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How to extend your flight credits and vouchers

This is your reminder to check the expiration dates on your unused vouchers

(iStock/Washington Post illustration)

When the coronavirus hit in 2020, many travelers had no choice but to cancel upcoming flights. Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights, was one of them.

“It was a nonrefundable fare, so instead of getting my cash back, I got a voucher,” he said. “Tons of us have them.”

Over the course of the pandemic, airlines have repeatedly pushed back expiration dates for vouchers and credits. But as we enter the third year of the coronavirus, “travel demand is picking back up, [and] airlines have kind of employed varying strategies in terms of vouchers,” Orlando said.

Some airlines have continued to extend expiration dates, while others may require you to do some finessing to get more time. Peter Vlitas, Internova Travel Group’s senior vice president of airline relations, said what you can do to get more time on your voucher will depend on the airline. He said airlines seem to be changing their policies to make it easier for customers to use credits and vouchers in the future.

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“One of the outcomes of the pandemic is that the airlines realize … it’s a good customer service,” Vlitas said of extending vouchers. “They want people to use them.”

If you’re holding onto airline vouchers, credits or tickets with rapidly approaching expiration dates, here’s how to keep them from going to waste.

Check if your voucher has already been extended

There is a chance your airfare has been extended and that you didn’t even know it. Orlando said some airlines have adjusted expiration dates, but they’re not always vocal about it.

“Sometimes that change will have been made without you even knowing,” he said. “So don’t assume that original, original expiration date is real.”

Log into your account with the airline and double check to see where your voucher or credit stands; you may already have another year of potential use.

Ask the airline for an extension

Orlando said lots of people are having success picking up the phone and asking their airline for an extension. That may be through a call, text message, online chat function or social media correspondence with the airline.

“The worst they can do is say no,” Orlando said. “Very often they’ll go ahead and do that for you. It’s not very hard for them to do, and there’s not a strong incentive for them not to.”

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, you may encounter long waits to get through to a person over the phone. Vlitas recommended calling off hours when (potentially) fewer customers are trying to get through. If that doesn’t work, try some of these tricks we outlined earlier this year.

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Book a ticket now; change it later

Most airlines instituted flexible policies during the pandemic that allow customers to change flights, generally in regular economy class or higher, without fees.

With this in mind, Orlando and Vlitas both recommended booking a seat (keywords: in economy or higher) on a future flight to preserve your voucher, whether you think you’ll actually take the trip or not.

“You can then go ahead and cancel that flight in the future and get a new voucher with an extended due date,” Orlando said.

Give your airfare as a gift

Feeling generous? Vlitas said airfare holders can gift their expiring credits to someone or donate them to a charity. While not every airline will allow customers to transfer vouchers or credits to other people, some are making exceptions.

For example, American Airlines is letting travelers give their “flight credits” to other AAdvantage loyalty program members through Jan. 31, 2022. To use a credit for someone else, you will have to call American’s reservation desk. Note that American’s “trip credits” are different from “flight credits” and can be transferred to someone else.

On the charitable front, there are multiple organizations that will facilitate your donation. Miles4Migrants welcomes travel credits and vouchers in addition to airline miles to help provide airfare to people affected by war, persecution or disaster who have been approved to travel (restrictions apply).

Check with your airline to see what options are available for your situation.