If you are a Southwest flier and enjoy the flexibility of being able to change and cancel flights, you’ll want to make sure to pay attention to this post! Last week, Southwest implemented their new reservation platform and when you change a flight, any fully refundable reservation automatically becomes non-refundable. While Southwest does not charge a fee if you cancel a Southwest flight, non-refundable fares result in a travel voucher instead of being refunded back to the credit card used to pay. I wrote about this in depth last week, but I do want to point out how you are able to ensure you do not get stuck with a travel voucher.
For reference, fully refundable flights include…
- Flights booked with points
- Business Select fares
- Anytime fares
**Paid Wanna Get Away fares are NOT affected.
So if you make a change to any of the above fare types at any point they will essentially act as if you booked a paid “Wanna Get Away” if you want to cancel your flight. I personally am not a fan of Southwest travel vouchers for a few reasons:
- They expire 1 year from the date the flight was originally booked (NOT the date the flight was canceled). So if you booked a flight on January 1, 2017 and then go to cancel the flight in November 2017, the travel voucher you are issued has to be used and flown by January 1, 2017. This gives you minimal time to use the credits.
- They are non-transferable. Years ago you used to be able to use a travel voucher to book a flight for anyone, but not anymore. It is valid only for the person whose name is on the ticket, even if someone else paid for a ticket.
- If you use a travel voucher combined with a credit card for a flight and need to cancel the flight, the paid portion of the flight inherits the expiration date of the travel voucher. So if you use a $5.60 travel voucher that expires July 1, 2017 towards a $200 flight, and for whatever reason cancel the flight, you’ll receive a $200 travel voucher back where the entire thing expires July 1, 2017. The $194.40 paid on the credit card will NOT expire a year from when you booked the flight, but instead when the original travel voucher expires.
Workaround to NOT Get a Travel Voucher
As I mentioned above, if you make a change to a flight (this even includes upgrading an Anytime fare to a Business Select fare even if the routing stays the same). To ensure you to not get caught with a travel voucher when you need to change a flight, there is a simple workaround – cancel your flight then rebook. This will keep your flight fully refundable in the case you need to cancel.
While I am definitely not a fan of this change, I do appreciate that Southwest is still the only airline that does not charge for flight changes or cancelations. Southwest is also not hiding this issue at all. When you go to change a flight the warning below appears: