Southwest Flight Credits No Longer Expire – Ever (But Expiration Says “2040” For Now)

During the pandemic most U.S. airlines eliminated change fees on most tickets (excluding basic economy fares). That brough them closer in line with Southwest, which already didn’t have these fees – and also doesn’t charge extra for two checked bags per passenger.

The elimination of change fees makes it much easier to pull the trigger on buying a ticket. If you’re not sure your trip is going to happen, you can cancel and get a credit to use on a future trip. And if you’re wondering if fares might drop, you can call and get a credit for the difference if that happens.

Still, you generally need to be a frequent enough flyer to use that credit for this to help. And you need to be a frequent enough flyer of that airline for it to help. Credits will generally expire after a year, with the particulars depending on airline.

  • This actually serves to keep me buying tickets from the airlines I fly most, since I want their credits and only their credits

  • Credits on little-used carriers might go to waste, expiring unused

Now in a move that should make it even easier to buy Southwest Airlines tickets they’ve announced that their credits will never expire. All Southwest Airlines flight credits active starting today – however you’ll see a ‘placeholder’ expiration date of December 31, 2040 with tech updates later in the year eliminating the expiration date and process entirely.

This is expensive from a balance sheet perspective, they get to remove liabilities when credits expire and much of that goes away (though there will still be some breakage). But it’s going to be a real driver of business for them.

  • People who don’t value a credit that’s useful within a year can rest easy
  • Southwest’s credits won’t expire, so they’re more valuable – a person need only be able to use them at some point in the future of the universe
  • This will be less expensive for them than you’d expect since already they made credits transferable to other people with their new Wanna Get Away Plus fares making those far more likely to be used
  • It will be interesting to see how other airlines react, given that this move makes Southwest more competitive and they are the largest carrier of domestic passengers – of course other airlines didn’t match their policy that bags fly free.

Already American Airlines trip credits can be used for anyone, while flight credits can only be used by the named recipient (American is generally moving towards trip credits, and ran a promo where flight credits could be transferred between AAdvantage members). Both American and Southwest are based in Dallas.

Southwest Airlines is working on faster wifi, bigger overhead bins and USB seat power making them easier to fly (gate checking of bags tends to less of a problem with Southwest than competitors since customers don’t have to pay to check bags, the lack of traditional seat power for longer flights to Hawaii still vexes though).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I checked mine when I saw this and it’s already listed as “none” for expiration.

  2. Nice – that definitely was a disadvantage if ever paying for tickets is that they were less flexible than award tickets.

  3. They basically waited until the pandemic was over to implement an appropriate response to the pandemic.

  4. This will have a much smaller impact given that there are a small number of people that really will hold onto travel credits for an extended period of time.

    In other news, as the US is officially in a technical recession as of today, WN says that June was probably its high point in revenue for the year even as costs will continue to rise later this year. LUV stock is down like every other airline stock that has reported this month.

  5. @patrick
    I just confirmed with an agent that a cancelled flight from a voucher will refund to these non-expiring funds.

  6. Great. For me the big implication is that I will stop chasing SW points. I collect SW points bc when I pay w points instead of cash I can get a full refund (not expiring credit) when buying a ticket, and make many bookings I may cancel. Now it’s much less of a risk to buy cash tickets since I can cancel and reuse w/o expiration. So it means I won’t xfer UR points to SW again in the future (better value elsewhere) as I have in the past. Will still keep their Priority cc though, since it more than pays for itself.

  7. i don’t agree with nate nate’s comment about southwest waiting until the pandemic was over to implement an appropriate response to the pandemic. if you were an a-lister in 2020 they extended that through dec 31 2021. in 2021 they gave a-listers 10 flight credits towards a-list status in 2022. and they extended 2020 travel funds into 2022…or something like that.

  8. We lost $600 in credit from flights rescheduled to attend a sibling’s funeral. We couldn’t fly anywhere with the same year. So we lost this just months after this new ruling? There should be an exception for anyone losing credits within this year.

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