Travellers across Australia and around the world are hanging onto credits from cancelled trips – and the value of credits issued by airlines in 2020 alone had been estimated at over US$10 billion.
Those credits have a shelf life that's typically just 12 months, although the pandemic has seen that extended to several years.
For example, Qantas allows credit on tickets issued prior to September 2021 to remain valid to December 2023.
But what if there was no use-by date – what if travel credit lasted, well, forever?
That’s the new offering by America’s Southwest Airlines, one of the USA’s largest carriers which enjoys popularity among business and leisure travellers alike.
Overnight, Southwest Airlines announced that its flight credits will never expire.
In an industry first, the airline says that any credits set to expire on or after July 28 2022, or created from that date onwards, will be automatically extended indefinitely,.
Allowing passengers to hold onto flight credits indefinitely “aligns with the boldness of a philosophy to give our customers definitive simplicity and ease in travel,” proclaimed Southwest CEO Bob Jordan.
And the cancellation-and-credit policy is far from onerous: travellers can cancel a flight up to 10 minutes before its scheduled departure time to receive the value of their ticket as travel credit, even on a non-refundable ticket.
If you hold one of Southwest’s three highest three fare types, your travel credit can be transferred to somebody else – anybody else – as longs you’re both members of the airline’s Rapid Rewards loyalty program.
Tony Roach, Southwest’s VP of customer experience and engagement, said that removing the expiry date on travel credit “is part of a massive effort to improve the things that are most important to our customers.”
The airline indicated it holds around US$400 million in travel credit. An analysis by US travel site ThePointsGuy in March 2021 estimated major airlines had issued approximately 20 million travel credit vouchers in 2020, with a combined worth of US$10.4 billion.