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Southwest flight credits will no longer expire

The budget airline describes the move as a ‘first-of-its-kind policy’ among U.S. carriers

A Southwest plane flies past the U.S. Capitol before landing at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
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Southwest Airlines announced Thursday that flight credits would no longer expire, a move it called a “first-of-its-kind policy and value among major U.S. airlines.”

The low-cost carrier said all credits that are unexpired as of Thursday — and any created on or after that day — would not have expiration dates. Previously, flight credits expired a year after the booking was made, though the carrier said it repeatedly extended that deadline during the pandemic.

In a statement, Southwest chief executive Bob Jordan said the decision to do away with expiration dates altogether is in line with other passenger-friendly policies that the airline has pioneered.

“Flight credits don’t expire aligns with the boldness of a philosophy to give our customers definitive simplicity and ease in travel, just like Bags fly free, just like No change fees, just like Points don’t expire — they’re a first-in-our-industry combination of differentiators that only Southwest offers,” the statement says.

According to the announcement, Southwest customers will see a “placeholder” expiration date on flight credits for Dec. 31, 2040, until the company updates its technology to eliminate expiration dates. To be eligible for a flight credit, a reservation has to be canceled more than 10 minutes before the departure time.

Major airlines have given travelers extra time to use credits during the pandemic. Delta, for example, said earlier this year that flight credit holders would get an extra year of flexibility, with rebooking available through the end of 2023 and travel allowed through 2024.

United says on its website that travel credits expire a year after they’re issued in most cases. But credits that are expiring at the end of this year, or were issued on or before Dec. 31, had been extended so passengers can book or travel by the end of 2023.

American Airlines also says travel must start a year from the date a flight credit is issued. Loyalty program members with original tickets issued between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021, can use their credits to book by Sept. 30 for travel through the end of this year.

Tony Roach, Southwest’s vice president of customer experience and engagement, said in a statement that the carrier added flexibility to flight credits over the past couple of years.

“Introducing this change in our policy is part of a massive effort to improve the things that are most important to our customers,” he said.