After Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights around Christmas, numerous holiday travelers were left stranded. Now they want their money back.
Many travelers paid out of pocket to rebook on other airlines or to reach their destination by other means, such as a rental car or train. Other non-refundable prepaid reservations, such as show tickets, cruises, tours, and hotel rooms, may seem like sunk costs.
Genna Scisci, a Chicago public relations executive, planned to fly to Albany, New York, for the holidays, but gave up after four Southwest flights were canceled. Since she made several trips to the airport, she is requesting a refund for approximately $150 in shared rides. Scisci says she has not received that money back, although she did receive a refund for her original round-trip flight.
If you were affected by cancellations linked to the Great Southwestern CollapseIt is not too late to try to recover some of the costs.
25,000 Rapid Rewards points
Southwest sent promo codes for 25,000 Rapid Rewards bonus points per flight via email to many travelers whose flights were canceled or significantly delayed between December 24, 2022 and January 2, 2023. Southwest told NerdWallet that only those with flights between that period were canceled or significantly delayed, and those who chose not to rebook received codes. However, some travelers have reported receiving codes even after traveling on a Southwest flight with another reservation.
To redeem those codes, Southwest travelers must visit a separate Rapid Rewards points website before March 31, 2023. The website usually requires a wait to access. Typically, wait times are just a few minutes — a fraction of the hours-long customer service wait times people were reporting during the Southwest crisis.
Southwest promises that 25,000 points equal a base fare redemption of more than $300. Although according to NerdWallet analysis, Southwest points are typically worth about 1.5 cents each, making 25,000 points valued at $375 even more when redeemed for a future flight. If you received two codes, that’s worth $750, according to NerdWallet’s estimates.
Expand elite status and companion passes for some
If you had Southwest elite status that was about to expire, you may get a small extension. Southwest sent emails to some affected travelers celebrating 2022 Companion Passes or had A list or A-List Preferred status, promising to extend its status until January 31, 2023.
Reimbursement of other expenses
Southwest says customers with flights canceled or significantly delayed between December 24, 2022 and January 2, 2023 can submit receipts for “reasonable” expenses, such as car rentals, other airline tickets and food. through this website For consideration.
Southwest did not provide details on the exact items that would be refunded, simply stating in an email to NerdWallet that “customers are encouraged to submit items for consideration.”
That said, Southwest seems to be pretty generous so far in terms of what it reimburses.
A NerdWallet employee who got caught up in the crisis filed a refund request for a rental car and two nights’ hotel stay. On January 18, 2023, they received an email from Southwest informing them that the application had been approved.
NerdWallet has also confirmed that the reimbursed expenses include a Getaround cancellation fee, which is a type of car rental alternativewas refunded (the traveler never reached his destination and therefore never used the car).
Southwest also refunded a rebooking fee for tickets to a show they missed at a theater, and charged $10 per ticket to change seats for a different night.
When will refunds be issued and how?
While Southwest told NerdWallet that a deadline for refund requests had not yet been set, it’s best to submit receipts as soon as possible to maximize your chances of a refund. Southwest also did not say how long those refunds would take, but it could be a while as the airline is prioritizing flight refunds first.
Under Department of Transportation regulations, customers are entitled to a refund if the airline cancels a flight and the customer decides not to travel. This applies to all passengers with US airfares, regardless of the reason.
The government also requires that refunds be issued within seven business days of the airline receiving the request with proper documentation if a passenger paid by credit card and within 20 days if a passenger paid by cash or check. .
“That is currently our top priority to help our customers,” Southwest spokesperson Chris Perry said in an email to NerdWallet.
From there, Southwest will turn to other out-of-pocket refunds, and many of them were issued throughout January.
Most requests are refunded through Hyperwallet Payouts, which is a PayPal affiliate company. Most customers report that within a day of receiving the email from Southwest saying their request was approved, they receive a separate email from Hyperwallet allowing them to initiate the refund. HyperWallet offers a few options for transferring money, such as directly to your checking account or transferred to your PayPal or Venmo account.
Other avenues for compensation beyond Southwest
Travel insurance companies could move faster and be willing to cover expenses that Southwest won’t. If you purchased it, contact your supplier immediately.
Even if you didn’t purchase travel insurance, your trip may have been insured anyway. Many travel credit cards insure trips purchased with that card, so check with your issuer to see if it offers the benefit and ask if your trip is eligible for reimbursement.
What’s next for the southwest?
Many customers are still upset about the chaos and many bags are still missing. However, Southwest says that most of the separated bags were delivered or shipped in the first week of 2023.
And to avoid future problems, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan promised to prioritize creating better tools, technologies and processes.
“There is simply no way we can apologize enough because we love our customers, we love our people, and we truly impacted their plans,” he said in a statement. “There will be a lot of lessons learned in terms of what we can do to make sure this never happens again because it doesn’t need to happen again.”
(Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines)