Southwest has one of the most generous policies when it comes to changing or canceling a flight. If you need to cancel a flight before it takes off (yep, you have right until 10 minutes before the flight departs), the easiest way to do it is on Southwest’s website, which can be reached by this link.
When you cancel the flight, you don’t receive a refund. Instead, you’re provided a credit, which is called a Travel Fund by Southwest. These travel fund credits are different from a Southwest LUV voucher given to passengers for customer service reasons.
You receive travel fund credits if you paid money for your ticket. If you used Southwest Rapid Rewards points, those points are reinstated and any booking taxes refunded to your credit card.
There are several things you need to know about travel funds. Listen carefully, as these rules even tripped me up:
- The credit is issued through the Confirmation number on the original reservation. It’s up to you to remember that you have the credit and while it may be listed in your account, there are reasons why it might not.
- The credit can only be used for the same passenger as the original ticket. You can’t cancel your ticket and then use the credit for anyone else.
- The credit will expire one year after the PURCHASE DATE of the original ticket. Not the date of the flight, but the day you bought the ticket.
- You need to complete your flight by the expiration date of the credit.
In March 2017, we bought tickets to Chicago. We needed to change our flights and I ended up canceling one of the Southwest flights and changing to United because the United tickets were much cheaper. I knew that I’d get a credit for Southwest that we would use for future flights. (If it were today, I never would have done it.)
I’d already made most of our flight reservations for the rest of the year, and Southwest wouldn’t work very well for the few things not booked. We did have a trip the following year, but it was two days after the vouchers were due to expire. I wasn’t going to plan an additional trip just to use the vouchers. So my big plan to save money might have caused me to lose out on $400.
As it turned out, we didn’t lose all the money. I ended up needing to book a solo trip from New York to Seattle. While Southwest wasn’t the first carrier I thought about on the route, it allowed me to leave from the same airport as Sharon, and spend some time in the LaGuardia AMEX Centurion lounge to get some work done.
That flight used up most of my $190 credit but we had nothing to do with Sharon’s funds and they eventually EXPIRED. I Googled and found messages about how you may turn these credits into a voucher, but I couldn’t find a strict policy saying they had to do this.
What did we have to lose, except $190? I hate asking Sharon to make these calls (Note from Sharon: I really detest talking on the phone) but it was her ticket. I looked up a number for Southwest Corporate Sales Support. I’m not sure if this is the correct number but it did work to get the job done. If you want to see the numbers, the list is on Southwest’s Website HERE.
An agent quickly helped Sharon to investigate the problem. The credit was expired but they could issue us a LUV Voucher. $100 would be removed from the value of the expired travel fund and anyone could use this voucher within a six-month period from issue. Unlike the travel fund, It could be used by any traveler, not just the original ticketed passenger. They would issue the voucher to us by email at the address on file and we should receive it in three to four days.
OK, so don’t call for the expired credit and hope to book a flight that day with the voucher as that ain’t gonna happen. As it turned out, we had to call a second time (Note from Sharon: “WE” had to call again? How about *I* had to call a second time? Joy of joys…) and found out the first representative didn’t enter the request properly. After that call, I received an email a few days later with the voucher information on it.
Southwest put some exceptions for existing travel funds and funds created for flights during the peak of the COVID crisis in 2020.
Previously, Customers’ travel funds that have expired or would have expired between March 1 – June 30, 2020, or travel funds that were created because of a cancellation between March 1 – June 30, 2020, had an expiration date of June 30, 2021. We are now expanding the window of funds eligible for extended expiration dates and extending the expiration date of these funds. Funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020 and September 7, 2020, will have an expiration date of September 7, 2022.
If you have funds covered by this policy, you have until next September to complete your travel. However, passengers who booked tickets after September 7, 2020, and received travel funds are set to see those funds expire. Remember you need to complete travel by the expiration date.
I guess the first thing I want to stress is to keep close track of when your Southwest credits expire. We were lucky to use one just under the wire and had to let the other one expire. If the travel fund amount is worth over $100, you can call and try to have Southwest transfer the value to a voucher. Even if it’s just a few dollars, it’s still your money. Just remember that money has to be spent in six months.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary