PSA: Southwest Airlines Travel Funds can Only be Used by the Passenger Named on the Ticket

Grant is the Southwest Airlines maven around here, so you’d think I would know better. But I just had an epic fail with Southwest Airlines and want to save you from making the same mistake and losing money. In my defense, and really there is no defense for letting this happen, I must at least let you know that I rarely fly Southwest Airlines. A while ago, I bought a ticket for a Southwest Airlines flight which I ended up cancelling. That part was easy and the dollar amount was put into a Southwest Airlines travel fund (read How to Cancel Southwest Airlines Flights (Paid or Points) & View Travel Funds).

But these funds do expire, so I was keeping track of the expiration date. I was super close to having the travel funds expire and voila, I had a Southwest Airlines flight I needed to book that I could use my Southwest Airlines travel funds for.

But my epic fail was not remembering that the funds can ONLY be used for the individual named on the ticket. That was me! So when I went to book a flight, I wanted to get two tickets (for my 2 friends) and it wouldn’t go through. I couldn’t figure out what the issue was, but Grant knew the answer.

Yes, I know it’s stated on this page where it says this below, but I never read that page on the Southwest Airlines website #thisLUVrulestinks

Note: All travel involving Travel Funds from an unused or cancelled reservation or a Southwest LUV Voucher must be completed by the expiration date. Travel Funds from an unused or cancelled reservation may only be applied toward the purchase of future travel for the individual named on the ticket.

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Bottom Line

In the world of rules that make no sense, today this one moves to the top of the list. It is my money after all, and it seems that I “should” be able to spend it on any Southwest Airlines ticket I want (either for myself or for anyone else). So long story short, I’m out $50 which hurts, and wanted to share this word of caution. If you’ve made any Southwest Airlines mistakes you’d like to caution us about, please leave a comment below!


20 thoughts on “PSA: Southwest Airlines Travel Funds can Only be Used by the Passenger Named on the Ticket

  1. askmrlee

    Yes, now you know, but this is not just limited to Southwest. All airlines restrict reuse of a ticket to the named passenger.

    The way around this is to book refundable tickets (which of course are much more expensive). This is one key advantage of Southwest’s Senior and infant fares. They are more expensive than their cheapest Wanna Get Away, but are fully refundable. Infant fares are also refundable, but these are not available online.

    Also, here is another thing to keep in mind that is not very well publicized with Southwest credits.

    Each time you claim a travel funds credit when a fare drops, that change is a credit with its own confirmation number. So each change will result in an individual travel fund credit. You are limited to three forms of payment total per transaction. This means either up to three travel credits, or two travel credits and a credit card.

    I had a Christmas time ticket that over the course of 3 months dropped from $420 to $240. I ended up with 3 travel credits. When I tried to apply them, the system took the two cheapest and not the most expensive one that was $90!.

    An agent was kind enough to consolidate the credits manually so that I could apply these to a ticket but told me that the move to the new reservation system (and my travel happened after the change) was the key reason for this.

    1. shelli

      Thanks so much for these tips and for taking the time to post them. I don’t fly SWA often, but I’m sure learning a lot about how best to use their travel credits. And it does seem inevitable that sooner or later everyone will end up with a travel credit.

  2. Sexy_Kitten7

    I believe you should have refunded to FOP, not their funny money. I absolutely hate WN and will not fly them. Have filed several DOT complaints.

    Here’s my gripe: If you pay with credit/debit can refund to FOP. But if pay with WN GC, funds are trapped in PNR, must be used by same traveller, and must fly by exp date. GCs are a FOP and they have strong legal protections (at least in California). I lost around 20 bucks in TSA fees due to these draconian rules.

    Btw we have CCC this Sat if you’re free.

    1. shelli

      You make good points about some of the rules I don’t like either. And thanks for the tips about where to put refund money. Let us know if any of your DOT complaints get resolved. Appreciate the invite :)

  3. Nathan

    The problem I have is sometimes I don’t get the cancellation email. Especially for a companion. So remember to write down your PNR. I literally just lost a ticket worth $50 this week. No one at Southwest can find it it’s basically lost forever.

    1. shelli

      Sorry to hear about your $50, Nathan. Will absolutely write down all the ticket info. Thanks for the reminder.

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  5. Dave

    Years ago Southwest Airlines allowed for the transfer of unused funds to be applied to a family members travel, and I don’t remember any deadline for use of the funds.I have been flying SW for about 30 years give or take and don’t remember the exact date of the change.
    My sense is that at some point the airline moved to lobby the FAA for legislation to create the monster that is the “Confiscation of your hard earned money”.
    Personally I believe consumers should write their Elected Rep. and complain ,however, with the present administration in Washington, that will be a waste of time, but you may feel good about yourself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  8. Dina

    I previously scheduled a flight from Dallas, TX to Indianapolis booked for 3/2017. This flight was canceled. The cancellation was confirmed in an email I received from SWA. The email stated that I had a remaining travel fund balance of $1184. We attempted to schedule a trip this past weekend, assuming we had the funds. I was fortunate to locate the old email to see that there was a expiration date. There was no other history of this booking. However; that is quite a bit of money to lose because SWA is restricting our travel to occur within a certain amount of time. This seems quite dishonest and SWA should honor travel funds. Stop the ridiculous time restriction. Not very customer-focused. I was quite surprised that they would take money from customers like that. In the past, I was a fan of Southwest Airlines. That has definitely changed since we apparently paid for a flight we did not take. SWA took the money without earning it.

    1. Grant

      Hi Dina, call SWA and see if you can get this straightened out. Since you probably booked the flight for several passengers, there are travel funds attached to each passenger on the original reservation. If those same passengers are not on the new SWA reservation, the travel funds may not work. You will probably need to get a SWA record locator for every passenger, then find out how much travel funds each passenger has. Since SWA cancelled the flight, see if they can extend the travel funds. Good luck!

      1. Sexy_kitten7

        @Grant I presume Dina meant she cxled the itin, not WN. If WN did it I’d expect a cash refund, not funny money.

        @Dina That’s just the way it goes. Each person must rebook and fly by the expiration date or else. There isn’t a general “travel fund,” the money is trapped in the PNR(s). Not a problem if you frequently fly WN but a huge inconvenience if you don’t.

  9. Dokkie

    Just going to throw a different perspective into the mix. First of all, I dislike all this too. I hadn’t booked SW in a while, and then recently used them again to find out I had $800 in credits because I cancelled and re-booked stuff three times. It was news to me that you had to input your cancelled confirmation number each time you booked a replacement itinerary. Was a little unhappy to have those finds sitting in SW’s wallet until I decided to book another flight in the future. It also meant me having to hold onto three confirmation codes to remember to apply when I decide to book a future trip. It’s inconvenient, but it’s not really the end of the world; just inconvenient.

    We will all agree that things in life are not just free and that there is always a balance to things. Why do we book Southwest? It’s because their fares are super low usually, they offer pretty good service compared to other domestic carriers and they have an unusually flexible booking system. Even in a situation where SW is $20 or $30 more than a rival, I’ll go with SW because of their flexibility with cancelling and revising.

    I don’t like their newer system, but I comprehend that its necessary for them to do this in order to run their business model and keep themselves flexible. Many of you are asking them to just give us what we want. Well, ok… then they’ll have to make up for it elsewhere and raise their fares. Though I work in a completely different industry, I encounter this same kind of mindset. People just want things to be free and easy and they want their wishes to be granted at every command. If we were to do that, then we’d have to jab you elsewhere.

    I’ll be the first to admit I don’t like the way of the newer cancel/change system, but I accept that it is the way that it is. It is not worth crying about and threatening to file formal complaints about them. As the author pointed out, these things were attributed to her own mistakes. Each and every one of us took an action and either failed to read or ignored the southwest policy for change/cancellations. The better approach is to accept their policy, read their fine print when you book a flight (as I failed to do), and maintain your own records of jotting down the cancellation numbers. If you don’t like their business model or, as an adult, can’t manage to keep track of your own confirmation numbers, then go fly Alaska air or another carrier and have yourself locked firmly into the dates you originally booked. Just take responsibility for your actions people and don’t blame the big bad company. And if you’re sitting on a few hundred dollars of travel credit like I am, then it’s simple… if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If SW gives you unused travel funds, just use it as an excuse to go on a vacation someplace new. There are bigger problems in the world. You gotta get out of the habit of going around on the internet to wipe your tears all the time.

    1. Shelli Post author

      Agreed, inconvenient and not the end of the world. I rarely fly SWA, but they must be doing something right to enjoy the loyalty from their flyers that they do. Thanks for your perspective, Dokkie, and enjoy your lemonade :)

  10. Lionel

    Question. Because they have no change fees, can’t you just book it under the “proper” person with the travel funds then change the passenger after?

    1. Grant

      With SWA’s reservation system, the travel funds can only be used by the person who was originally on the reservation system. You can’t change the passenger name after making the reservation, even if you cancel the original reservation.


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