A lot of Go to Travel Gal readers want to know: Will Southwest extend the expiration dates of their travel funds and credits?
It’s important to many travelers right now who have had to change or cancel flights, thus getting refunds in the form of Southwest Unused Travel Funds (read our full guide about these funds) and the deadline of their Southwest travel funds’ expiration is close or occurred this month.
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Because these travelers know they won’t be able to use their funds before the deadline due to the concerns about travel around the virus, most were hoping Southwest would step up and extend the expiration date.
Southwest initially extended expiration dates on travel funds that expire between March 1 and June 30, 2020 until May 31 and then later until June 30, 2021.
But in an announcement on April 16, the airline announced an extremely generous extension in line with other airlines of more than two years!
Now, funds that are set to expire or that are created between March 1 and September 7, 2020 will now expire on September 7, 2022. And no, that’s not a typo! NOT 2021, but 2022!!
Typically, Southwest Travel Funds expire one year from the original booking date.
Now you will have MORE THAN TWO YEARS to use them. I think that’ll be plenty ;-).
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The Details of the Southwest Travel Funds Extension
At the beginning of this crisis, Southwest service reps were telling people they would not extend their travel funds, much to their disappointment.
In the past, Southwest has usually extended travel funds for up to a year if you asked, but they reduced your credit by $100 to do so. It seemed this time that wasn’t even an option.
However, the airline announced on their website on the evening of March 19 (and updated it on April 3 and April 16) that due to customer feedback, they had decided to make an exception. Way to go, everyone!
Here’s how it works as of April 16:
- Southwest Unused Travel Funds that expire between March 1-September 7, 2020, now expire September 7, 2022
- Newly-created travel funds due to a flight cancellation between March 1-September 7, 2020, will now expire September 7, 2022
But it’s a bit confusing.
When they say “expire,” they really mean you have until that date to book a flight with the funds. If you end up needing to cancel that flight, any resulting funds will expire within one year from the date you purchased the flight with those funds.
So, for example, if you purchase a flight with your new fund on August 1, 2020 and then cancel that flight, the newly generated funds will NOW EXPIRE August 1, 2021, one year from that booking date.
If there were any funds that you didn’t use to book that flight on August 1, 2020, they would still be available for booking until the September 7, 2022 date. Make sense?
When will we see these changes?
Southwest says, “It will take our Technology Team a few days to make these changes.”
When they made the previous announcement of extending the expiration for travel funds until June 30, 2021, they said it would take a few weeks to make that change. It’s been a few weeks and we still have not seen that updated. So we’ll have to be patient, folks :).
New Option to Convert Funds to Points
Southwest has also added a new option to convert any Southwest Travel Funds that you have into Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
This would be for the same group of people: those who have funds that are set to expire or that are created between March 1 and September 7, 2020.
Southwest says they would be converted to points at the same rate you could use your points to purchase a ticket today. Southwest points are worth roughly 1.5 cents each and vary slightly depending on the route and fare.
This capability is NOT yet available, but they say it will be soon. In the meantime, your funds will be converted to the September 2022 expiration date.
What About Flight Cancellations?
Southwest has cut flights by 50% for flights through June and completely revamped the schedule for May and June. And Go to Travel Gal readers are reporting that their flights are indeed being canceled.
That means your flight might get canceled, too.
According to the US Department of Transportation, if an airline cancels your flight, they are required to refund even nonrefundable fares back to you in the way you paid for it. So if you paid with a credit card, you should get that money back on your card if you want it.
Southwest said on this same page that they will OFFER cash refunds for those whose flights are canceled and who don’t want to re-book or use travel funds for future travel and those will not expire (per above) until September 7, 2022. But they are hoping you’ll take the travel fund instead, so they can keep the cash. And I understand. They need it right now!
So you will have to ASK for the refund if you want it.
Additionally, I have confirmed with Southwest that they WILL refund EarlyBird fees for flights that THEY cancel, which is in accordance with DOT guidelines that say ancillary fees should be refunded as well.
Southwest has also agreed to offer a LUV voucher (basically a gift certificate) to cover the cost of EarlyBird fees for flights where customers initiate the cancellation. These are good for 1 year and are issued to the purchaser, but can be used to purchase flights only (not EarlyBird fees) for anyone.
I had great hope that Southwest would do right by their customers, because they are known for their outstanding customer service, which is one of the many reasons I love to fly Southwest.
Way to go, Southwest! We can’t wait to fly you again as soon as this is all over.
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