WSJ: Southwest Made It Easier to Use Travel Credits. Will Other Carriers Follow?

August 3, 2022 Media

The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t been all bad for airline passengers.

Early in the pandemic, travelers struggled to get airline refunds. More recently, the industry’s flat-footed handling of this summer’s travel resurgence has given passengers fits.

But as the pandemic upended travel, some airlines started to offer passengers something missing for years: flexibility. It started with the elimination of those onerous fees to change a nonrefundable ticket. And last week, Southwest AirlinesCo. went a step further, removing expiration dates on travel credits. 

No airline immediately matched Southwest’s no-expiration-date policy. That is in contrast to quick matching by competitors when United announced the elimination of change fees on domestic tickets in August 2020. American, Delta and others quickly ditched change fees that started at $200 a ticket and often wiped out the value of cheap tickets.

William McGee, a former editor and consumer advocate for Consumer Reports who is now senior fellow for aviation at progressive policy group American Economic Liberties Project, praised Southwest’s move but said it would be better for travelers if another major airline had initiated it.

“I don’t think the big three look at Southwest and say ‘we have to match that’ necessarily,” he said. “Southwest does a lot of things that are good for consumers that others don’t match on. Look at bags.”