Your Flight Credits Now Won't Expire If You Book With This Popular Airline
The new policy went into effect on July 28, airline officials confirmed.
Throughout the COVID pandemic, canceling travel plans has become an unfortunate reality. Early on, quarantine and stay-at-home orders were enacted to control the spread of the virus, pressing pause on recreational air travel, and more recent surges have forced further postponements. If you had already booked your flights and canceled, you were probably issued flight credits to use at a later date. But if you haven't felt comfortable traveling yet, or you simply haven't had a chance to use them, that expiration date might be looming. Now, if you book tickets with one airline in particular, you won't have to worry about expiration dates at all moving forward. Read on to find out which airline has revamped its flight credit policy.
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Flight credits have been a hot topic of discussion.
Airlines are required by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to refund you if they cancel flights, but if customers cancel a nonrefundable ticket, there's normally not much that can be done. During the pandemic, however, with travel at a standstill, several airlines eased their cancellation policies for nonrefundable tickets, issuing flight credits to help prevent passengers from losing out on their money and their trip at the same time.
In general, flight credits can be applied to future travel and are typically valid for a full calendar year, but with the pandemic raging on in 2020 and 2021, expiration dates were extended by multiple airlines, including Delta and United. In May 2021, there were nearly 20 million unused flight credits among U.S. airline customers, according to The Points Guy, totaling a whopping $10 billion. At the time, two senators called for airlines to waive the expiration dates for credits issued during the pandemic—and one airline seems to have taken notes.
This popular airline is setting a new trend.
With air travel as hectic as it has been this summer, some travelers might not be interested in cashing in on credits—even if they're set to expire in the near future. But if you've been trying to find a time to use lingering flight credits, Southwest Airlines has some good news for you. As of July 28, Southwest has done away with expiration dates for flight credits, according to a press release, making it the first U.S. airline to do so.
This move "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," Bob Jordan, CEO of Southwest, stated in the press release.
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This applies to all valid and future flight credits.
The new policy applies to all future flight credits, as well as "all currently valid, existing flight credits," the airline confirmed. If you've got a flight credit banked, you don't need to take any action.
It also applies to flight credits that were issued due to canceled flights from the first year of the COVID pandemic. Southwest extended the expiration dates multiple times, and credits were going to be invalid in September, Ryan Green, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Southwest, told The Points Guy.
"Those credits were set to expire on Sept. 7," Green told the outlet. "We've eliminated the expiration date on those."
On valid flight credits, Southwest customers will now see a "placeholder expiration date" of Dec. 31, 2040. The airline is working to update its systems to remove expiration dates altogether on the existing credits.
Read the fine print.
What the policy doesn't apply to, however, is Southwest flight credits that have already expired. The policy was put into effect on July 28, 2022, so if your flight credit expired on or before July 27, you're out of luck. The airline recommends checking your account page online to verify any flight credit expiration dates.
Moving forward, if you need to cancel your Southwest flight, make sure you do so at least 10 minutes ahead of your departure time, as that is the only way to ensure you'll be issued a flight credit, the airline said.