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Southwest Continues Implementing Enhancements in Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Employee
Employee
Blog Updated July 22, 2020, 12:00 pm CT.

The comfort and well-being of Southwest Customers and Employees remain our uncompromising priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. With this in mind, Southwest has implemented many new protocols and cleaning procedures over the past several months to support our Customers and Employees.

 

When you are ready to fly, and plan future travel, we want you to know—we are prepared to welcome you. The travel experience might feel a bit different, but know that you can expect the same Southwest service delivered with our familiar warmth and hospitality. 


The Southwest Promise

When you travel with Southwest, we have your well-being in mind. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we've made changes to our operations and procedures to better support the well-being and comfort of our Employees and Customers—and we’ll continue to evaluate our policies and procedures as we learn more.  

We’ve employed stringent cleaning and physical-distancing practices such as using electrostatic and anti-microbial spray treatments in the cabin, implementing physical-distancing measures, limiting the number of Passengers onboard, modifying boarding procedures, and providing masks for Employees. Learn more about the Southwest Promise and what it all means when you are ready to travel on Southwest.com/Promise. Here are a few highlights:

 

Facial Coverings Now Required for Travel

Face coverings or masks are now required to be worn in the airport and while flying with us. If you forget your face covering at home, a mask will be available for you. For more information on our face-covering policy, visit Southwest.com/Promise. In addition to Customers wearing facial coverings, you can expect our Customer-facing Employees to wear face coverings, too.

 

Onboard Physical Distancing: Limiting Seats

Beginning on May 2, Southwest reduced the number of seats available on every flight by approximately one-third to allow for distancing within the aircraft cabin. We will continue operating with approximately one-third of our available seats left open on every flight until at least the end of September. We hope this policy gives Southwest Customers and Employees confidence in the ability to social distance while flying with us.

 

Modified Onboard Service

As of May 22, Southwest began serving cans of water and a snack mix on flights over 250 miles. For all other flights, snack and beverage service is suspended until further notice to limit close interactions. As always, you are welcome to bring along your own snack and non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy while flying with us.

 

Freedom to Hope, to Plan, to Dream

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand Customers might be uncertain about their travel plans in the months ahead. Southwest offers flexible and Customer-friendly policies designed to provide confidence when your travel plans change.

 

Canceling Your Southwest Flight and Extension of Travel Funds

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 (Wanna Get Away® fares) 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. This change allows you more time to book your next trip with us utilizing Travel Funds.

 

Enhancements for our Valued Rapid Rewards® Members

For all Rapid Rewards® Members, we recognize that your normal flying behavior has been interrupted, limiting progress you may have been making toward qualification for A-List, A-List Preferred, and Companion Pass.

 

For that reason, we are giving all Rapid Rewards® Members a “boost” of 15,000 tier-qualifying points and 10 flight credits toward A-List and A-List Preferred status, and 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status.

 

You can visit Southwest.com/RRCoronavirusUpdates for additional details, but here are additional highlights:

 

Rapid Rewards® Members’ Travel Funds

We have added a new benefit for our valued Rapid Rewards® Members. Those Members who have travel funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020, and September 7, 2020, will have the option to convert those travel funds into Rapid Rewards® points at the same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today. We hope this provides our Members ultimate flexibility as Rapid Rewards® points never expire, never have cancel or change fees (fare difference may apply), and you can redeem your points for anyone you choose. 

 

Extending Tier Status and Companion Pass Benefits

As an airline with Heart, we are extending the benefits earned by our current tier status Members and Companion Pass holders and the expiration date of select travel funds. In addition to this extension, we’re giving tier qualifying points and companion pass qualifying points to all Rapid Rewards® Members to say thank you for bearing with us during this difficult and uncharted time. We’re staying Southwest® Heart Strong for you and will be here with a warm welcome when you’re ready to travel again.

 

For Companion Pass holders, who earned Companion Pass benefits through December 31, 2020, and for A-List and A-List Preferred Members who earned A-List or A-List Preferred status through December 31, 2020, we are extending your current Companion Pass benefits and A-List or A-List Preferred status through June 30, 2021.

 

Drink Coupons

We’re giving you more time to enjoy your complimentary drink. Due to the temporary suspension of our inflight beverage service, any drink coupons set to expire throughout 2020 will now be accepted through December 31, 2020. Please keep your original coupon(s) to redeem onboard once inflight beverage service resumes. Cheers!

 

Destinations Experiencing Travel Disruptions & Travel Restrictions

Southwest 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, potential quarantines upon arrival, and/or temperature checks upon landing, and we sincerely regret any inconvenience created by the travel disruptions. Visit Southwest.com/coronavirus to view the most up-to-date travel advisories.

 

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.

 

Rest assured, Southwest will continue taking action to make our airport and aircraft cabin environments welcoming and reliable for you. Please check the Travel Policies Board in Community for ongoing discussion among Community Members and Community Champions.

75 Comments
New Arrival

Southwest,

Why don't you keep your loyal customers and simply give refunds (not vouchers) to those whose flights are canceled beyond their control due to this unforeseen circumstance currently crippling the world?  Regardless if they booked with expiring vouchers to begin with or not.  Anyone that cancels or already canceled their flight from 3/16 - ??? just is refunded.  Done and done.  The US is going to ground all domestic travel soon and you will have a mutiny on your hands if you don't address this now.  Handing out vouchers that must be used within one year and by the same person on the original reservation is NOT the answer.

 

I believe your current contract should include: “force majeure” clauses that make the contract unenforceable if performance of the contract becomes impossible for one of the parties to perform. Likewise, it should  excuse performance of a contract when a change in circumstances makes one party’s performance virtually worthless to the other party (called a frustration of purpose).

Active Member

Ladies and gentlemen this is not a debate of what loyalty means our concentration should be of awareness on how not to spread and stay clean of the virus 

New Arrival

I would love to cancel my trip and stay in my home, but if I do not receive a refund, then I'll go just so that I'm not throwing away money.  I'm sure the majority of the people feel the same way.

If the airlines cared about not spreading the virus, they would refund people knowing that the government will rescue them financially.  

New Arrival
I really thought Southwest Airlines had a "HEART", but it turns out they don't really. My daughter has Travel Funds that expire 4/5/20. She appealed to them to extend the date due to extenuating circumstances. She had trip scheduled for 9/10/19-9/18/19 to LAX using the Travel Funds. But she was to be a LIVING KIDNEY DONOR and surgery was scheduled for 9/13/19; therefore, she obviously cancelled that flight. In an effort to USE these Travel Funds before they expired, she again booked flight to LAX for 3/25/2020. We are now in the midst of COVID-19 and since she has suppressed immune system, elected to cancel that flight rather than jeopardize her health. She wrote to SW Air 3/15/20 requesting this extension. They responded on 3/15/20 as follows:
 
Thank you for contacting us. I appreciate the chance to address your concerns.
 
The unused travel funds associated with confirmation number XXXXXXX will expire on April 5, 2020. It is necessary for travel funds to be available for a Customer to use until the expiration date listed on the Customer’s itinerary and receipt. We encourage you to use the funds for another trip completed by the expiration date as, once expired, the ticket and associated travel funds are no longer available.
 
Your business is truly important to us, and we look forward to our next opportunity to welcome you onboard.

She appealed again today 3/17/2020 with another email and got same response:
 
Thank you for contacting us. I appreciate the chance to address your concerns.
 
While other domestic airlines charge fees for just about everything, we give Customers the flexibility they want by providing the most Customer-friendly policies in the industry.
Each Customer who purchases a ticket to travel on Southwest has the opportunity to cancel or change their reservation without being charged extra fees (although a difference in fare may apply). When a ticket is purchased entirely with a credit card, the Customer will have the ability to use the funds for travel to be completed 12 months from the date of purchase as long as the reservation is canceled at least 10 minutes prior to departure. If the Customer applies travel funds and/or a Southwest LUV Voucher toward the purchase of a ticket, the expiration date of the ticket is the earliest expiration date of the form of payment.

Each time a reservation is created, changed, or canceled we send an itinerary receipt via email disclosing the expiration of the ticket and associated travel funds. We also include an advisory that all travel involving the funds must be completed by the expiration date.
 
The reservation associated with confirmation number XXXXX was purchased with travel funds XXXXX. As such, the $XXXX in unused funds remaining on the ticket will expire on April 5, 2020. Keep in mind that travel funds can only be used by the original ticketed Passenger, so we encourage you to use the funds for another trip before the expiration date as, once expired, the ticket and associated travel funds are no longer available.
 
We know you have a choice when you fly, and we hope you will continue to choose Southwest. We would truly appreciate the chance to welcome you onboard soon.
Active Member

Stop pretending you care about anything but filling your pockets with the hard earned money of sick Americans, Southwest Airlines. Your response to coronavirus is not only ignorant, but also insulting to those of us responsible citizens who are choosing to forgo their travel plans in hope for the greater global good. SHAME ON YOU SOUTHWEST, SHAME ON YOU. You need to extend the deadline of all travel vouchers expiring soon, or at least stop parading around like you are a company that claims to "have a heart" when you clearly don't. now is the time to show your heart, and im seeing nothing. FULL OF LIES!!!

New Arrival

I have read most of your comments and everyone feels the same.  Southwest is doing nothing to help its loyal customers during this global crisis.  Everyone here needs to put pressure on the company to do the right thing and extend travel fund deadlines.  I have called and spoken with a customer service representative and got no where.  We had a trip to Costa Rica.  The border is now closed so Southwest will not be flying at all in the month of April, however the representative said my flight has not been canceled and it is still showing as going.  So I will forfeit my funds if I do not cancel. She echoed the same normal policy of 1 year from the booking date.  This is CRAZY that Southwest is doing nothing.  We all need to email and post to social media to hopefully force a change.  BTW-our VRBO in Costa Rica was super flexible and was allowing us to wait up until a week before check in to make a decision with no cancellation penalties. Kudos to you VRBO and the owner of the home we had rented.  We will definitely be re-booking.

New Arrival

Perhaps a 3month or even better, a 6 month extension on the expiration of travel funds -might be workable?

New Arrival

In 3-6 months, we will probably still be in this state of emergency.  SW offers 6 month extension, if you pay a $100 fee.   They should (1)waive the fee and (2)allow extending expiration date for at least a year.   Not a big ask!

New Arrival

Very interesting article, thanks. In today's pandemic, it’s really better to choose a profession in the field of medicine. And here I was thinking where to put publications on resume... I needed to listen to smart advice and go to study as a nurse.

New Arrival

The best way to describe Southwest as some have mentioned here is SOCIALLY IRRESPONSIBLE!

 

We had a ski trip planned in April.  We purchased the tickets that were able to be changed but not refunded.  The POTUS declared a National State of Emergency due to COVID 19.  The World Health Orginization declared COVID 19 a world Pandemic.  All of the ski towns are closed in Denver.

 

We fully expected Southwest to accommodate us in getting a refund due to the unique and unusual circumstances.  I just got a form letter yesterday stating nothing has changed in their cancellation policy and they will not refund.  We will not have the ability to rebook a trip by the time their expiration period expires....so....Southwest is going to take (steal)  the $2,000 we paid and not provide any service in return. 

 

What a poor way to do business.  It costs them NOTHING to return our money due the fact they have not provided any service so why would they not accommodate their customers. 

 

Talk about winning the battle and losing the war.  When you are this socially irresponsible and are TAKING ADVANTAGE of COVID-19, people will not forget the way they were treated in difficult times.  Hopefully they wake up and can do the right thing...

New Arrival

I, like many others, bought tickets months in advance of our scheduled flight. In my case, I purchased in November, 2019 for travel in May, 2020 to Hawaii. Because of the current world situation and the Hawaiian governor asking all visitors to postpone their trip, I'm considering canceling our trip for a later date. My problem, since I purchased the tickets in November, 2019, I'd have to use them by November, 2020. However, since both my kids will be back in school by then (hopefully), we cannot take a 10-day vacation during the fall/winter months. I filled out the Southwest contact form, asking if Southwest would extend their cancellation policy (not even requesting a refund), and have received no response. I'm so disappointed in how Southwest has handled the situation, especially since the other airlines have really stepped up to the plate. Shame on you Southwest. I've learned my lesson. If Southwest fails to amend their policy, my family and I will never fly on your airline again. Hindsight being 20/20, I should've stayed with American Airlines.

New Arrival

I booked 3 tickets in November, 2019 for my wife and my 8 year old Son to fly into Ohio to see our older Son play NCAA D1 College Baseball the week of April 6th. NCAA has cancelled the Baseball season and we need to cancel our flights. Not only because the games are cancelled, but because we want to follow COVID19 guidelines of NOT being in groups of 10 or more people. Being in a tube 30,000 ft in the air for 3 hours with 200 strangers does NOT reflect the public responsibility that has been placed upon US citizens, let alone not wanting my family to fall ill to this unprecedented pandemic in modern times. Given the fact I purchased these tickets in November, 2019, my credit will only last until November 2020, when almost guaranteed there will still be a battle with this awful situation. Hands Down, Southwest needs to extend it's unused funds policy to an additional year. It's the responsible thing to do, not only for it's customers, but to be a part of the solution and NOT a part of the problem. If this is not decided upon voluntarily by the Southwest decision makers, I will need to rely on the higher powers to make that decision for them. Unfortunately, that decision will most likely only be made by Southwest AFTER many more lives are in danger and lost. I hope you sleep well at night Southwest........From a loyal FORMER customer.

New Arrival

I am a loyal SW customer. I understand that many are frustrated that SW won't budge from their policies regarding refunds and giving extensions on unused travel funds.

But I also understand that SW as well as all the other airlines may be soon facing the real possibility of massive employee layoffs not to mention drastically reducing flights. I think that if the current situation gets worse ( which seems more and more likely each day) all the airlines may be soon forced to cease all operations.

I hope that all the airlines, especially SW, as well as the rest of us can survive this and recover quickly.

New Arrival

None of this does any good if your fellow passengers are coughing and hacking around you.   From my understanding the plane does not provide fresh air until the engines are running which can be 30 minutes or more on the ground waiting for take off.   I was recently on a flight with some gal that was wearing a loose fitting mask and coughing horribly two rows in front of me.  Got a fever and nothing more but, I can't afford to continue to travel with irresponsible people getting onto planes and contaminating their fellow passengers.   My family is too important to put at risk.  Southwest needs to screen passengers prior to boarding.   Anyone coughing should be discharged out the emergency exit...

New Arrival

I am confused as to Southwests new policy regarding travel funds:  

 

Any travel funds created because of a flight cancellation between March 1-May 31, 2020, will have an expiration date of June 30, 2021.

 

WE canceled our May 9th flight today (March 20th).  The flight is still scheduled.  Do we qualify for the new extension of June 30, 2021?  Per the wording, we are unclear if the flight has to be canceled by Southwest or if we still get the extension if we cancel.  

New Arrival

easy suggestion to mitigate in-flight contagion risk during COVID-19 outbreak period:

 

  • Cancel middle seats to create more space between passengers
  • Hand out masks for people to wear during flight

 

My 2 cents

New Arrival

In the grand scheme of what is going on in the world today , I guess this might not seem that important. But it keeps bothering me , so here it goes . On February 27th, I flew from Boston to Columbus . As I reached up to turn off the air vent , I almost gagged . Unfortunately I can not attach pictures here . It was not only my seat but at least three rows in front of me too . Yes, I had a window seat , all along the side wall was a huge visible black line of dirt as well . I reached out on Twitter with pics:

 

Please tell me that you’ll do a better job of cleaning your planes #SouthwestAirlines #bos2cmh #2/27


Here’s the response : Hi, MFB. You can find more information pertaining to future travels & our aircraft cleaning here: southwest.com/Coronavirus/?c…. -Adrienne

 

I’ve always carried Lysol wipes with me on flights as my daughter had a compromised immune system when she was younger . Everything you could think of we wiped down , including the magazines , informational cards in the seat pocket . Yes, weird looks from other passengers , some asking if I had extra wipes, others asking why , some snickered at my attempt to clean everything we would touch . And it has worked . 
ok , I’m just rambling .

 

Thank you for stepping up your cleaning process but heck why did it take this long ? 
( yes, of course I know the answer $$$and time ) 

 

MFB 

 

New Arrival

"Southwest is unique in the airline industry because we do not charge fees to change or cancel flights." 
Southwest is, however, keeping the $25 Early Bird fee on the flight I cancelled because of COVID-19. Pure profit under another name. I disappointed in you, Southwest. 

New Arrival

CANCEL  by

31 May 2020

I called the Southwest Corporate offices for clarification and I was told that if the Travel Funds are created from March 1 - May 31, 2020, by a flight cancellation by Southwest or by the customer, then the expiration extension date will apply and be June 30, 2021.

 

Cancel your flight today...!!!

New Arrival

I just got off the phone with customer service. I’m very disappointed. Obviously no one foresaw a worldwide pandemic and being laid off work in their travel plan “things that could go wrong” thinking. I think full refunds should be available on ALL bookings at this point. This is ridiculous that is not an option at this point for people. People are depleting savings to survive at this moment just to survive in a lot of states that have completely shut down. Money is needed and the last thing I should have to worry about is trying to get my money back for a flight on a trip that I had been saving for but because of this national emergency, is no longer going to be an option. Ridiculous 

New Arrival

The updates and extensions to the SWA cancellation policies due to COVID-19 are welcomed and appreciated.  However, SWA should also consider refunding associate earlybird booking fees or at minimum attach these to the travel funds account.  It is egregious not to consider a temporary revision to this cost policy in light of the unprecidented effect this unanticipated pandemic has had on everyone, especially your loyal travelers.

 

New Arrival

I have a reservation to fly in about 10 days.  I noticed on your website that flight attendants have been given the OPTION to wear a face mask in order "to protect themselves".  According the CDC, a face mask isn't so much for the person wearing it, but for the people they come in contact with when social distancing isn't possible.  I intend to wear a face mask which will hopefully  "protect" your flight attendants and other passengers.  Given that there are many asymptomatic spreaders of the virus, I would think it would be mandatory for passengers and SWA flight attendants be required to wear a mask. I could probably stay away from other passengers given that the flights aren't crowded, but I at least would like to know that the flight attendants are wearing a mask.  Thanks.

New Arrival

Carnival cancelled our cruise in April so I had to cancel our flights with SW.  We booked them in November 2019 and cannot re book another flight before November this year because I work in the schools and cannot get off.  Since the virus has disrupted many things has SW extended expiration dates?  We don't want to loose out, it wasn't our fault!!

New Arrival

I have companion pass right now for current year, so it's nice that they are extending it till June 2021.

 

How do I extend it for the rest of 2021 or for 2022?

 

If I earn remaining 100K by Dec 31 2020, do I get the pass till Dec 2021 or June 2022.

  

If I earn full 125K between now & Jun 2021, do I get the pass till Dec 2021 or Jun 2022 or Dec 2022.

 

Partial information shared, & its confusing 😞 

New Arrival

When can we start converting travel funds to RR points?  We have been hearing "in the next few weeks" for several months.  Will we be able to do that online (without customer service support) -- I hope, I hope!