Earlier today, Southwest Airlines released our third quarter 2020 financial results. Along with our financial performance, we announced that flights departing December 1 and later will operate without an artificial cap that, through November 30, limits the number of people traveling on each flight and allows middle seats to remain open.
So why are we making this change now? Guaranteed distance onboard was introduced at a time when little was known about the behavior of the virus and to bring comfort to returning travelers. We now have a chorus of scientific studies that point to aircraft cabins as an environment where transmission of the virus is statistically improbable for two primary reasons: the uniform usage of masks; and sophisticated air systems that introduce fresh air throughout a flight with a mix of HEPA filtered air that replenishes the entire volume of cabin air every two to three minutes.
As we continue to learn more about the virus through data-driven research from reputable institutions, we are evolving The Southwest Promise to focus on initiatives that offer the highest level of protection for everyone traveling with us, including mask enforcement; cleaning; HEPA filters; and fresh air onboard.
True to our Brand, we are making this change in full transparency with flexibility for our Customers. In fact, we’re enhancing Southwest’s flexibility by offering a refund for all Customers booked prior to October 23 for travel on December 1 or later—and by empowering Customers who choose to keep their booked travel to make a change with no fare difference when we can’t guarantee middle seats will be open on their flight.
Refunds: We recognize that some Customers may have booked travel with the hope that our middle seat block would be extended beyond November. Therefore, we’re offering added flexibility by allowing refunds for all Customers booked prior to October 23 for travel on December 1 or later. On Friday, October 23, Customers booked on travel beginning December 1 will get an email that provides an option for a refund back to their original form of payment, regardless of the fare purchased. These Customers will have until midnight on October 31 (CST) to opt for this policy exception, and the refund must be initiated through a link provided in the October 23r email delivered to all eligible Customers.
Full Flight Changes: Customers who keep their booking will be notified two to three days before travel if their flight is booked to a capacity where middle seats will likely be occupied. Those Customers will be given the option to change to a flight (if another flight is available) that is less full within three days of their original flight at no additional charge.
We continue to uphold The Southwest Promise by requiring and enforcing face masks throughout the travel journey for Customers and Employees, ensuring clean air onboard, maintaining an extensive multi-layered cleaning program, and leaning toward our Customers by offering the most flexible policies that put the choice to travel in the hands of the Customer.
Rest assured, our top priority remains, and always will be, the safety of our Employees and Customers.