Why I won’t touch this Southwest Airlines case

Mary Irwin’s husband booked tickets on Southwest Airlines. Unfortunately, he had to cancel the flights, but his wife was promised a voucher as credit. When the voucher arrived, it was for considerably less than the amount Irwin thought it would be.

The Irwins contacted us because they wanted Southwest to honor what it initially offered, provide them with compensation and ensure the same thing did not happen to other customers.

So what really happened to the Irwins, and why was the voucher for less than they were promised?

Before we get to that let’s talk about what this site does.

As my colleague Michelle Friedman recently wrote, we’re here to facilitate fair and reasonable resolutions that satisfy both sides of the consumer/business equation.

What we’re not here to do is to try to take advantage of “gotcha moments” with companies.

Sadly, this case falls into the latter category.

I’ll let the Irwins explain what happened.

My husband had booked, paid for and then canceled his flights. Southwest Airlines gives one year from the date of the booking to use the funds from the canceled flights.

The one year booking date had passed. Southwest Airlines then allows a passengers to receive the expired travel funds, minus a $100 processing fee, in the form of a voucher. The voucher must be used within 6 months.

Before we go further with the Irwins’ story it’s fair to say that Southwest Airlines does have some of the most customer-friendly policies of any airline — and allowing someone to obtain a credit for unused flights after the one year deadline had passed is very generous.

Related story:   Kicked off a flight? Here are your rights (hint: you don't really have many)

The Irwins wanted to take advantage of that generosity, so Mary Irwin called the airline. As she reports the conversation:

My call was taken by a representative named Tamika. She located the expired funds and confirmed at least twice during the call that the voucher would be for $245.90 which was the $345.90 expired travel funds minus the $100 processing fee.

The voucher arrived for $80.58.

Many of our readers will have realized that we don’t normally include such specific amounts in our stories. On this occasion, however, I wanted you to see what I saw.

When I looked at the case, what stood out was the difference between what the Irwins were promised and what they received. As both amounts were so specific, it seemed to suggest that there was a reason behind the discrepancy.

So I asked the Irwins if they knew how Southwest had calculated the value of the voucher.

Here’s what they told me.

Southwest Airlines explained that my husband had used $165.32 of the unused travel funds for a flight before they expired.

The airline admitted that the agent, Tamika, did not have all the information when she ordered the voucher for $245.90. But that was not communicated by Tamika during the call.

What policy allows the agents to perform a transaction over the phone and quote a false voucher amount without all the documentation being present?

Tamika confirmed at least three times during the call that the voucher would be in the amount of $245.90. The airline has acknowledged this during our phone conversations. Southwest needs to stand behind the information their employees publicly release to customers.

After I read this, it was clear this wasn’t a case I could — or would — want to advocate. The Irwins received a voucher for exactly what they were entitled to. They wanted me to overlook the fact that they had spent part of the travel funds before the voucher was issued. I wouldn’t do that.

True, they had been promised more than they were due, but in my view that was just a mistake, rather than a dishonest act, as the Irwins thought. I don’t advocate for mistakes that don’t result in a loss, and I certainly don’t advocate for “compensation for my family’s time and trouble in making this right for us and other customers,” as the Irwins wanted me to.

I explained to the Irwins why I could not advocate the case and filed this under Case Dismissed.

John Galbraith

John is a UK based lawyer and writer. He loves to travel and can be frequently found in remote locations in a suit and cravat.

  • Bill___A

    The Irwins should have advised Southwest that they had used some of the money – I can never understand how they think Southwest should be “held” to giving the full refund that they said and the OP has absolutely no responsibility to own up to using part of those funds. Are there two sets of rules here? I don’t think so. Southwest did the right thing and really, shame on the Irwins for trying to get money they were not entitled to.

  • Lloyd Johnston

    No different than returning an item for $300 in store credit, using $200 of it right away and getting a gift card for the $100 balance, then complaining that the gift card should be for $300.

  • Blamona

    Shame on them. They should be banned from southwest. I can’t believe they would take advantage of a mistake knowing full well they had used some it. They make it bad for people with real problems

  • Annie M

    Another one that omits facts like the husband used part of the ticket. And she thinks she should be reimbursed because the agent wasn’t aware of that (and apparenly she omitted it again when talking to the airline)?

    Good for Mr, Galbraith for not allowing the woman to attempt to defraud the airline further.


    Definately attempting a scam. Shame on the OP.

  • C Schwartz

    I have never flown Southwest (not the routes I fly) but they seem to have some of the most customer friendly policies in airline travel.

    I am stunned that the Irwins, who received exactly what was due to them, are trying to take advantage of an honest mistake. The complaint is that Tamika did not have all the information when she said the voucher amount. Did the Irwins inform her of the use of the credits?

    Even after receiving the explanation as to the amount the Irwins still contacted this site and Mr. Galbraith had to specifically ask about the calculation.

  • C Schwartz

    And the Irwins wanted compensation for their “time and trouble” — time and trouble in trying to get-more than they were entitled?

  • MarkKelling

    So the husband took a trip somewhere and forgot to tell the wife? :-)

    And are we sure Tamika didn’t say “$245.90 minus any portion that was used”??

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wait just a cotton pickin minute…did I read this right? Did this couple actually try to scam money out of Southwest? And then expect Elliott’s team to ASSIST them in the scam?

    This is not just disgusting, it’s absolutely offensive. These people are scammers. They knew full well when they spoke to Tamika that they were not owed the part of the funds that they’d already spent. The fact that they didn’t disclose this means that they were, flat out, lying. They are liars and criminals. And they actually thought that Elliot’s team would participate in this crime?

    Shameful. Absolutely shameful.

    I hope they are reading all these comments. And I agree that they should be banned from ever flying Southwest again. They certainly should be banned from ever asking this team for help again. They are dishonest and cannot be trusted.

  • SierraRose 49

    “They certainly should be banned from ever asking this team for help again. They are dishonest and cannot be trusted.” Totally agree with this statement. Often, people come here and do not present ALL the facts. Yes, sometimes it is a non-intentional omission, as in “Oops, I forgot to mention.” In this case, I don’t think so. What really irks me is that Southwest is the ONLY major carrier with such a customer-friendly no-charge cancellation/travel funds policy.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    This is what happens when the R hand, doesn’t know what the L hand is doing. I hope Tamika was instructed how to give correct info in the future, even if it wasn’t her fault

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    And because of ppl. Like the Irwins, decent companies come up with rule changes, that will affect more honest travelers than the Irwins.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, and it’s scammers like the Irwins who abuse these policies, ruining it for everyone else when businesses eliminate these customer-friendly policies to avoid such fraud.

  • C Schwartz

    Agree with you that people like this will make it harder for the honest customers.

    And the OPs wanted to be compensated for their time in trying to get more than they deserved.

  • sirwired

    This could have started out as a reasonable case, maybe coming up with a good reason to have the $100 fee waived. (Southwest already has a generous policy compared to pretty much everybody else in the air, but I could see somebody wanting to at least ask.)

    But not only did she want a new voucher for the full amount (minus the fee) even though some had been used (and this had been explained to her by the airline), she wants compensation for her “time and trouble” because of the miscommunication? If I was Southwest, I would be very tempted to lower the banhammer if she ever calls in again with a request as ridiculous as this one.

  • PsyGuy

    On one hand the airlines get to use adhesion contracts and get to define and dictate almost the entirety of the transaction and flight experience (like that $100 processing fee). They would think nothing of taking advantage of a PAX. the other side of that coin is that people make mistakes and the LW wasn’t cheated, they were simply misinformed due to an error. At that point I could go either way, but the idea that the LW used a portion of the value and then expected to still get the entire amount, is getting compensated twice.

  • PsyGuy

    Yes, that’s pretty much what they tried to do. They thought the CSR should be liable for anything and everything promised.

  • Bobby Dale

    If the cashier in the grocery store mis counts your change you should point it out to her, not take it from her pocket.

  • Altosk

    Sounds like the OP has been hanging out with the scammers over on another site that shall not be named….

  • joycexyz

    How about the Irwin’s compensating Southwest for trying to scam the company?

  • joycexyz

    Probably did, but they conveniently omitted that part.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Very bad attitude and reflects very poor integrity.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Very bad shameful attitude, poor integrity. I try to stay away from people like this under all circumstances.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    This days everything is recorded and can be easily proven. I don’t even know why someone would try to pull a “fast one”……

  • Attention All Passengers

    …..”I hope Tamika was instructed how to give correct information in the future…..” …….If Tamika is not already out of a job with Southwest. I have a very close relative who worked in their Reservations department for over ten years yet was “forced” out like many others with little or no recourse for mistakes. What you see on the surface and all the “hype” is far from the reality about how they treat their employees.

  • Lindabator

    but it would not show on her end – accounting would deal with that — I just had the same situation for a client this morning, and although my client could have cared less, I ensured they could get a bit back – and it took the accounting department 10 minutes to track back the fact he used a part of it — so Tamika was not incorrect, nor did she lie. The OP on the other hand….

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.