers. As we add service to additional countries, we will open our website to more areas around the globe.

If individuals need to book a ticket on Southwest and do not have access to our website, we invite them to contact our dedicated team of customer service professionals via our social media channels for assistance.”

While we can fully appreciate the potential customer service issues of trying to sell to foreign customers, these are very solvable problems as we mentioned earlier. They can be addressed with good customer-focused messaging, people who know Southwest already know their desire to drive down costs and improve efficiency. Those that don’t can nicely be informed they cannot currently buy without a US credit card.

I don’t want to let this provided reasoning be accepted so passively however. Working with a merchant provider that can properly handle accepting foreign cards, and process cards with enhanced 3D secure from Europe and other regionalized needs is no longer rocket science and can be handled much easier now than in years past. You do not need localized language or servers deployed in new locales to serve these customers.

Perhaps it’s time for Southwest to revisit this customer unfriendly policy, and if nothing else at least communicate with customers by displaying their own informative messaging versus maddening error messages that drive their customers into thinking something is wrong.

Jed Stafford
Jed Stafford

Started dreaming of travel after a high school field trip through Europe. Has been lucky enough to explore the world with his family.

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20 Comments

  1. It’s the middle of march and this issue is not resolved. I was a potential customer of southwest airlines. But have come to the conclusion that they don’t want my business since people seem to be facing this problem for a few years now. I’m happy i have other airlines to travel on.

  2. I find this bizarre. Wanted to fly southwest but now going United. Ver disappointed indeed.

  3. Thanks for your article & clarity. What’s ridiculous is when out of the USA & taking their advice and using Facebook I receive the same error message! So their recommendation of using social media doesn’t help at all!

  4. I live in France and managed to book a flight on 06/14/18 for travel in August. Just tried to check on the reservation and got the ‘Access Denied’ message others have been complaining about. Why now and not then? Strange.

    • They use a third party service to determine your location. My guess is it just didn’t properly classify where you were that first time.

  5. I continue getting access denied message. It is not possible to book flight from overseas. I am not sure why as big airline as Southwest to restrict people from booking overseas…..

  6. Used to fly Southwest alot but am posted overseas and would love to continue but guess they are scared people overseas are all terrorists or something. Kind of lame and ignorant in the world of international travel. We are talking about reservations people. Your a huge airline whats up with this, totally defies your claim of customer service. Do you not want to evolve.

  7. As an international traveller and after travelling on quite a few Southwest flights, had a high opinion of the airline. I am disappointed that they are using this strategy to keep away certain segments of travellers.

  8. I have tried to reach them many times, even put call back Request for them
    NOT BEEN CALLED AT ALL. I tried next time and waited 20 mins and HANG UP … AND they not response at me at all anymore on FACEBOOK… I think this is very rude services … I am in the Netherlands and just want to book a SINGLE freaking FLIGHT …. this is disgrace as services 🙁

  9. Great article and research! Iam that frustrated long time dedicated Southwest costumer currently in Europe trying to book a connecting flight with southwest when arriving in DC next week…. Impossible!! Very frustrating and have to give my business to another airline

  10. I am returning to the States from Taiwan today and I used to be able to check in through their app. But for some reason it no longer works.

  11. I fully agree, I travel internationally and am a southwest member. I frequently need to double check flights that I booked while in the US and I cannot do so from a foreign country. Right now I am in such a dilemma. I am in Chile and need to change a SW slight because of a change on my return date. It is ridiculous, at least give southwest members the ability to look and book flights while on foreign countries.

  12. I just got done talking with a SW agent per telephone, from my home in Germany. I guess I was getting away with booking from here, but not anymore. These days it’s the error message, and the app, as well as facebook don’t work either. The agent was nice, but played dumb about the problem of access from outside the US. Oh well, if they want to play that game, I can book with a different carrier. Poor business relations in my opinion.

  13. Been talking to them all day to resolve the issue, I am an American Living in Istanbul and come to USA every seven our eight months, I visit my mother in Tulsa and my daughter in Portland, Oregon, I bring one suitcase and return home with two so when I fly from Tulsa to Portland after a visit I use Southwest but guess no more. I used them back in the summer from my computer! Don’t know why they do this. Have read lots of comments. They say if I call I can book but the I wonder when it comes time to fly will I be able to!

  14. Thanks for this article! You are helping the rest of us save a lot of time and frustration. I was a long time loyal Southwest Customer AND I’ve also used their credit card for almost 10 years! Time to switch since I now live in Panama. Sad, since I travel in and around the states often. I am surprised that SW chooses to handle this situation in such an unprofessional way.

  15. If SWA doesn’t want to allow online booking from outside the us at least put up a flight info page so customers can plan

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