Is this enough compensation? “Very disappointed” by Southwest – so they sent me a voucher

I‘ve already written about Southwest’s new restrictions on credits. Well, passengers haven’t exactly warmed to them and other policy changes.

Nicole Watson say she’s “very disappointed” by the new rules.

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“I have a few credits on Southwest and was hoping to let a family member use them in order to make it to my wedding,” she says. “I went to book the flight, only to realize Southwest changed their policy without any notification — even to their Rapid Rewards members.”

Really? Even to their frequent passengers? (Yep, I checked my Rapid Rewards correspondence — nada.)

But Watson’s credit headaches don’t end there.

She writes,

The most frustrating problem occurred just last week when I was trying to use these credits to book myself a flight.

I have two smaller amount credits which expire at the end of October and one larger amount credit expiring in April. When I was trying to book my round-trip flight to LAX at the end of October, the website continued to pull all the money from the April credits. I tried booking it every which way and got very frustrated.

Yeah, I’d be frustrated, too.

All efforts to fix the problem ended in failure. She tried calling the airline, but was told there was no way to override the system. She asked for a manager but was told there was “nothing further” they could do to help her.

How very un-Southwest of them.

Watson tried emailing the airline, but it sent her a form response saying it couldn’t help.

In the end, I booked my round trip flights separately, in order to use all my October credits on one half and part of my April credits on the return flight.

Because time had lapsed from when I first attempted to book the flights, the cost of the flights went up by $40!

I had to pay more money out of my pocket to cover the rest of the cost of the flight to LAX, which I find ridiculous because Southwest already has hundreds of my dollars in the form of the April credit, but because of a system error, I could not use my own funds. Plus I now have more credits left-over that expire in April.

In order not to lose my money I’ve already invested in Southwest, I have to take another trip before April.

Well, they sure aren’t making it easy for her.

I contacted Southwest on her behalf to see if it could help. Much to its credit, the airline responded immediately with an apology, a $50 voucher and an offer to extend her April voucher.

Watson is OK with that.

“Something is better than nothing,” she told me. “I just think Southwest needs to look into changing their system on how customers and their phone agents can book using the credits.”

26 thoughts on “Is this enough compensation? “Very disappointed” by Southwest – so they sent me a voucher

  1. Its so disgusting when Airlines do not bother to look into the problem their customers. I can understand what Watson faced and she as regular customer didn’t get any attention of the airline company. How rude these customer oriented services have become these days?

    The companies need to give much consideration towards consumer complaints. Not all airlines have these kind of annoying service but as a regular customer these companies need to take utmost concern in resolving their issues.

    1.  This is why I look and get point of contacts that are not at the general 800 line where they give form answer replies.   This is the crux of the issue in the customer service area where the entire system with many plays is very poor.

      I have a number saved in my phoneof a POC with southwest.  Last month I needed to move my flight up.  The way Southwest works is that it does not have  a standby policy for non business/refundable class passangers so if you want to take an earlier flight the same day you have to pay the fare difference.

      For my flight this was about $50…but I had to do this online only because the gate agent couldnt get that quote (theirs was a lot higher). When I tried to do it online the system wouldnt let me rebook (it may have had something to do with the fact I had checked in for my flight).  So I called my POC and was able to get it changed at actually no cost to me.

  2. Sounds like SWA is catching AirTran-itis in the way it treats its customers…

    Also, I just checked. I did not receive any information on changes to their RR program either.

    1. I have been flooded with emails from WN as well as receiving a few mailings covering all of the changes except the topic that their drink coupons have all expired.  The only problem is the changes are so complicated it is easy to miss the details like the credits now can only be used by the person named on the original ticket.

      WN used to have such a simple FF program that it made up for a lot of the other frustrations about how they do business (no reserved seats, and so on).  Now their program is the most complicated one of all.  You cannot even nail down how many points it takes to get a reward flight anymore until you actually book.  There are nearly 30 videos posted by WN explaining how their system works and how it is so much better than before.  I think the only one it is better for is the airline because if it takes that much explaining it can’t be all that good for the customer.

    1. I also voted no, not because of the voucher, but because the airline still apparently has screwed up rules when it comes to applying the vouchers. Also, was it a voucher she got, or plain credit in her account? many times vouchers have restrictions which will hurt her more than help her. At least plain credit can be used on even the cheapest of fares.

  3. I voted “yes” but I can’t for the LIFE of me figure out WHY it takes a call from Chris to get good customer service.  If I were this woman, I’d avoid flying Southwest if at all possible.  How about avoiding flying alltogether!  Horrible experience anyway….

  4. This is strange.  I have booked WN flights in the past with credits and the web site has always applied the funds in the order that you entered the information (i.e. first one entered is the first one used).  Maybe this is another “improvement” they have made to the system along with all the other hated improvements to their way of doing business.

    Glad she got something from them, but why does it take the involvement of Chris to get an acceptable resolution to a problem from an airline that used to be the traveler’s friend?   

    Something has changed at WN, and not for the better.  

  5. One thing here is that no matter what, it will be extremely unlikely for Southwest to change its ‘frequent flyer’ program. Although it may be possible, they will keep doing what they want with it, and it’s just a matter of making sure that people know about it that we can do anything about.

  6. Points, rewards, all of them make you frequent travelers a bunch of sheep. I had over a million miles and it was costing me $300-400.00 per year in memberships to get those miles. I dumped them into charities and said the heck with redeeming miles – it’s impossible to get what you want when you want it unless you are going to Duluth in February. The only sem– legit redemption is credit cards that buy your tickets any time any date; but they really get a load of points to popular destinations and late bookings. Get a cash back card and buy y the tickets yourselves. Chase has a 1%, if you charge tons of $$$ get the GE from Sam’s club that pays 2% once a year. With the 5000.00 back, I take one heck of a vacation… points….no hassles….no leters to Southwest.

    1. This issue is not with the Frequent Flyer program itself.  It is with how Southwest lets you apply cash remaining from a cancelled flight toward another flight. 

      But since you mentioned the rewards of frequent flying, I guess it depends on the program and the luck of the draw.  Since I fly and collect the miles anyway, if I can get a benefit from them, so much the better. 

      I am going to Hawaii for Thanksgiving using my CO miles.  I had no issues with booking the exact flight I wanted on the exact day.  IAH – HNL in 1st class.  This would have cost me at least $3,000 if I paid cash for the fare.  I am paying $5 plus miles. 

      Last July I want to Sweden using CO miles.  Got the exact days and times I wanted in 1st class.  This flight would have cost over $5000 in cash.

      I used to fly at least 4 free flights a year on Southwest by cashing in American Express points.  Once again, I always got the exact flights I wanted.  Southwest left the AmEx program so I won’t be doing that any more.

      I fly my brother and mother wherever they need to go using miles as well.  I have always been able to find a flight that fits their needs using miles.

      I don’t spend extra money to belong to any club or card for the miles/points I get.  They are all collected from doing things I would normally do anyway.

  7. The change of transferring funds was send out back in I think the last quarter of 2011, but I don’t honestly remember.  They did delay the actual start date, which was for early 2012, for several weeks.  The transferral of funds was being abused and if you have used WN before, you know all it took was the confirmation number which if you lost your itinerary somewhere and a less than honest person got ahold of it, they could check on the confirmation number and use those funds without you knowing it.  WN even had an internal issue on the misuse of these funds. 

    1. Some of our clients have told us that there are unscrupulous agents or sites that buy, sell or trade vouchers, certificates, credit, etcs. I suspect this is SWA just tightening their rules so there is no leakage.

  8. Reality chek: The Airlines are in business to service their needs & not those of their customers. With less & less compitition in a shrinking industry, our choices shrink as well.
    Grin & bear it. It is still the fastest, safest & least expensive way to get from pillar to post these days & we cannot expect much more than that.

  9. I don’t know why neither Nicole nor Chris could find any mention of Southwest’s change in policy regarding the use of credits for others.  It was made very clear to me in more than one email from SWA that credits could no longer be used by anyone other than the person who accrued the credit.  I particularly remember this because it was one thing (of several) that I did not like about the new Rapids Rewards program. 

    1. Agreed, Texas, except it’s nothing to do with the new RR program – the policy applies whether you’re a member of RR or not (credits are issued all the time to non-RR members who cancel flights).

  10. I don’t like the changes to SW’s FF program, either, but I know I got multiple emails about them. As others have said, it’s confusing because they’ve made so many changes.

    As for the problem using the credits, I think it’s ridiculous that the system would try to use the later-expiring credits first. I think SW eventually made things right with the apology, voucher, and extension of the expiration date, but it shouldn’t have taken any intervention from the customer or from Chris.

  11. Folks: this is NOT a change to the RR program; in fact, it has nothing to do with Rapid Rewards at all. It is a change to *credits* that are generated when you cancel a non-refundable flight. Southwest issues you a credit, tied to the PNR record for the original flight (the six-character ABCDEF thing that tracks your reservation).

    Before this change, anyone could go on the Southwest web site, book a ticket, and, IF he knew of a PNR with a credit on it, he could use it to book a flight – without the knowledge of the person who booked the flight. By the time the person who really owned the credit found out about it, the flight could be taken and the thief gone his merry way. You might have a case against him, but who’s going to court for a $40 or $60 credit that got stolen?

    And you can’t use the RR login system to block this, because not everyone belongs to RR; credits are issued all the time to people who aren’t members.

    Hence, the new rule: If you cancel a flight, the credit can only be used by the person who was originally going to fly. Given that Southwest doesn’t suck a $150 change fee out of the fare, that’s not a terribly unreasonable restriction: you get the full use of your non-refundable fare, but YOU have to be the one to use it.

    And yes, I got notice of this – MONTHS ago – from Southwest. Maybe y’all can’t find your notices because the change was quite some time back.

    1. Granted, the second problem – which credits to apply – sounds like a programming issue. They should be set to use up the soonest-expiring credits first, and then move on to later-expiring ones. I hope that glitch gets fixed.

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