Southwest Closely Monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Southwest Closely Monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Blog Updated April 16, 2020, 9:00 pm CT.
The Safety of Southwest Customers and Employees are of utmost importance to all of us at Southwest Airlines. With this in mind, we have a robust group of Employees who are actively monitoring information on the coronavirus (COVID-19), with Teams across the airline that are constantly reviewing and assessing updates from agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). We are fully prepared to adapt our operations and procedures as necessary, with a laser focus on the situation at hand.
As we work to track new developments, we want to share information that addresses many of the questions that we’ve received so far.
Change and Cancellation Fee Policies
Southwest is unique in the airline industry because we do not charge fees to change or cancel flights. Nonrefundable tickets not flown on the travel date, but canceled in accordance with Southwest’s No Show policy, can be applied to future travel. Refundable tickets not flown on the travel date can also be applied to future travel. More information regarding refunds and travel funds can be found at Southwest.com. We hope these policies continue to give our Customers flexibility and options as you plan your travel.
Canceling your Southwest Flight
If you decide not to travel, as long as you cancel your flight at least 10 minutes before its scheduled departure, the funds used to pay for a nonrefundable ticket are normally valid for one year from the date of purchase. However, in recognition of the current travel environment, Travel Funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020, and September 7, 2020, will have an expiration date of September 7, 2022.
Customers are always our top priority and we hope this gives Customers with travel funds additional time as they consider their travel needs in the future. Please note, it will take a few days to make these changes and more details on this extension can be found here.
Destinations Experiencing Travel Disruptions
Southwest Airlines is aware that government mandates have resulted in restrictions on air travel due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Unfortunately, many of the restrictions will result in flight cancellations, and we sincerely regret any inconvenience created by the travel disruptions. Visit Southwest.com to view the most up-to-date travel advisories.
Aircraft Cleaning and Cabin Environment
Southwest Airlines aircraft are maintained in accordance with an established program aimed at providing a clean and inviting cabin environment. In addition to tidying each aircraft between flights, we spend more than six hours cleaning each aircraft daily, and, as of March 4, 2020, we made enhancements to our robust cleaning procedures. Typically, we use an EPA approved, hospital-grade disinfectant in the lavatories and an interior cleaner in the cabin. We have expanded the use of the hospital-grade disinfectant throughout the aircraft, and now are using it in the cabin, on elements in the flight deck, and in the lavatory. These procedures meet or exceed recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Personal Safety Recommendations
We recommend the CDC’s website as a resource for ways that you can best protect yourself from the virus. Additionally, Customers are encouraged to wash their hands frequently and are welcome to bring hand sanitizers onboard our aircraft as a personal precaution.
As we all learn more about this virus, Southwest will continue taking action to make our airport and aircraft cabin environments welcoming and reliable for you. Please check this site on a regular basis for any additional updates. Also, check the Travel Policies Board in the Community for ongoing discussion among Community Members and Community Champions.
Frequently Asked Questions: Coronavirus Disease 2019
Can I receive a refund if I’ve booked a ticket on Southwest and feel uncomfortable flying?
Nonrefundable tickets not flown on the travel date, but canceled in accordance with Southwest’s No Show Policy, can be applied to future travel up to one year from the original purchase date but must be used by the individual named on the ticket. Refundable tickets not flown on the travel date can also be applied to future travel. More information regarding refunds and travel funds can be found at Southwest.com. We hope these policies continue to give our Customers flexibility and options for travel planning.
Is there a fee to change my flight to a different date?
Southwest does not charge fees to change or cancel flights, although applicable fare differences may apply.
Will my flight be canceled because of concerns over the coronavirus
Southwest continues evaluating its flight schedules and making adjustments as necessary. Additionally, the carrier recently announced it would be reducing available seat miles (ASMs, or capacity) by at least 20 percent for the time period April 14, 2020 through June 5, 2020. These flight schedule reductions are in addition to the Company's existing capacity impact due to the Boeing 737 MAX groundings. The revisions will vary by day of week and region—some airports and regions will be more impacted than others.
Customers who have already booked their travel and will be impacted by our amended schedule will be notified of their re-accommodated travel according to our flexible accommodation procedures.
Will you be extending A-List and A-List Preferred tier status?
Yes, for current Rapid Rewards tier status members who earned A-List or A-List Preferred Status through December 31, 2020, and not through any type of promotion, their current earned status will be extended through December 31, 2021.
Will you be extending Companion Pass benefits?
Yes, for current Rapid Rewards Companion Pass members who earned Companion Pass benefits through December 31, 2020, and not through any type of promotion, their current Companion Pass benefits will be extended through June, 30, 2021.
Is there any prior registration required, before my tier status or Companion Pass are extended?
No. If you qualify for an extension you’re Tier Status and/or Companion Pass benefits will be automatically extended in the upcoming weeks. There is no action needed by the Members.
I currently have Travel Funds. Will they be extended?
Yes, Travel Funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020, and September 7, 2020, will have an expiration date of September 7, 2022.
What other options do I have for Travel Funds?
Please know we are working around the clock to provide Customers with travel flexibility. If a Customer is a Rapid Reward Member with travel funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020, and September 7, 2020, they now have the option to convert those travel funds into Rapid Rewards® points at the same rate they would be able to purchase a ticket with points today. We hope this provides our Members ultimate flexibility as Rapid Rewards points never expire, and never have cancel or change fees (fare difference may apply). Travel funds will be automatically extended for the two years mentioned once we bring this new functionality to fruition.
When will I see these updates?
We ask for Customers’ patience as we implement these benefits and new exceptions. Our Technology Team is working to build this conversion capability. It’s our hope that the policy changes will give Customers more comfort and confidence that we will be here, ready to serve you, when you’re ready to travel.
Do your aircraft also fly to international destinations?
Southwest’s fleet flies interchangeably to both domestic and international locations which include locations in Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Southwest has suspended service to its international destinations effective March 23, 2020. As of May 21, Southwest will begin reintroducing limited international service. Please see the summaries of flight schedule revisions for both May and June for specifics. Southwest aircraft are maintained in accordance with an established cleaning program that includes cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting the cabin in a manner that meets or exceeds recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). Southwest does not serve Asia or Europe.
How do I know that your aircraft cabins are safe from the coronavirus
Southwest aircraft are regularly maintained in accordance with an established program aimed at providing a clean and inviting cabin experience. In addition to aircraft being tidied up between flights during the day, each aircraft receives a thorough review that includes cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting that meets or exceeds recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). And, as of March 4, we’ve enhanced our cleaning efforts in response to the current environment.
How do you keep the cabin air clean?
All of our aircraft are equipped with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, which filter out airborne particles as the air onboard is recirculated with outside air. These same HEPA filters are used in many hospitals to enhance air quality within that environment.
Our aircraft are also designed with an air circulation system that mixes in fresh air from outside the plane. The HEPA filter and the air circulation system work together to provide the optimum air quality while onboard a Southwest plane which, in most cases, exceeds the quality of air that can be found in outdoor air, as well as a typical office building or similar public venue. On average, a complete exchange of cabin air and outside air is accomplished every three minutes.
Are face masks being offered on your aircraft?
Southwest is not providing face masks to all Customers as the CDC does not recommend that people who are well to wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
Can Customers bring hand sanitizers onboard your aircraft when traveling?
Absolutely. You must adhere to the Transportation and Security Administration’s (TSA) regulations for carrying gels or liquids through airport security checkpoints, of course. If you bring your own hand or surface sanitizing items onboard, please use items that do not contain bleach, or have “plus bleach” on the label, as they risk damaging hard and soft surfaces.
Additionally, we request that Customers do not use aerosol or pump-spray cleaners, as those products cannot be contained to your personal space and may impact other Customers in the shared environment of our aircraft cabins
Is Southwest recommending any specific actions to Customers?
There are no special precautions necessary for air travel. We recommend the CDC’s website as a resource for ways that Customers can best protect themselves from becoming ill. Additionally, Customers are encouraged to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer and/or anti-bacterial wipes when traveling. Of course, Customers should not travel if they experiencing any signs of illness.
What do I need to know if I'm traveling to a Southwest destination outside of the U.S.?
Some governments have implemented COVID-19 restrictions specific to air passengers who have traveled to destinations in Europe and Asia within the previous 14 days. These restrictions are dynamic and being updated frequently, so we suggest Customers reference International Air Transport Association for the latest guidance ahead of any international travel.
What enhanced cleaning is Southwest doing to ensure aircraft are safe?
We spend more than six hours cleaning each aircraft every night, and, as of March 4, 2020, we have enhanced our cleaning procedures. Typically, we use an EPA approved, hospital-grade disinfectant in the lavatories and an interior cleaner in the cabin. We have expanded the use of the hospital-grade disinfectant throughout the aircraft, and now are using it in the cabin, on elements in the flight deck, and in the lavatory. Additionally, we equip all our aircraft with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, which filters out airborne particles as the air onboard is recirculated with outside air. These same HEPA filters are used in many hospitals to enhance air quality within that environment.
Will local bans on public gatherings and crowd sizes impact my travel on Southwest?
Currently, no restrictions have been placed upon travel. Of course, we will continue to monitor and comply with all local ordinances in the communities we serve, while following applicable guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
For updates on government guidance and details about what carriers are doing, Airlines for America have developed the following resources:
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