Why can’t I apply this Southwest voucher eight times?

Patty Otten had a Southwest voucher for a 50 percent flight discount for up to eight travelers. When she redeemed it, only one traveler received the discount. And Southwest wouldn’t apply the credit to the remaining travelers. Can we help Otten get Southwest to apply the voucher to the other travelers?

Question: After experiencing travel issues due to the July 2016 computer outage, Southwest issued a voucher to us. The voucher was for 50 percent off airfare, for up to eight people.

Several months later, we decided to use the voucher to discount a flight to Nashville for six people. We worked with a Southwest agent on the phone to book the flights, and we went to the website to pay. We were prompted to enter the number and names of the passengers.

The agent had told us to enter the voucher number, and our credit card information to purchase the tickets. We did so, and were surprised when the flight was only booked for the first passenger. The other five passengers had to be booked individually. We tried to book the other five passengers individually using the voucher, but the Southwest website rejected the voucher because it had already been used. The voucher couldn’t be used again.

We called Southwest and were told that there must have been an “error with the booking,” and to contact customer service through the website. We emailed Southwest through its website. Southwest said that we had used the voucher on one passenger and couldn’t use it for the remaining passengers. We were very disappointed because we tried to book all passengers at once and apply the voucher. We canceled the trip and Southwest said they would reissue the voucher. But, we have no confirmation that this was done.

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Southwest will not talk to us anymore. This is where we are hoping you can help. Can you help us get Southwest to reissue our voucher?– Patty Otten, Minneapolis.

Answer: If Southwest directed you to the website to apply the voucher to all passengers, it should have been applied to all passengers in the booking. When it didn’t, Southwest should not have told you that it had been used on one passenger and should have assisted you with applying the voucher.

Southwest issued you the goodwill voucher for eight people as an apology for disruptions your large party experienced from its July 2016 computer outage. The fact that Southwest wouldn’t assist you with your effort to use that goodwill voucher after an online “error with booking” was beyond ironic. It was frustrating.

But, there were a few things that you could have done differently as your own advocate. First, you could have carefully reviewed the Southwest booking site to ensure that you were correctly applying it to all the passengers. It appears that when you tried to use the voucher, you didn’t correctly apply it to all passengers.

Second, you could have minimized and simplified your complaint to Southwest. Your complaint included extraneous details of the computer outage disruptions you experienced, which led to Southwest issuing you the goodwill voucher. The current issue using the voucher should have been the focus of your complaint and your communication with Southwest.

How you got the voucher to begin with wasn’t the focus of your complaint. And it wasn’t the issue you needed Southwest to address. So, the focus of your complaint may not have been thoroughly reviewed. Your complaint should have only addressed the use of the voucher and it should have been short and to the point.

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Third, you could have tried to contact Southwest executives to see if they could intervene on your behalf. We list executive contact information on our website for company contacts. And, finally, you could have reviewed posts from others, or created your own post in our help forums, to see if other people had experienced similar issues and had helpful suggestions. Our forums are staffed by industry experts, and are read by company executives, and they may have had some helpful suggestion for you.

Our advocates contacted Southwest on your behalf. You told us that Southwest contacted you and issued a $250 flight voucher and a 50% discount voucher for up to six travelers to you. You told us that you written this off as a bad experience, but now had a completely different outlook, thanks to our advocates. You thanked us for “going to bat” for you and encouraged us to “keep up the fantastic work!” We will.

Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from Elliott.org, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight. Read more of Diane's articles here.

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