3OYS: Southwest Airlines adds "No Show" policy

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by Warren Trent

Video report by Gary Harper

Posted on September 16, 2013 at 6:27 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 18 at 1:54 PM

PHOENIX -- A big policy change has landed at Southwest Airlines. Until now, the Dallas based airline had one of the most generous cancellation policies in the industry. But now, Southwest has implemented a "no show" policy.

In the past, if you couldn't make your flight or had to cancel, it was no big deal; you could just reschedule. But now, if you need to change or cancel, you have until 10 minutes before the scheduled takeoff. After that, your ticket is no good and you won’t get a refund at all. The new policy only applies to fares booked under the "Wanna Get Away" and "DING!" promotions.

We contacted Southwest Airlines. Airline representative Brad Hawkins stated: "There is no loss of funds if customers cancel or change their reservation before departure. However, there is a loss for Southwest when customers do not show up for their flights and those seats fly empty."

Southwest Airlines also released the following information to 3 On Your Side: "Southwest is implementing a No Show policy that applies to Wanna Get Away and DING! Fares that are not canceled by a Customer prior to travel.  If a Customer has booked a Wanna Get Away or DING! Fare anywhere in his/her itinerary and that portion of the flight is not used and not canceled by the Customer at least ten minutes prior to scheduled departure, all funds on the unused portion of the reservation will be lost, and the remaining itinerary will be canceled by Southwest. This policy applies to all nonrefundable fares, excluding military fares, senior fares, or travel during certain irregular operations, including severe weather conditions.

Here are more specifics on the policy:

-Purchase date planned for Friday, May 10, 2013, for travel beginning Friday, September 13, 2013.

-If a Customer has booked a Wanna Get Away or Ding! Fare in his/her itinerary and that portion of the flight is not used and not canceled by the Customer prior to scheduled departure, all funds on the unused portion of the reservation will be lost, and the remaining itinerary will be canceled by Southwest. This policy does not apply to military fares, senior fares, or travel during certain irregular operations, including severe weather conditions.

-The No Show policy will not impact Customers who simply cancel a Wanna Get Away or DING! Fare prior to scheduled departure; in this case, Customers may reuse their funds toward future travel on Southwest, without a change fee, as they have always done. Customers who are traveling on a fully refundable itinerary that does not contain a Wanna Get Away or DING! Fare will continue to have the option of either requesting a refund or holding funds for future travel.

-We continue to offer Customers the flexibility of changing their itinerary without a fee, prior to departure, by calling our reservation line or by logging onto southwest.com.

-Southwest hopes to alter Customer behavior with the policy change, encouraging Customers to cancel seats they do not plan to use prior to a flight’s departure. The potential change in Customer behavior will allow Southwest to better predict future inventory and reduce the number of empty seats flown.

-The policy will apply to Customers traveling on Wanna Get Away or DING! Fares purchased or changed on or after Friday, May 10, 2013, for travel on or after Friday, September 13, 2013.  We will protect those Customers who purchased fares before the implementation date and/or are traveling before the effective date.

In other aviation news, U.S. Airways dropped its plans for a Phoenix to Maui flight because of the merger delay with American Airlines. As 3 On Your Side reported a few weeks ago, the U.S. Justice Department opposes the merger. This Wednesday, employees from both airlines will rally on Capitol Hill in support of the merger.

Changes are also in store for Alaska Airlines. Beginning October 30, the airline is raising its baggage fee from $50 to $75 each way. And if that bag is more than 50 pounds, it's going to hit you hard unless you lighten the load. An overweight charge will cost you $150 round-trip.

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