On July 28, 2022, Southwest Airlines announced a "first of its kind" policy: Southwest flight credits will no longer expire — ever. This means that passengers with currently unexpired flight credits, as well as anyone who receives a Southwest flight credit in the future, can redeem their credits for future flights with no end date. This move is meant to position the airline as a leader in consumer-friendly policies.
As Southwest CEO Bob Jordan states: "'Flight credits don’t expire' aligns with the boldness of a philosophy to give our customers definitive simplicity and ease in travel."
The airline has implemented this new policy as a part of a series of recent upgrades to the Southwest customer experience. Previous enhancements have included improved Wi-Fi, better in-seat power, more spacious overhead bins and new self-service flight modification options.
What are flight credits?
Airline flight credits are often issued in lieu of a refund if a passenger has to cancel or change a preexisting flight. In the era of pandemic travel, constant uncertainty has resulted in a multitude of these flight credits, which come with eventual expiration dates (typically one year from the date of issue). With Southwest's new policy, these credits will never expire, so passengers won't need to rush to use them before they're ready.
What are the new policy details?
The new policy states that all unexpired flight credits and those created on or after July 28, 2022 will no longer have an expiration date. (Note that flight credits that had already expired prior to July 28 are not eligible for this new policy, though any future flight credits will be.) This practice applies regardless of ticket type and its application is automatic, so passengers won’t need to take any action. However, Southwest passengers will see the "placeholder" date for flight credit expiration — Dec. 31, 2040 — just until the airline is able to update its technology to the point where no expiration date will be listed at all.
This new protocol is a significant upgrade from Southwest's previous approach, which stated that flight credits would expire a year from the date of issue. The change ensures a positive investment when it comes to booking with Southwest, as you'll have the peace of mind of knowing you'll always be able to redeem your flight credits, should your original plans fall through. This, in turn, makes the Southwest rewards program more valuable for frequent flyers, as it encourages passengers to book more flights and thus earn more rewards and loyalty benefits.
Do you have to be a Rapid Rewards member to receive this benefit?
No, you don’t have to be a member of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program to receive this credit benefit. Everyone who receives a Southwest flight credit moving forward can be assured there’ll be no expiration date, regardless of your loyalty status or the type of fare you booked.
What does this mean for Southwest passengers?
Southwest's new policy provides an additional consumer-friendly benefit that other major U.S. airlines don't currently offer.
While some airlines have extended their flight credit expiration policies in response to the pandemic, Southwest is the only airline who has done away with credit expiration permanently.
Here are the current policies for the major U.S. airlines:
Do flight credits expire?
|Southwest Airlines||No||Flight credits never expire.|
|American Airlines||Yes||One year from date issued.|
|Delta Airlines||Yes||Depends on terms of your original ticket and applicable waivers.|
|United Airlines||Yes||Two years from date issued.|
The new policy adds to Southwest's list of already user-friendly practices, such as bags fly free, no change fees and points never expire. Given the recent chaos facing the airline industry, consumer experience across the board has suffered — Southwest, too, experienced its own operational meltdown. Policies promoting ease and transparency may be important differentiators in the current travel climate.
This change encourages loyalty with Southwest's Rapid Rewards program. The program increases in value, as rewards members are now encouraged to book even more flights with Southwest — this can result in reaping even further benefits like priority boarding, bonus on points earning, same-day changes and more.