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Refund VS Travel Credit- USDOT 4/3/20 Enforcement Notice!

New Arrival

Im confused- The US Dept of Transportation issues an Enforcement Notice to airlines on 4/3/20 requiring the airline to to refund money (and not future travel credits), as TOO many customers complained to the FAA about airlines only offering future travel credits. 


Here is a link to the USDOT's page showing the order.


So, I called SW for the refund. They DENIED it....saying it "wasnt company policy" and they "only" offer future travel credits. I asked Rebecca on the phone if SW company policy OVERRIDES the new Federal mandate issued 2 days ago...she said "YES". (odd) I also have this in an email from Laurie in customer service.


Has the airline found a loophole in circumventing the federal mandate? Or is SW not following orders? 


Re: Refund VS Travel Credit- USDOT 4/3/20 Enforcement Notice!

Top Contributor

Did Southwest cancel your flight or was it a flight your choosing to cancel?


Re: Refund VS Travel Credit- USDOT 4/3/20 Enforcement Notice!

Top Contributor

The DOT order only applies if Southwest canceled the flight. Although it's always been Southwest's policy to grant refunds when they cancel a flight, there was a short period of mistaken direction, and there may still be some confusion from some agents.


You need to contact Customer Relations, not the "regular" reservations department, and their phone line has limited hours/days. Plus, when they are open, they're overwhelmed. I wouldn't recommend calling right now, your best bet is to reach out via Twitter or Facebook private message (they're staffed by Customer Relations). You'll get a quicker response, and you'll also be creating a paper trail.


If you qualify for a refund (your flight was cancelled by Southwest)

  • Make the refund request clear and unequivocal, and in writing. Document everything.
  • If you're denied, or offered anything other than a full refund, reply once, insist on the refund, and cite the DOT enforcement order. (You may have just reached an misinformed agent earlier. Give Southwest a chance to correct any mistakes. Them initiating the refund is still the quickest way to get one.)
  • Carriers must process the refund within 7 days. Note that it may take your bank another 1-2 billing cycles to actually put the funds back in your credit card account.
  • If you don't receive notification that the refund has been processed within 7 days, dispute the charge with your credit card bank. Banks are also overwhelmed these days, but there should be a way to initiate a dispute via their website. They have 30-45 days to respond, but they will likely issue a temporary credit to your card account quicker than that.
  • If you're ultimately denied a refund, file a DOT consumer complaint.


The good news is that you'll most likely not have to take things that far.


Despite a brief period of non-compliance, Southwest has corrected themselves and, I suspect, wants to do the right thing now (and avoid DOT fines or other enforcement action). Agents may continue to initially offer travel funds (or vouchers for EarlyBird Check-In fees), but if you're clear about needing a refund it's likely they'll understand and comply. 


Good luck.