Southwest Price Tracker

A tool to automatically alert you to Southwest price drops!

For those who read this blog regularly, you'll know that I have two passions: business intelligence and travel hacking. Nothing excites me more than being able to combine the two in novel ways; this post is the third entry in our "Travel Hacking" series that does just that!
 
Southwest Airlines has one of the most generous ticket change and cancellation policies in the world. Included in that policy is a truly unique gem. If the price of a flight you have already booked happens to go down, Southwest will refund the price difference to a flight credit that you can use on future bookings.

 
The only problem is Southwest draws the line at actually alerting you about price drops. If you happen to find that the price has gone down on your own, you are entitled to claim your credit; but Southwest will not proactively email you that a better deal is available. That's completely understandable...but means that if you don't happen to be checking Southwest for each of your booked itineraries on a regular basis you are likely to miss out on price drops opportunities.
 
That's where this tool comes in! It's completely free and just requires a Windows computer. All you need to do is (a) download it, (b) unzip it to C:\SouthwestTracker, and (3) follow the PDF instructions provided. It takes about 5 - 10 minutes to set up. Once it is up and running you will start getting email alerts like this whenever one of your flights drops in price!

 
 
In anticipation of a couple questions techies are likely to have after examining the tool:
  1. Isn't this a really complex way to get data? Wouldn't a REST query be more efficient? Absolutely it would. But Southwest's REST API has one of the most robust security schemes I have ever seen. They have gone to absurd lengths to prevent automated queries against their databases. Short of hacking, browser macro automation is the only practical approach.
  2. Why does this use QlikView? Isn't Qlik Sense a newer and better tool? It is, but QlikView is available as a standalone executable which doesn't require a license to open and run local applications.
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104 Responses to Southwest Price Tracker

  1. Paul says:

    So I have this all set up as instructed. I don’t seem to have any errors. When you run the test how long should it take to get results?

    • Results are instant. If you want to test that it’s working, simply set the price to track in the CSV file to higher than what a flight is currently selling for. That should trigger an email next time the tool runs (you can run it right away in Task Scheduler by clicking “Run”).

      • Paul says:

        I must be doing something wrong I’ve tried in on 3 different computers and can’t get it to work.

        • Try to narrow down at which point it stops working. When you run it do you see the browser open and go through its routine (go to southwest.com, save one page at a time)? If you look at the “HTMLOutput” folder after it runs do you see HTML files in there? The order of the script is: (a) output HTML files, (b) reload QlikView app, (c) email if price drop detected.

          • Paul says:

            So i have double checked the process to make sure i have everything set correctly and it appears i do. when i run a test on the task scheduler. all i get is a blue screen that pops up and then goes away. I dont see anything else and there is no data saved in the HTMLOutput folder

          • Sounds like it’s not running the Chrome macro at all. Open Chrome, click on the extensions (puzzle piece) icon, open UI.Vision RPA. On the bottom, switch Storage Mode to “File system”. You should see a single macro there called SouthwestTracker. Try to run it. If you’re not seeing that macro, you might not have performed Step 5 in the instructions.

          • Paul says:

            OK, I changed the mode to file system and reinstalled XModules. Then ran the Macro by clicking the SouthwestTracker. IT appeared to go through the process. I saw Chrome open go to the SW site enter in my date (which i changed the date format on the excel sheet) and it closed everything out as it should.

            So I again tried to run it from the task scheduler and i still only get the blue screen that flashes and nothing else.

            I do want to say Thank you for your time and patience and also quick reply’s.

          • Paul says:

            Follow UP…. I got it working.

            The one Simple thing I not include..

            On step 10 when you add Arguments:
            I only added the path “C:\Southwest….” not the full Argument -Execution policy Bypass …….

            Again, Thank you for your help. this is amazing.

  2. Matt says:

    Hi Vlad,

    I have your tool installed, but the task is unable to move forward when trying to save the HTML file, returning an “invalid file name” dialogue. I believe this has to do with the forward slashes included in the “Date” column in the CSV file. Windows does not allow forward slashes to be part of the file name. I believe this is the information retrieved on line 139 of the SouthwestTracker.json file, specifically the “COL4” argument. Are you able to correct this so that the file name doesn’t include the forward slashes from the date? Thank you!

    • Dates shouldn’t include slashes, they should be formatted as YYYY-MM-DD. See the instruction document for more details.

      • Matt says:

        Ok great, I missed that, thank you! Just to let you know, the sample rows in the SouthwestTracker.csv file contain dates with forward slashes. Thank you!

        • Hi, Matt. That’s not the case. Here are the contents of the sample CSV:

          FlightNumber,Origin,Destination,Date,FareType,PriceType,PriceToTrack
          1973,BWI,ORD,2023-05-03,Wanna Get Away,USD,124
          1096 / 1935,BWI,ORD,2023-05-04,Wanna Get Away,POINTS,12646

          The slash is to represent connecting flights, it’s not in the date column. The instruction document should help you out.

          • Matt says:

            Sounds good, I think it was just Excel auto-formatting the date column and adding in slashes. Thank you!

          • That’s a really good point I didn’t mention in the instructions, you shouldn’t use Excel to edit the CSV for exactly that reason. Will amend the instruction document.

  3. Paul says:

    This is great, thank you! I have a question… if I have a flight booked at the Wanna Get Away plus rate (because Wanna Get Away wasn’t available), can I set up two alerts for the same flight? In other words, one alert if the Wanna Get Away plus rate drops and another if Wanna Get Away becomes available? Or is it one alert per flight? Thanks again! Amazing work.

  4. nicole says:

    this is amazing, BUT I have a mac and I’m assuming I can’t use it 🙁 any way to get a mac compatible version?

    • Not with this method, Nicole. It’s probably possible to adapt this using a technology other than QlikView, which only runs on Windows, but that’s outside the scope of what I can take on.

  5. Staci says:

    Very thorough instructions. Took me about 10 minutes and works exactly as described. Thank you!

  6. Bret Watson says:

    Vlad,

    First, thank you very much for the tool. I have been looking for this exact thing for a very long time. I got everything setup and working without issue. I have several flights loaded to monitor (7) and it is bombing out (It worked/works fine with 5). In UI.Vision I’m seeing the error “25 commands limit reached”. Is that just a limitation of the Ui or is there something to adjust that will allow more to run?

    Thank you,

    Bret

    • Oh that’s interesting, I didn’t know there was a limit. But you are correct, a Google search reveals that the limit applies to “XType” commands in the macro. The macro has 5 XType commands per run, so 5 flights will put you at the limit of 25. You can get around this by buying the full version of UIVision RPA (“personal edition”) for $89. I suppose you could also break the PowerShell script up so half runs in Chrome and half runs in Edge, that shouldn’t be too hard and will let you track up to 10 flights.

      • Bret Watson says:

        Thank you for the reply. I found that as well. I also considered Making a second directory and running a second task, but the Edge ide ais probably easier. Thanks again.

      • TJ says:

        how do you do this, create a 2nd task scheduler for the edge browser – do you need to create a 2nd southwesttracker.csv file with flight #6-#10? if so do you have to modify the powershell script to point to this new .csv file?

        • There would be a bit of work involved. You would need to create a second CSV, yes (name it SouthwestTracker2.csv). You would need to create a new copy of SouthwestTracker.json (the macro definition) to point to the new CSV. You would also need a second copy of start-SouthwestTracker.html that points to the new macro file. You wouldn’t need to create a new PowerShell, you could just use SouthwestTracker_Edge.ps1 that’s included in the zip, but you would need to modify line 87 to point to the new HTML file you created. Finally, you would need to open PriceAnalysis.qvw, open the script editor (CTRL + E), go to the Alerts tab, delete lines 3 – 15, and replace with this:

          csvtemp:
          LOAD * FROM Southwest*.csv (txt, codepage is 28591, embedded labels, delimiter is ‘,’, msq);

          INNER JOIN (Data) LOAD
          purgechar(FlightNumber,’ ‘) as FlightNumber,
          FlightNumber as FlightNumberFormatted, //for alert
          Origin,
          Destination,
          Date,
          upper(FareType) as FareClass,
          FareType as FareClassFormatted, //for alert
          PriceType as FareType,
          PriceToTrack
          RESIDENT csvtemp;

          DROP TABLE csvtemp;

  7. Andrew L says:

    Awesome tool but having some issues getting it up and running. It looks like the HTML pull is only grabbing the front splash search screen and not the results page.

    Possible change from Southwest to combat this tool?

    • Doubt Southwest cares about a peasant like me 🙂 I think this is likely being caused by defaults on your own computer. Namely that you might have last saved a site from your Chrome in HTML Only mode. Try to save any random webpage as Complete one time and then run the tool again. I think that might change your browser behavior back to default.

    • Also, if Chrome is giving you trouble you can try Edge, I included both scripts in the Zip file.

  8. KAB says:

    It seems like something isn’t working quite right for me at the end of the script or the QlikView step.

    I set the price to something much higher than the current fare to test, but I’m not getting an email.

    Here’s the end of the macro log:

    [info] Executing: | comment | Store dummy CSV file to let PowerShell know that macro has completed (more reliable than Macro log and also lets us keep log file for examination in the event of an error) | |
    [info] Executing: | store | Dummy | !csvLine |
    [info] Executing: | csvSave | C:\SouthwestTracker\HTMLOutput\Done.csv | |
    [info] Macro completed (Runtime 94.98s)

    There are files in HTMLOutput, but the content of Done.csv is just “Dummy”

    Thanks for any insight you may have — this tool looks awesome 🙂

    • KAB says:

      I should add, I’m running in Edge and I do have my email address in the Edge ps1 file and I do point to the _Edge file in the task arguments

    • If dummy.csv is being generated but not deleted (which happens automatically as part of the PowerShell script), then I’d say something is likely going wrong with the execution of the PowerShell script itself. The deletion happens on line 103 and QlikView isn’t until line 108, so the problem wouldn’t be with QlikView. It could be that paths aren’t set properly, but honestly it could be a lot of things. I would recommend you go back through the installation manual and make sure you’re following it precisely.

  9. TK says:

    The process after hitting run seems to almost be working perfectly but the blue screen stays open and a Script Error screen appears saying File not found error. Cannot open file: C:\SouthwestTracker\HTMLOutput\….

    Do you know what I could have done wrong?

    I will say that I had to uninstall everything and reinstall. The only step that seems to be different than what your instructions say is Step #7. When I perform that stop it doesn’t ask me if I want to continue anymore. I know it says that this action needs to only be performed once but after uninstalling everything and starting from Step #1 this appears to be the only that doesn’t exactly follow your steps.

    Thank you!

    • You would need to make sure you have populated the CSV with flights you actually want to track. The example CSV that was included had flights that are now in the past, so the script wouldn’t run successfully with those.

      Regarding step 7, the step only needs to be performed once per computer. So even if you uninstall and reinstall you don’t need to do it again.

      • jimmy says:

        I had this same error… Actually the problem was that my default save-type for Chrome was set to “Webpage, Single File” which saves as *.mhtml file. But the script is looking for *.html (“Webpage, Complete”). I didn’t spend the time to tweak the code, but instead just RMB an open page and did a Save-As and changed it to Webpage, Complete and created a temp dummy file. Amazing App; thank you so much!

  10. Kevin says:

    Thank you!!! Super clear instructions. Worked beautifully first try. Windows 11 Home 22000.2295 v21H2

  11. Jay says:

    Vlad,

    Thanks for creating this. One question, how long does it typically take to get an email alert? I tested and it was around 5-10 minutes after I ran the script. Also, didn’t know how many times Southwest changes prices daily so I’m running script several times a day.

  12. Jay says:

    I have mine set to run several times after 3am. Is it normal for the chrome windows to still be open once I come back to the computer? When I test it the window normally closes.

  13. Reid says:

    Vlad – awesome tool. I have been looking for something like this for a while. Would it be possible to add two emails to the tracking? I tried putting two emails in an array to store in that variable but had no such luck. @(“email1@gmail.com”,”email2@gmail.com) — would that be correct implementation?

    • Hi, Reid. Glad you like the tool. You’d need to modify the Powershell code if you want the script to accept multiple email addresses. A simple workaround though is to create a distribution list with your email provider. That DL will have a single email address and will distribute/forward emails to all members.

  14. Bruce says:

    Hi Vlad,

    I got it set up and it’s running, I think. I don’t see any alerts by changing prices higher and lower than the published fare. Also, I noticed the UI stopped running after a few minutes. Here is the log. Does it mean the program stopped?

    [info] Macro completed (Runtime 103.93s)

    Bruce

    • Hi, Bruce. That’s not much to go on, I’m not really sure. I would advise to start over again from scratch and make sure to follow the instructions precisely.

      • Bruce says:

        Hi Vlad. It’s working this morning and I didn’t do anything different. I ran it many many times trying to follow the macros to see what it’s doing. I read through all the comments here maybe I missed something. I even stepped line by line using the UI hoping to see something. One thing though there is no Done.csv file. Is that file supposed to exist? Anyway many thanks for this cool tool.

  15. Morgan Johnson says:

    The script is running and saving the files, but an email isn’t sent when there are lower price flights. I have set the prices well above the current price to test it, but it does not send.
    I double checked the email address in the powershell file and it’s correct. I also noticed that the html files from the southwest sites are being cancelled before downloading, I’m not savvy enough to understand whether that is a part of the code or not (sorry..).
    Any ideas? Much appreciated!

    • If the files are being canceled before downloading completes that could be an indication you have a slow internet connection. You can modify the JSON file that has the macro definition to give it a bit more time: C:\SouthwestTracker\uivision\macros\SouthwestTracker.json. Line 169 is the one to change. It’s currently set to 20000 (20 seconds) so you might want to try to change that to 30000 and see if that helps.

  16. Morgan says:

    Thank you Vlad! I feel like I’ve wasted my question because the script is now working and I love it, but unfortunately it isn’t working when I am logged off. I’ve checked the windows task scheduler and the settings seem to be correct. Any ideas?

  17. TJ says:

    awesome too – thank you. I’m getting a ‘confirm save as’ dialog box that pops up: “Select Flights _ Southwest Airlines.htm already exists. Do you want to replace it?

    Anyway to avoid having this pop up? Not sure if it affects the email results

    • That shouldn’t be happening, the macro takes care of that prompt. Make sure you are not touching your computer while the tool is running. Hands off the keyboard and mouse 🙂

      • TJ says:

        Hmm, I just cleared everything, closed all windows and the browser, then opened task scheduler, started task and walked away. A couple minutes later got the email about price drop, walked back in the office and that dialog box save as came up again. Any idea what I can check?

        • You might have another instance of the script running in the background or something? Maybe try a reboot.

          • TJ says:

            Unfortunately it’s still there after reboot. I trying changing between Edge & Chrome also but it’s still there. It still seems to work fine, yesterday’s email had different prices that today’s – will just have to close all the open dialog boxes and chrome windows every so often. This already saved me $50 on a flight! – thanks so much!

          • TJ says:

            Increasing the time in Line 169 did the trick – I bumped it up to 60 secs.

            “modify the JSON file that has the macro definition to give it a bit more time: C:\SouthwestTracker\uivision\macros\SouthwestTracker.json. Line 169 is the one to change. It’s currently set to 20000 (20 seconds) so you might want to try to change that to 30000 and see if that helps.”

  18. Karen says:

    So I have been using this for months now and it is great. I deleted a couple of flights (they are in the past now), and it quit. I don’t think I messed up the file when I deleted the flights. I also tried removing all the flights and just leaving one at a time to detect where the error is occurring and I can’t figure it out. Any idea what to change with this error message?

    Field not found error

    Field ‘PriceType’ not found

    INNER JOIN (Data) LOAD
    purgechar(FlightNumber,’ ‘) as FlightNumber,
    FlightNumber as FlightNumberFormatted,
    Origin,
    Destination,
    Date,
    upper(FareType) as FareClass,
    FareType as FareClassFormatted,
    PriceType as FareType,
    PriceToTrack
    FROM
    SouthwestTracker.csv
    (txt, codepage is 28591, embedded labels, delimiter is ‘,’, msq)

    This is the flight that brought up that error message:

    FlightNumber,Origin,Destination,Date,FareType,PriceType(POINTS/USD),PriceToTrack
    3562 / 1857,BWI,NAS,2024-01-17,Wanna Get Away,USD,120

  19. Morgan says:

    Hi Again,
    The script has been working well for me for several weeks, but now it stops on the “save as” window when attempting to save one of the .html files, so the email is not sent.
    Any ideas on a solution?
    Thank you!

  20. Sam says:

    hi vlad..

    need some help. followed instructuons to the T and when i run the task i see a blue window flash for a sec and nothing. in history for task i see the task completed but i see no email or results (yes i did add some fligths with higher than current prices) but nothing. not sure what i am missing here

  21. P Pat says:

    Hello!

    This is awesome! I have this setup, but it doesn’t work when I try to track flights within the same day because the files get overwritten. I tried to add (!COL1) to the filename, but I think the qvw file does not recognize. How can we track multiple flights within the same page without having to run an additional script.

    Thanks!

    • It should work fine to track multiple flights on the same route/date. Just add them both to the CSV. Yes, it will get overwritten but that’s OK. The QVW should recognize both.

      • P Pat says:

        Hmm, it doesn’t work for me if it’s the same FareType. Also, how can we setup the alert to show if the price increases?

        • Not sure why you would ever need an alert for increases, but that’s not what this tool does. You’re free to modify the load script of the QVW and try to edit it yourself to do that if you like.

      • Jay says:

        How many flights can be tracked with the spreadsheet at one time? I have a flight in March and my father has a flight at a totally different date. Also, this tool has already credited me back multiple times. Love it.

  22. Jay says:

    Did Southwest change something. My automation doesn’t seem to work anymore. It just stays on the yahoo page and does not go to Southwest site anymore. I also did not change anything either

    • TJ says:

      yeah, mine setup not working either, getting error message

    • Looks to be related to the latest Chrome update. I tested Edge and things are still working fine. Not sure when (or if) I will get around to fixing the Chrome issue. Honestly Edge is a more reliable browser for this tool anyway so I would just recommend switching to that. All the instructions you need to do so are in the zip.

  23. TJ says:

    On a side note, anyone have an automatic check in program that works? I’ve been using robofly.me which was great but hasn’t been working for the past couple months

  24. jimmy says:

    Thanks again for this. I’ve tweaked it and split out the PriceAnalysis QlikView script to search for a different combined csv set of flights making it much easier to search as many flights as I want (e.g. if there are three potential flights between cities on the same day I am want to track, I just include any one of those three flights in the first part that downloads that page and then I include all three options and desired points for each in the unlimited length csv on the back end.)

    Anyway, my question is if anyone can help me understand why UIVision kicks out about a third of the time when it gets to loading the first custom Southwest page based on the csv flight info. I can see it is loading the “!COL”& i Variables from the csv fine, but when it attempts to pass those variables and load the southwest page it gives an error and fails to attempt loading any webpage. I cannot figure out how to troubleshoot it past here.

    …southwest.com/air/booking/[]&departureDate=${!COL4}&d…[]
    Error: Cannot read properties of undefined (reading ‘startsWith’)

  25. Jon says:

    Unfortunately, it looks like something on the Southwest side changed.

    • It’s still working in Edge, it’s Chrome that’s broken at the moment.

      • Redwing says:

        Edge and Chrome have the same behavior for me. Neither one goes to the southwest homepage anymore. Worked a few days ago (last time I checked).

      • Karen says:

        For me Chrome broke earlier like it did for everybody else so I started using Edge and it was fine. Now Edge has quit working for me too. It won’t load the Southwest page. It just stays on yahoo.

  26. I’ve fixed the macro so folks can redownload the zip archive. The only file that was changed was C:\SouthwestTracker\uivision\macros\SouthwestTracker.json

  27. Glenn E Roper says:

    Sometimes the browser closes rather than opening a new tab, and I can’t figure out why. Here’s the error that shows up in the log:

    [error][ignored] Line 8: Cannot read properties of undefined (reading ‘index’)

    • That’s a weird one, Glenn. Is the same thing happening in both Edge and Chrome?

      • jimmy says:

        same here. In Chrome and in Edge. I was thinking maybe something with antivirus sw or Defender, but even if I close everything else, it still occurs.

        • jimmy says:

          think I found a workaround… it seems that when the “start-SouthwestTracker.html” file launches your browser of choice – and then the UI.Vision browser extension, both app reliably load, but then there is a ~2000ms timer where if the browser doesn’t get a command, it closes. UI.Vision still runs, but has lost its link to the browser (since it is closed).

          I modified line 13 of “SouthwestTracker.json” from “medium” to “fast”. This reduces the delay before the UI.Vision macro opens the new tab in the browser and kicks off the routine.

  28. Joe says:

    How to modify script to send email after it finishes running even if no lower price found? I run this nightly and want to make sure that it ran since sometime it hangs on my system.

  29. Super Man says:

    I have more than 5 flights scheduled within the next couple months – any idea if we can create a copy of each of the components (.ps1, .csv, task itself and other files and run the script twice daily – once with each set of CSV file). I tried but not sure what happened and it just did not launch the second time.

    • Yes that should work, the limit is 5 per macro, not 5 per day.

      • Joe says:

        Interesting, I have 9 flights in my .csv file and it runs fine. I didn’t run into any limitations.

      • Super Man 007 says:

        Found a way out. Created multiple sets of CSV files with 5 flights each. Modified the powershell script to rename one of them to Southwesttracker.csv first and then after executing the rest of the script copying the other one to Southwesttracker.csv and running it again. For now I this is enough since I am not monitoring more than 10 flights

  30. Glenn says:

    How can I run the macro manually (not on a schedule)? I see that I can use the “Run” button inside the Task Scheduler, but is there another way to just have it check prices and send me the email? (I’m fine having it tie up my computer for a few minutes.)

    For example, can I open UI Vision from inside Microsoft Edge and run it that way?

    Thanks for any guidance!

    • The Run button inside Task Scheduler is going to be the easiest route. Otherwise you’d need to manually set an execution policy in PowerShell to allow the PS1 to be run.

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