Southwest will not refund points for no-shows beginning July 1, 2023

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I wanted to write a quick post to remind readers of something I mentioned in passing in a post or two recently and Tim first reported within a post in October: Southwest airlines will no longer refund Rapid Rewards points or taxes and fees for Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus award ticket no-shows beginning on July 1, 2023. If you’re used to making lots of speculative Southwest award reservations, you’ll need to get a bit more organized about it this year.

We have often talked about how Southwest is a great program for booking backup flights. You have long been able to cancel a Southwest flight up until about 10 minutes before departure (and get a refund of the points or a voucher for a paid flight). Perhaps lesser-known is the fact that if you forgot to cancel an award flight before the deadline, Southwest has long had a pretty customer-friendly policy of automatically refunding the points after the fact (I don’t believe that paid flights enjoyed this same flexibility). This happened to me once this past fall where we no-showed an award and the points just popped back into the account.

Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), Southwest is finally changing that policy. Beginning in summer of 2023, if you no-show your award flight, you will forfeit the Rapid Rewards points and all taxes & fees paid for that ticket. That’s obviously a bummer in comparison to the old policy, but it puts it more in line with how almost every other airline program in the world handles no-shows. Frankly, I’m surprised this is a policy that stayed in place as long as it did.

If you were used to being lazy about speculative flight bookings, you’ll want to get more organized sooner rather than later. I long used to use a tool called TripIt to track trips. I had gotten out of the habit of using it, but perhaps I’ll give it another whirl. Award Wallet can also be good for tracking trips, though they obviously can’t automatically track Southwest. Recently, Google saved me when I was standing in line to order lunch and I saw in the notification bar on my phone that I had a Southwest flight departing in 17 minutes, but I don’t know that I want to rely on only one layer of reminder like that. If you’re like me, you probably made a speculative Southwest booking or recently to use up some airline incidental credits, so get that calendar set if and when you need to cancel flights. Forfeiting the taxes on an international ticket could be a big time bummer.

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Ryan del Mundo

Must be part one of upgrading their IT systems! Wouldn’t be surprised if they announce it but it still works the old way.

Frank

I had always thought you had to cancel more than 10 minutes before departure. I think it is thoughtless if people book speculatively and just don’t bother to cancel when the know they don’t need the seats. Do I am all in favor of this policy.

Mike C

I get an email from SWA a day or so before my flights (sort of an ad for car and hotels), so that could be another reminder that you have a flight booked you were not sure of using. But I understand this policy — if many use it and don’t cancel, loss of possible revenue. In fact I bet they go to at least 24 hours cancellation without penalty policy someday.