Obviously, the past couple years were not without turbulence as far as air travel goes. Countless flights were canceled due to the pandemic and countless flight credits issued for future travel. But as air travel challenges and pandemic hurdles continued into 2022, using aging flight credits isn’t always as easy as it may seem. Travelers may be holding onto more than they can use or aren’t up for flying yet amid a summer of air travel chaos. Meanwhile, those flight credits are facing expiration (if they haven’t already become obsolete).
Thankfully, that’s no longer a concern for Southwest Airlines flight credits that were unexpired or created as of July 28, 2022. In what the carrier described as a “first-of-its-kind policy” among major U.S. airlines, it has completely eliminated the expiration date on all Southwest flight credits going forward.
While the new policy doesn’t help anyone whose Southwest flight credits expired prior to July 28, it does help a number of pandemic-era credits that were set to become null and void in September.
Southwest “had a big pile of COVID travel funds, from especially that early period of COVID where there were so many changes, that were set to expire in September, and we felt like we needed to address that, which is a big piece of the why now and the timing,” Ryan Martinez, Southwest’s vice president of investor relations, said during the company’s quarterly earnings call earlier this week.
The airline’s executive told investors that while there will be some added cost for the new policy, they are confident the returns will come in the form of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
“It matches perfectly with bags fly free, no change fees, Rapid Rewards points that do not expire, all the things that you know about that separate Southwest Airlines. So, it’s a terrific added benefit. And I’m absolutely confident it’s going to win more customers and improve customer loyalty and retention, just like bags fly free did for us,” said Martinez.
The new flexible flight credit policy applies to all currently valid flight credits, with no action needed by customers who have flight credits in their Southwest account. Southwest customers will notice a placeholder expiration date of December 31, 2040, for flight credits as the carrier works to update its technology systems so that it can remove the expiration dates on flight credits altogether.
According to Southwest policy, flight credits for nonrefundable fares will be issued as long as the reservation is canceled at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure.
Customers who have purchased Wanna Get Away Plus, Anytime, or Business Select fare class seats can also transfer their flight credit to someone else as long as both fliers are Rapid Rewards members. For this kind of transfer, the expiration date is up to 12 months from the date the ticket was booked.
Michelle Baran Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.