Can’t go to Florida — can I get back my fare saver code from Southwest Airlines?

James Cheung’s family vacation is washed out because of Hurricane Matthew. So is his Southwest Airlines 50-percent discount that he received after this summer’s IT meltdown. Can our advocacy team recover it?

Question: My family had a vacation to Amelia Island, Fla., planned for the weekend in October. Unfortunately, with the impending arrival of Hurricane Matthew, our plans have been forced to change. The island was ordered evacuated and our condo rental was canceled with a full refund.

Southwest has already issued a travel change waiver, though as we no longer have a lodging option, we’ve opted to abandon the trip altogether. I am 100% OK with the fact that I won’t be able to obtain a refund for the flights. I’m positive that my family will eventually use the credits on a future Southwest flight.

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I booked my original flights using a one-time fare saver code that was provided to me by Southwest as a result of being impacted by the router outage that occurred this summer. I did understand that the router outage was an extraordinary and unfortunate event, but I felt that the response from Southwest was solid ($200 voucher plus a 50 percent fare saver code). I initially received the $200 voucher right away though obtaining the 50 percent fare saver code was a bit of a nightmare which required multiple contacts with Southwest’s customer service department.

Before I cancelled the flights to Jacksonville, I called in to Southwest to see how the 50 percent fare saver code could be salvaged. A manager informed me that the code was “one time use” and that it was used up on the initial purchase of the Jacksonville itinerary.

While I don’t argue that I actually used the code, I asked him to consider that in no way would I be able to benefit from the code as Hurricane Matthew would be shutting down the Jacksonville area within the next day or two. The manager stuck to the point that the code was used and could not be reissued.

I honestly thought that with Southwest’s traditional customer service focus that getting the code reissued wouldn’t be that difficult of a task. After speaking with a manager for 40 minutes today, I feel like I may have grossly underestimated the ability to get that done. Can you help? — James Cheung, Flossmoor, Ill.

Answer: Southwest should have let you use your code on a rebooked flight. The manager you spoke with should have seen the absurdity of telling you that your code had been used when you’re unable to benefit from it.

To be fair to the manager, overriding the system might have required the approval of someone higher up, and with a hurricane disrupting the airline’s operations, the airline was almost certainly preoccupied with weather-related concerns. But to be fair to you, that IT outage this summer was a doozy. I wrote about it, and Southwest shouldn’t have hesitated to repeat its apology for that IT disaster.

Was it required to, though? No. A review of its contract of carriage, the legal agreement between you and the airline, and its many written customer service promises, suggests the manager was correct. Once a coupon is redeemed, you can’t re-use it. That’s just not how it works.

You could have appealed this to someone higher up. I list the names, numbers and email addresses for the Southwest Airlines executives on my advocacy site.

Our advocacy team contacted Southwest on your behalf and it re-issued the 50 percent-off code.

9 thoughts on “Can’t go to Florida — can I get back my fare saver code from Southwest Airlines?

  1. Southwest should be required to honor the coupon. I hate when companies say that, as if “redeem” is a real thing. We know the manager couldn’t get the computer to use the exact code, but just create a new one or issue a refund or credit for that amount an call it whatever you want. Managers who say this must be playing dumb. Hopefully Mr Cheung will have better luck on his 3rd trip.

  2. Do airline managers have some kind of limited access to waivers, such that when they have issued a certain number the system won’t physically allow them to issue anymore? if not do they have some kind of “soft” limit that they could physically exceed but then they would be disciplined over it?

  3. I hate coupons and vouchers for this reason. It wasnt “used” so it should be reissued

    A local true value hardware store near me always got it right: if you refunded something that was say $10 and had a 10% off coupon applied, theyd give you back $9 (i left tax out of this example for simplicity but it factored in properly too).

    Other stores just issue you a new 10% or similar coupon. Why airlines cant or wont do it is beyond me. They are playing dumb or unable on purpose to rip people off. This is why I think its very ok for us all to jump on mistake fares when they happen!

  4. I think airlines are skirting the FAA rules (aka law) when they refuse to replace coupons after a flight has been cancelled. Full refunds after flights are cancelled are required unless the airline can arrange to get you to your destination within a certain time (4 hours, I believe).

  5. Wouldn’t he also be entitled to a refund on his airfare since I’m assuming his flight was cancelled? So, he was gracious enough to just let the credit gang out there because he knew he’d use them but southwest couldn’t be gracious and issue him another credit coupon? And, kudos to the vacation rental for issuing him a credit with no hassles. That business should have been mentioned just so others would know which business did right by him.

  6. So, did Mr Cheung originally book his tickets using the $200 voucher he received from Southwest plus the 50% off coupon? That fact is not clear.
    I do note that he states he won’t be able to get a refund for the flights. However, Southwest did make a travel change waiver (but we do not know for what dates and for how long it is good for for future travel).
    So, it appears that Mr. Cheung cancelled the trip altogether and had no plans for trying to visit there again any time soon or he could have availed himself of the waiver and lost nothing.
    I am surprised he did not request they give him the $200 voucher so he could reuse it as well; providing he used it in purchasing these tickets he cancelled.

  7. We need to face the facts of life. Although southwest airlines is still the choice of the legacy airlines it is a far cry from the carrier it was even five years ago. It has adopted other airlines hub and spoke system to increase passenger load. It has reduced seat spacing to add more passengers per flight. It does still allow free checked bags but no longer advertises that fact as it once did. A harbinger of things to come? They still allow flight cancellation, full credit toward a future flight if used within a year and do provide snacks and non alcoholic drinks free of charge

    We use southwest whenever possible and have for many years. A personal experience is evidence of how much the airline has changed. Some years ago a flight was delayed for more than one hour. Every passenger on that flight received a voucher good for a free fight within one year. Our most recent flight on southwest was delayed for over an hour period. End of story. Both delays were caused by crew late arrival.

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