Southwest Airlines didn't have change fees for a long time. This policy has been taken to the next level.

Southwest Airlines has eliminated the expiration dates on all flight credits, which are the vouchers you receive when you cancel or change an itinerary. All existing, valid credits, plus those earned in the future, are affected by this.

There is no need to take action. Existing flight credits will show a December 31, 2040 expiration date. The system will be upgraded later this year to remove the expired flight credits from the system. If you want to get a flight credit, you have to cancel your itinerary at least 10 minutes before departure.

Bob Jordan is the CEO of Southwest Airlines.

“The more than 62,000 People at Southwest share a renewed pride in our unmatched access to flexibility that once again reshapes the landscape of Hospitality and value in the industry. ‘Flight credits don’t expire’ aligns with the boldness of a philosophy to give our Customers definitive simplicity and ease in travel, just like Bags fly free, just like No change fees, just like Points don’t expire — they’re a first-in-our-industry combination of differentiators that only Southwest offers.”

Southwest was the only major airline in the US to have a policy of no change fees. Major airlines eliminated change fees on most fares during the Pandemic.

Southwest is trying to get a new competitive advantage. It will cost a lot, but I think it will make people more comfortable booking Southwest tickets if they aren't frequent flyers with the airline.

Southwest is eliminating the expiration of flight credits

Will other major airlines follow Southwest’s lead?

It is great that airlines like American, Delta, and United have eliminated change fees on most types of fares, with claims of this change being permanent. Airlines have extended ticket credit validity from the typical 12 months to longer than that.

Shouldn't other airlines follow Southwest's lead here? I don't think it's likely.

  • In terms of business model, Southwest very much does its own thing and competitors (both legacy and low cost) don’t really seem to follow the carrier’s lead; just look at how Southwest offers two free checked bags, while all other major US airlines charge for bags
  • Other major US airlines didn’t eliminate change fees to compete with Southwest, but rather to get people to book at a time when people started to feel a lot more uncertain about their travel planning
  • Not having change fees is already costly for the business model of high-fee airlines, and we’ve already seen airlines like American bring back change fees in select international markets

I don't think the likes of American and United will follow Southwest's example here. Maybe Delta will make this customer-friendly change and American and United will follow. I don't think it's true.

I don’t think other major airlines will follow

Bottom line

The flight credits have an expired date. If you cancel a Southwest flight, you can use the full value of the ticket for any ticket in the future, even if the airline is no longer around.

This is a great move for customers. Southwest was the first to eliminate change fees, and now the airline is following suit.

Do you think other airlines will follow Southwest's lead and eliminate the expiration on flight credits?