Southwest Eliminating Expiration Date on Flight Credits Is Great*

I’ve always said aviation is something of a copycat business. One airline will come up with a great idea, an innovation, or even an airfare sale, and a competitor will soon mimic it and put their own spin on it.

Which is more or less saying, ‘Hey we weren’t smart enough to come up with this idea, but we think we can improve upon it.’ Eh, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

So, I am curious as to whether the latest twist introduced by an airline will be embraced by the rest of the industry, or will they see it as a potential hindrance to their financial bottom line.

Last week, Southwest Airlines announced it would be eliminating the expiration date from flight credits issued to customers. It’s not a novel idea.Basically, all airlines flirted with the policy during the pandemic when passengers couldn’t, or wouldn’t, make their scheduled flights, and when air travel took a nosedive with delays and cancellations.

But Southwest is the first carrier to make it so it’s not contingent on, you know, a life-threatening illness threatening the entire planet.

This is a good thing.

Airlines already make a lot of money in ancillary fees. Pay to change your seat, pay for luggage, pay to have access to overhead bin space … I have expected my local town pool to stop me at the entrance one day and say “OK, that’s $5 for entry and a $5 charge for the water.”

And let’s be real because losing your flight credit because you went past a certain date is just like another fee that allows the airlines to make more money off you. they tell you there is a certain window to use that service whether it fits into your schedule or not, and they kept the money if the time expired.

For that reason alone, I remain suspect whether other airlines will play the mimic game here and copy Southwest’s new policy. Listen, you-know-what happens. People get sick. People move locations and suddenly don’t need to travel. People simply forget. Next thing you know, we’re back to the original premise – you pay for a service and, for whatever reason, it goes unfulfilled.

From a marketing standpoint, it’s a great move by Southwest. The Dallas-based airline already has a differentiating point with its policy of no baggage fee, and this could be another game-changer for the carrier. Southwest has been blessed in that regard in terms of having a founder and then subsequent CEOs who have been willing to embrace change and innovation.

I’m just not so sure that the rest of the industry is so willing to adopt the same policy this time.

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