Southwest Airlines passengers now have extra flexibility when their plans go awry. The airline announced Thursday that the credits it provides when travelers need to cancel their tickets will no longer expire, no matter what kind of ticket they purchased.
“‘Flight credits don’t expire’ aligns with the boldness of a philosophy to give our customers definitive simplicity and ease in travel, just like ‘bags fly free,’ just like ‘no change fees,’ just like ‘points don’t expire – they’re a first-in-our-industry combination of differentiators that only Southwest offers, “Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said in a statement.
The airline has long promoted itself as a customer-first carrier. Its longstanding policies of no cancellation or bag fees set it apart from most of its domestic competitors, which tend to charge extra for changes, luggage and other services.
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What are flight credits?
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, more travelers than ever got acquainted with flight credits. Airlines issued vouchers for future travel in many cases, instead of cash refunds, when travelers had to change their plans.
Credits have been a big part of Southwest’s business model for years due to their easier-to-change ticket policies. Vouchers were also previously available on other carriers, though the terms under which they were issued were more restrictive prior to the pandemic. Southwest, for now, is the only major US airline with credits that don’t expire.
Passengers could use credits toward the value of a ticket for future travel.
What was Southwest’s previous policy?
Prior to the announcement on Thursday, existing Southwest credits had to be spent on travel scheduled to be completed within a year of the original date of purchase for nonrefundable tickets.
Refundable fares were eligible for cash back, and credits from “Wanna Get Away Plus” fares were able to be transferred to other Rapid Rewards members.
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What changes under the new credit policy?
Starting July 28, all existing credits will be extended.
“Customers will begin seeing a placeholder expiration date of December 31, 2040, on valid flight credits ahead of additional work later this year that will update technology systems to altogether remove expiration dates on flight credits,” the airline said in a statement.
New credits that are issued on or after July 28 will not expire, either.
“While other airlines eliminate benefits and value, today we’re enhancing our experience again. When customers travel with Southwest, they receive ultimate flexibility that is unmatched in the industry,” Ryan Green, Southwest’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer said in a statement. “Now, you don’t have to worry about your flight credits expiring before you can use them. We’ll be ready to serve you when you’re ready to fly.”