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

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By Christopher Elliott

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 provided a travel change waiver. However, since we no longer have a place to stay, we’ve decided to cancel the trip entirely. 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.

I reserved my initial flights using a one-time fare saver code

Southwest gave me this code due to the router outage that happened this summer and affected my travel. The router outage was an unexpected and unfortunate incident. However, I thought Southwest’s response was commendable. They provided a $200 voucher and 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. (By the way, most passengers agree that airlines should waive their fees during severe weather).

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands includes CheapOair and OneTravel. We are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

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. (Related: “Very disappointed” by Southwest – so they sent me a voucher.)

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. (Here is our guide on how to solve your consumer problem).

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

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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