Traveling has become more unpredictable than ever. This is true for both the individuals who are traveling and for the airlines taking them to their destinations. Staffing shortages, flight cancellations, and lost luggage all currently characterize what it’s like to take a trip aboard a plane right now. However, one airline is taking steps to make travel more convenient amid all the turbulence. Southwest Airlines is making one of the policies it instituted during the height of the pandemic permanent.
Southwest Airlines has decided to do away with expiration dates on travel credits. Southwest customers get travel credits when they cancel a flight. Those credits can then be applied when booking a new flight. Prior to the pandemic, these credits had to be used within a certain timeframe, otherwise, they would expire. When the pandemic hit travel became impossible. Thus, Southwest decided to extend the dates for all existing credits. They have continued to do this, even since travel has resumed. Now, instead of just indefinitely extending travel credit expiration dates, Southwest has decided to go ahead and make the perk permanent.
Southwest’s decision to ensure travel credits never expire is ideal for providing the ultimate flexibility to passengers. This is especially true given the fact that COVID still retains a very prominent presence and remains a very real threat. As such, travel plans can change at any time should someone fall ill. Having the added peace of mind that travel credits won’t expire should one’s plans change on a dime is a nice convenience to have.
Moreover, it’s not just the customer that Southwest’s policy is benefitting. It’s also in service of making life easier for airline personnel, too. Andrew Watterson, Southwest’s chief commercial officer, pointed out on an earnings call that the policy change will help to alleviate the workload of its customer service staff.
Watterson said that travel credit questions are a “number one call driver.” Many customers would call to inquire as to what their travel credit expiration dates were. Or, if the credits happened to be expired, individuals would call to reinstate them for a fee of $100. Eliminating the expirations dates eliminates those calls altogether. Given that airlines across the board are short-staffed, including Southwest, that will provide workers with some much-needed breathing room.
Southwest’s new policy does not come without an ulterior motive that suits the airline’s bottom line, however. They are a business after all. Southwest is expecting its new decision to further cement its existing customer base as well as lure in new travelers looking for bankable conveniences. “Not only are we going to retain customers because of this policy change, we are going to win new customers, just like we did with bag fees,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest’s CEO.
Still, regardless of Southwest’s underlying motivations, they are offering something that other airlines aren’t. And honestly, with so many things that could go wrong when traveling at present, it will be nice to know that there will be some certainties that travelers can count on. That being said, it is worth noting that other well-known airlines, like Delta and United, have been continuously extending their travel credit expiration dates with no indication of stopping those extensions as of yet.