How to Get Paid to Survive the Southwest Collapse | lifestyle

Many holiday travelers were left stranded after Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights around Christmas. Now they want their money back.

Many passengers paid out of pocket to rebook on other airlines or to get to their destination by other means, such as a rental car or train. Other pre-paid, non-refundable reservations such as show tickets, cruises, tours and hotel rooms can seem like lost costs.

Genna Scisci, a public relations executive from Chicago, had planned to fly to Albany, New York, for the holidays, but gave up after four canceled Southwest flights. Since she made several trips to the airport, she is requesting a carpool reimbursement of about $150. Scisci says she did not receive that money back, although she was reimbursed for her original return flight.

If you’ve been affected by cancellations associated with the Great Southwest Meltdown, it’s not too late to try to recoup some of the costs.

25,000 Rapid Rewards points

Southwest sent promo codes for 25,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points per flight via email to many travelers who had flights canceled or significantly delayed between December 24, 2022 and January 2, 2023. Southwest told NerdWallet that only those with flights between this period, were canceled or significantly delayed – and those who chose not to book – received codes. However, some fliers have reported receiving codes even after traveling on an overbooked Southwest flight.

A screenshot of Southwest’s email sent to affected travelers.

To redeem these codes, Southwest travelers must visit a separate Rapid Rewards points website by March 31, 2023. The website often requires a wait to access. Typically, wait times are just a few minutes — a fraction of the hour-long customer service delays people reported during the Southwest debacle.

Southwest promises that 25,000 points is equivalent to redeeming more than $300 in base fares. Although, based on NerdWallet’s analysis, Southwest points are typically worth about 1.5 cents each, making 25,000 points worth an even higher $375 when redeemed for a future flight. If you received two codes, that’s worth $750, according to NerdWallet estimates.

Elite status expansion and Companion Pass for some

If you had Southwest elite status that was about to expire, you can get a small extension. Southwest emailed some affected travelers who held 2022 companion passes or had A-List or A-List Preferred status, promising to extend their status through January 31, 2023.

Reimbursement of other expenses

Southwest says customers whose flights are canceled or significantly delayed between Dec. 24, 2022, and Jan. 2, 2023, can submit receipts for “reasonable” expenses such as rental cars, other airfare and meals through this website.

Southwest would not provide details on the exact items that would be reimbursed, simply saying in an email to NerdWallet that customers are “encouraged to submit items for consideration.”

For example, travel writer Brittany Mendez is trying to get reimbursed for another type of expense. She flew southwest to California with her fiance to spend Christmas week with her family. Their dogs were left with a dog sitter. When their flight home was cancelled, they could not be rebooked on another flight until a week later.

Mendez and her fiance stayed an unexpected extra week in California with the family so they didn’t face additional travel expenses. But he hopes Southwest will pay for the second week of dog sitting. She hasn’t heard anything yet.

When will the money be returned and in what form?

While Southwest told NerdWallet that no deadline has yet been set for reimbursement requests, it’s best to submit receipts as soon as possible to maximize your chances of reimbursement. Southwest also didn’t say how long those refunds will take, but it could take a while because the airline prioritizes flight refunds first.

Under Department of Transportation regulations, customers are entitled to a refund if the airline cancels the flight and the customer chooses not to travel. This applies to all passengers with US tickets, regardless of the reason.

The government also mandates that refunds be issued within seven business days after the airline receives a request with proper documentation if the passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if the passenger paid by cash or check.

“This is currently our top priority to help our customers,” Chris Perry, a Southwest spokesman, told NerdWallet in an email.

From there, Southwest will turn to other out-of-pocket refunds. Once the payment is approved, Southwest said it will likely send a paper check to the mailing address provided on the flight reservation.

Other ways to get reimbursed for Southwest

Travel insurers may move faster and may be willing to cover expenses that Southwest will not. If you have purchased it, contact your provider immediately.

Even if you didn’t purchase travel insurance, your trip may have been covered anyway. Many travel credit cards insure trips purchased on this card, so check with your issuer to see if they offer the benefit and ask if your trip qualifies for reimbursement.

What’s next for the Southwest?

Many customers are still bothered by the chaos and many bags are still missing. However, Southwest says it intends to have most separate bags delivered or shipped in the first week of 2023.

And to avoid future problems, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan has vowed to prioritize creating better tools, technology and processes.

“There’s no way we can apologize enough because we love our customers, we love our people and we’ve really affected their plans,” he said in a statement. “We’re going to have a lot of lessons in terms of what we can do to make sure this never happens again, because it must never happen again.”

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