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Southwest already offered free flight change and cancelations
The Coronavirus struck the airline industry like nothing ever before. Southwest Airlines also faced a tremendous amount of flight changes and cancelations. Keep reading to learn all about Southwest Airlines Coronavirus Flight Changes and Cancelations.
Actually, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company reported its first operations loss since the 2008 crisis. In April the airline said it sold only 6% of its seat capacity. That is how bad things are and not only for Southwest. Other airlines are in the same position.
But it is kind of unfair. Why you may ask?
Because the COVID-19 not only shrunk Southwest flight volumes to never seen lows. It also took away the company’s competitive advantage. And that is its extremely generous change and cancelation policy.
Even before the pandemic hit Southwest didn’t charge fees for canceled and changed flights. Both for domestic and international flights. With other major airlines’ change and cancelation fees usually starting at $200 that was a big plus.
Now all airlines have amended their policies. They waived cancelation fees as a response to the pandemic situation. So the conclusion is undeniable. What is an extreme “exception” to other airlines is the way Southwest usually does business.
Apparently Southwest didn’t have to make heavy policy changes. Still, the airline made some little amendments to give its customers even more flexibility.
Southwest Coronavirus Flight Change and Cancelation Policy Changes
As Southwest already offered free flight change and cancelations there weren’t many efforts in that direction.
The company focused primarily on communicating important matters with its customers and as all other airlines, on passengers’ safety.
On Southwest’s Coronavirus page, the company claims it will constantly update its customers. The airline will share the latest news about travel restrictions, quarantines upon arrival and other travel disruption related information.
Still, Southwest also made some customer-oriented changes. The airline extended the validity of its customer’s travel funds. Any Southwest travel funds that were previously expiring between March 1, 2020, and September 7, 2020, are now set to expire on September 7, 2022.
Moreover, any new travel funds issued between March 1, 2020, and September 7, 2020, are valid through September 7, 2022, as well. That means if you had to cancel or change your flight due to the COVID-19 outbreak you now have at least 2 years to use the travel credit towards a new flight.
However, only the first flight cancelation or change is treated that way. If you use your points to book a new trip and then cancel the newly booked flight the standard policy applies. That means your travel credit will be valid for 12 months after the cancel date.
Yet, the 12 months grace period is still very generous compared to other airlines. Most other airlines would charge a hefty cancelation fee if you chose to cancel your flight for the second time.
Southwest Elite Status and Award Flights
Southwest has a very basic elite status program. It has only 2 tiers. Members don’t have as many benefits as compared to other airlines’ elite status members.
You can earn the A-List status which is the low tier when you fly 25 qualifying one direction flights in a year or earn 35,000 qualifying points in a year. It gives the bonus of priority boarding, priority check-in and 25% Rapid Rewards earning bonus and more.
You can qualify for the A-List Preferred status that is the next level tier by doing 50 one direction flights in a year or 70,000 points in a year. The main difference here is that you get a 100% Rapid Rewards bonus, instead of 25% and free inflight WiFi which would normally cost $8 per direction.
Despite Southwest’s elite status doesn’t give so many great benefits, they offer one outstanding travel benefit – the Southwest Companion Pass. Although it is not a part of their elite status it can be considered the airline’s highest tier benefit. It is for the airline’s most frequent flyers.
The Companion Pass allows you to take one person with you for free when you book an award flight. To qualify for that you sh
ould fly 100 one direction flights in a year or earn 125,000 in a year. To read more about probably the greatest airline travel perk out there read our article on Southwest Companion Pass Benefits.
Also if you are a regular traveler it may be worth checking some of these airline card offers by Southwest and other big-name airlines.
Southwest Award Flights Change and Cancelation
As you may guess Southwest doesn’t charge a cancelation fee for award flight change or cancelation. When you decide to cancel or change a flight your Rapid Reward Points will be redeposited in your online account. Also, you will get a refund for any taxes or fees you paid.
But there is more. Southwest’s Rapid Reward Points never expire nor have change or cancelation fees. As a response to the Coronavirus, the airline gave a very cool benefit for travel funds as well.
Members whose travel funds are set to expire or are created between March 1, 2020, and September 1, 2020, can convert these travel funds into Rapid Reward Points for added flexibility.
Southwest Flight Change And Cancelation Policy by Fare
Southwest has 3 main types of fares – Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select.
Wanna Get Away is the lowest cost type of fare. By Southwest’s definition although these tickets aren’t refundable they are “reusable”. If you cancel or change your Wanna Get Away fare you will get travel funds for the value of your ticket. You can use the funds for a future Southwest flight in the next 12 months.
Considering most airlines label fares as “refundable” when in reality they are “reusable” Southwest stand out again. For Anytime and Business Select fares, you have the option to get a financial refund to your original payment method. You can also convert them in travel funds if you wish so Southwest is extremely flexible with its cancelation policy.
Although bear in mind that to get the full benefits you should cancel your flight at least 10 minutes before departure. However, even if you don’t show to your flight Southwest is again overly generous.
While you will lose the full value of your Wanna Get Away flight if you don’t cancel 10 minutes prior to departure that doesn’t apply to Anytime, Business Select and even Award Flights. For Anytime and Business Select, you will get travel funds if you don’t cancel 10 minutes before the flight and don’t show up.
As to Award Flights, you will get your Rapid Reward Points re-deposited into your account, no questions asked. Southwest lets you even use your paid taxes and fees towards a future flight.
Note that if you buy Southwest’s EarlyBird for automatic check-in and presumably better boarding position you won’t get a refund for it if you cancel your flight.
Other Refund Options
There are instances when you can get a financial refund even for Wanna Get Away fares and EarlyBird Check-In. If Southwest cancels your flight you are entitled to a full financial refund by LAW.
That applies to all airlines. Most will try to get away with issuing travel credits or vouchers. If you accept the travel funds you LOSE your right to get a financial refund. Be cautious about that when talking with the airline.
Also, other cases when you get a refund include:
- When you cancel your fight withing 24 hours from booking
- If you receive military orders
- If the case your travel companion passes away before the flight
- Extreme weather conditions (usually the airline will cancel this and refund you)
How about when you booked your flight through a travel agent or online travel agency (OTA)? Well, in these instances you should contact the third-party first to cancel or change the flight.
The good news is most OTA like Kayak and Expedia have aligned their policies with the airlines’. Anyways there could be an additional cancelation fee typically between $25 and $75.
How to Contact Southwest Airlines?
The most obvious approach will be to call Southwest on 1-800-435-9792. Additionally, you can write the airline Refunds department at P.O. Box 36649, Dallas, Texas 75235-1649.
Southwest also has a mobile app. Apart from watching some on-demand TV content and booking your flight, you can also take advantage of the live chat feature to connect with Southwest.
The airline is also pretty big on social media. Sometimes if you have trouble reaching out to Southwest via other communications channels try social. The company set a standard to respond in 15 minutes to social media queries or complaints.
Apparently Southwest understands social media communications. That is probably the reason the airline created the Southwest Community.
You can visit the community page here and also stop by their forum or blog.
Points Panda Travel Concierge
As you saw canceling or changing your Southwest flight will be your last problem. You should worry about other aspects of your post-pandemic trip.
A lot is going on right now. Even if you read about the latest travel regulations and updates things are changing on a daily basis. If you are not careful you can spend your vacation under quarantine or even end up stuck in a foreign country.
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