This time last year, many North Texans began reconsidering spring break travel plans because of COVID-19. If you had to cancel a trip during the pandemic, now is the time to check the fine print of your travel voucher or credit.
When it comes to airline vouchers, Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights says the policies have shifted and each airline has different rules.
“The best thing that you can do is pull out your voucher and read the fine print. I hate giving that advice because I hate reading the fine print myself. In this case, the fine print is not very arduous,” said Keyes.
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You’re looking for a quick paragraph or two explaining if the voucher expiration date is the deadline to book travel or fly.
Keyes said you’ll also want to look for whether you have to use the voucher to fly to the original destination or whether you can apply the funds to another trip.
You’ll also want to look for information about if the voucher has to be used for the original passenger or if the balance can be applied to other travelers or other services like baggage fees.
If the answers don’t work for your plans during the pandemic, Keyes recommends calling the airline’s customer service number.
“Airlines are actually much more flexible and accommodating for extension requests these days,” said Keyes. "If you have a voucher whose expiration date is coming due and you're not necessarily comfortable traveling yet or don't have any plans, rather than letting that voucher go unused, what you should do is find that customer service number and give the airline a call.”
Keyes said he's found travelers have more luck speaking to a person on the phone, rather than relying on social media messages or email.
“Explain why you might not feel comfortable traveling for the next few months. Maybe you haven't been able to get vaccinated yet, your health is at risk, whatever the reason. Ask for a six-month extension or ask for a 12-month extension. You'll be surprised that more often than not, the airlines are willing to grant it,” Keyes said.
If the airline isn’t willing to extend a travel credit or voucher expiration date, Keyes said consider booking a flight for a future date.
“I would still go ahead and make a speculative booking because if you let that voucher expire, then you don't get anything from it,” Keyes explained.
Keep in mind, if you book a more expensive flight with a voucher, you’ll likely have to pay a fare difference. If the new flight is cheaper, some, but not all airlines will give you the difference back in a travel credit.
Keyes said refunds, at this point, are unlikely.
“I would not count on being able to convert your voucher into miles now or being able to convert it to a cash refund,” Keyes said.
NBC 5 Responds reached out to some of the airlines that fly in and out of North Texas.
American Airlines said customers who voluntarily canceled tickets purchased by September 30, 2020 for original travel dates between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 retain the value of their ticket as flight credits. Flight credits have been automatically extended for use by December 31, 2021.
The airline added that vouchers are used in several different scenarios and there are different types of flight credits or vouchers given to customers when travel plans change.
Customers who have travel vouchers that were going to expire between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 can contact customer relations to receive a new voucher that can be used for an additional 12 months, according to the airline.
American also introduced trip credits in August 2020 for customers who may have redeemed their flight credit for new travel and had value leftover.
Southwest Airlines said customers who booked travel, or who had travel funds that would have expired March 1 through September 7, 2020 automatically received an extension on those funds through September 7, 2022.
Southwest Airlines added, “Customers with funds not covered by the pandemic two-year extension have our everyday flexibility—an ability to use the full amount of their funds for a full year from the original date of purchase (or oldest date of purchase in the case of combined funds), subject to our No Show policy which requires a proactive cancelation of reservations before departure.”
The airline said it is always available to review individual circumstances.
Corporate communications at United Airlines referred NBC 5 to this page for information about its travel credit policies.
The page explains the difference between electronic travel certificates and future flight credits – which have different conditions.
Delta said it extended the validity of travel credits through December 2022 for travel originally scheduled to depart after March 1, 2020. This applies to all tickets purchased on or before April 17, 2020.
Delta tickets purchased on or after April 18, 2020 are currently valid for one year from the date of purchase.
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