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.
When you cancel the flight, you don’t receive a refund. Instead, you’re provided a credit called a Residual Travel Fund by Southwest. Of course, this is if you paid cash for your ticket. If you used Southwest Rapid Rewards points, your points are reinstated and any booking taxes refunded to your credit card.
However, there are several things you need to know about this credit. 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 I’ve seen nowhere online where you can look it up.
- 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 your spouse.
- 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.
Here’s how two of the rules tripped me up:
In March 2017, we bought tickets to Chicago. For a number of reasons our flights had to be changed and I ended up canceling one of the flights and changing to United. (If it was today, I never would have done it). It was mainly because the United tickets were so much cheaper for the same flights. I figured that I’d get a credit for Southwest that we would use for future flights.
The problem was that I’m a planner. I’d already made most of our flight reservations for the rest of the year. For the few things not booked, Southwest wouldn’t work very well. We did have a trip the following year, but it was two days after the vouchers would have expired. And I wasn’t going to plan another trip just to use the vouchers. So my big plan to save money might now have caused me to lose out on $200 each.
We didn’t lose them all. It turned out I needed to make a quick 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. It also meant I could spend some time in the LaGuardia AMEX Centurion lounge and get some work done before my flights.
Turning Expired Credits to Vouchers
That flight used up almost all of my $190 credit but we had nothing to do with Sharon’s funds and they eventually EXPIRED. So I did what all people should do, I Googled. I found messages about how these credits may be turned into a voucher, but couldn’t find strict policy saying they had to do this.
What did we have to lose, except $190, to make a phone call? I hate to have Sharon 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 expired but they could issue us a LUV Voucher. The cost of $100 would be removed from the value of the expired travel fund. This voucher could be used within a six month period from issue. Any traveler could use it, 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. 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…). We found out the original request was never properly entered. After that call, I received an email a few days later with the voucher information on it.
I guess the first thing I want to stress is to really keep track of when your Southwest credits expire. We were lucky to be able to use one just under the wire and had to let the other one go bad. If the credit is worth over $100, you can still 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.
Southwest Credits, LUV Vouchers or gift cards cannot be used to purchase flight extras. When I booked with a voucher and a Southwest gift card, I also had to pay for the Early Bird booking with a different credit card.
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