Don’t wait too long to ask Southwest Airlines for a refund By Christopher Elliott | December 8, 2011 FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest Thomas Travia bought a ticket from Philadelphia to Omaha on Southwest Airlines but couldn’t use all of it. Nothing unusual about that — plans change all the time, and the airline offers some of the most flexible ticket change policies in the industry. What sets this case apart is the type of ticket Travia got. Since he bought it at the airport, it was paper. Then he lost the ticket halfway through his trip and later asked Southwest for a refund. The airline told him he needed to wait, and now it’s telling him he waited too long. Maybe that’s because he traveled in 2008. This is a strange one, my friends. Travia had purchased the roundtrip ticket at the airport in Philadelphia, and he’d flown to Omaha without incident. On the return flight, I left the ticket in my hotel room. I was told, because it was a paper ticket they could not reissue it or give me credit as it could be found and used by someone else (even though you can’t change the name!) I had to wait one year until it expired and then get a refund. I had to buy another ticket to get home. Since Travia is a patient guy, he decided to wait a year. But in the meantime, he lost the receipt for the new ticket. Eventually he found all the paperwork, but in the meantime, years had passed. He filed the application anyway. “They basically told me too bad, too much time had elapsed and they wouldn’t give me any credit. I don’t want a refund but only a flight coupon of equal value – $319.” Travia knows he should have sent the refund request to Southwest Airlines sooner. I am a busy executive and this sort of thing gets lost in the daily shuffle. I understand the airline wanting to close out extended liabilities etc. But the fact remains that they have my $319 and they could have easily corrected the problem in 2008 since you can’t use a ticket without your name on it. I thought Travia might have a chance of retrieving his money for several reasons. First, Southwest issued a paper ticket, which even in 2008 was pretty unusual. Second, it imposed a one-year cooling off period, which meant he had to wait until 2009. And finally, he wasn’t asking for real money — only a credit. So I asked Southwest Airlines. A representative got back to me with the following answer: I was able to review this customer’s situation further. Due to the age of the unused ticket, we wouldn’t be able to reissue or refund the unused ticket. After 6 months from the expiration the funds are cleared out of our systems. The Customer needed to call within 6 months from the expiration date (7/15/09). Interesting. So even though a representative told Travia he needed to wait a year, he would have had to apply for the refund within six months. That’s good to know. There’s a lesson in here for all of us. Like any other business, airlines don’t want to keep credit on their books indefinitely. Vouchers and ticket credit do expire, and once they’re gone, you can’t get them back. Even if you’re dealing with Southwest Airlines. FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest Christopher ElliottChristopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus NoOne “I’m a busy executive…” aww shucks. Not to busy to go through this process however. Suck it up, and take responsibility for forgetting to do what you should have done CheeseheadChick2010 Not sure if this is an error, but it says “six months from the expiration date” not from the date of travel, so realistically, after the one year “cooling off period,” he had another six months to file for the refund. Maryannk I agree. If he’s a busy executive, I’m sure he has a calendar on which he can make a note one year out saying to follow-up. If he’s too good to it on the calendar himself, I’m sure he has an assistant who can add the task. No pity here. Raven_Altosk “A busy executive” should know better than to lose a paper ticket and then lose a receipt. Also, if I were handed a paper ticket in 2008, I’d question it. But then, I’m not a “busy executive.” No sympathy here. Lesson learned: Don’t lose stuff and then wait forever to try and make a claim. $16635417 Wow. A busy executive who is not too concerned about personal cash flow. How hard is it to save a reminder…and indicate in the reminder where the receipt is? If you weren’t to concerned about the money then, why years later do you have the time to enlist an advocate in a “dispute” you were clearly in the wrong for? Next up…”I didn’t use my tickets for a Pitsburgh Pirates game…can I get a refund since they didn’t sell out?” Alan “If you snooze, you lose” is an actual legal principle. It’s called laches. emanon256 “I am a busy executive and this sort of thing gets lost in the daily shuffle. I understand the airline wanting to close out extended liabilities etc. But the fact remains that they have my $319” Really? Is this guy serious? If he lost his ticket, and lost the receipt for his second ticket, and is also too busy to deal with this for over 2 years, than he should just eat the cost. Why would a busy executive be concerned over a measly $319 anyway? Yeah to us normal people, that’s a lot of money, but to some shmuck who calls himself a busy executive who doesn’t have time to deal with such trifle things, he needs to just get over himself. I am sorry if I sound harsh, but it’s this entitled rich executive attitude that is ruining America. If all of us normal people play by the rules, keep our receipts, and we have a valid gripe, Chris is here to help us. This guy is clearly out of touch with reality and wasting Chris’s time. ChrisY A busy executive should have summarily compose a memorandum to a member of his executive staff to summarily construct a reminder facsimile to procure the refund. Chris in NC Sheesh! some of these cases are getting ridiculous. Travia does realize that 3 years has elapsed? Kudos to Southwest for not backing down and paying off some “hush” money simply because someone was screaming loud enough and invoked the services of an ombudsman. At the rate this is going, maybe I should contact Elliott about getting a voucher to replace the $250 voucher issued by United Airlines that I never used and expired in 1997. Travia would have a legitimate case had he filed his paperwork after the 1 year “cooling off” period, and was then denied. But to wait an additional 2 years? A busy executive should know better, otherwise he is one of these incompetent executives that is skilled at running a company into the ground. Chris in NC Not harsh at all. I agree 100% K. Yes, he should have acted sooner, but he has the receipt, and Southwest has his money for a service they didn’t provide. How difficult is it to give him a voucher? It’s easy to throw down the wrath of the many when he makes excuses like “I’m a busy executive,” but the truth is we are all busy, and it could have happened to any one of us. LadySiren Sorry OP, you should keep better track of your stuff. Travel docs (like tickets, receipts, etc.) = money. If you think of it in those terms, you’ll likely be a bit more considered about how you manage those items. And if you’re THAT busy of an executive, hire a PA. Tony A. Before we get side-tracked and discuss his busy executive life style, can someone please describe what a Southwest paper ticket is. Maybe we can have a more intelligent discussion if we know why one has to wait that long to get a refund just because he bought a paper ticket. BillC It doesn’t matter what type of job he has I think that he waited way too long. He should have fought this in 2008 when it happened. Jimmy Belmont What would the Busy Executive do if one of his underlings wanted reimbursement for expenses under the same scenario? GChowLA First he loses the ticket during his trip, then he loses the receipt afterward?! How does this guy make it through daily life, much less as a “busy executive”? Does he have an assistant and/or significant other who usually handles his paperwork because he can’t be bothered? Travia clearly needs to learn to be a big boy and keep track of his $#!t. No one’s perfect of course, but if I lose my receipt/paperwork to something that I want to return or get credited for (which has happened, including with a Southwest ticket), no way would I wait forever, try to transact without it, and then ask for special exceptions. Vouchers and credits expire, and they do so for a reason. This is no secret. We are all busy people with jobs and families and blackberries, so his occupation is no excuse. And three years later – really?? Perhaps there’s more to the story, and I may have come to a different conclusion had I finished reading the details, but I lost patience with this irresponsible toddler halfway through the article. I wish he would not waste Chris Elliott’s time before investing in an accordion file/ portfolio/peechee folder – it undermines Chris’ value when a hapless consumer has been truly wronged by the travel industry. Tom Brollini Operator error. Take responsibility for yourself. Stuff happens but this is definately a “Too bad, so sad” scenario. In addition, should have made sure to get SW requirements in writing when told he would have to wait. Phil Personal responsibility for ones actions, some people have it and others don’t apparently this person does not. What a looser.. KF He is the one responsible for losing the paperwork, not Southwest. Once was bad enough, but twice? Fordmann not to mention, if he had filed the paperwork in the required timely fashion, his voucher would have been expired by now anyway. They are only good for a year, too. Sounds like he would have been too busy to use it in that time-frame anyway. cjr It’s a TICKET, printed on a small piece of PAPER. Really? cjr Stupid tax. Pauletteb So he’s a “busy exeutive.” Big deal! We’re ALL busy. He lost the ticket AND the refund receipt? Obviously being able to keep track of things isn’t in his business profile. D. Laux One wonders what company Mr. Busy works for…what else gets lost in the shuffle? doctork I am delighted to read that most travelers/readers have no sympathy for clodders, who ignore or mishandle their own personal affairs. Take care of your things properly. This is not a sob station ET Tickets expire one year after the date of issue. How many receipts/tickets does he get to loose before he’d done. Dallas Road Warrior Regardless of what he should have done there is another issue here. According to Chris the Southwest rep’s response was “After six months the funds are cleared out of our system”. OK, where did the funds go? In the U.S. there is a law adopted by every state called Escheatment aka Unclaimed Property Act. Southwest has a legal obligation to report those funds to either the state where Travia resides or the state where Southwest is incorporated. After a period, usually three years, Southwest is required to turn the unclaimed funds over to the state treasury where Travia could then make a claim to the state to recover his property. BTW the fine for not reporting unclaimed funds is pretty significant and applies to all businesses regardless of size. Nancy Dickinson This started because he forgot his paper ticket in his hotel room. Then it was compounded because he lost his receipt. They it piled up some more because he forgot to contact them in a timely manner. The OP seems to have memory issues, to say the least. Secondly, what business person loses a receipt of this size? I have a manila envelope in my desk drawer with a huge 2011 TAXES on it for just such an occasion. If the IRS were to ever ask me for a receipt, I’d ask what year and be able to hand it to them. sara8032 Southwest still issues paper tickets in some circumstances – last our family travelled to Las Vegas we bought a package deal, and the flight portion was by Southwest. According to the fine print, if we’d picked any other airline (flight time etc, didn’t work for us) we’d have gotten electronic tickets, but since we got Southwest we had to wait for paper tickets in the mail ~6 weeks prior to departure. TomRI Dallas you are 100% correct and you will note that it is only banks and companies that pay dividends that comply with those Escheatment laws, every other business puts those uncashed payroll checks and business checks back into their pockets. —THIS IS FRAUD!!!!! IGoEverywhere I suspect the the agent told him that he had to apply for the refund within 1 year from the day purchased (or 6 months in Southwest’s case). Being a busy executive is an excuse for not following through. Also, their is generally a substancial fee for filing a lost ticket application, other airlines used to charge $75-100.00 to file. This whole story has a fishy smell to it and the traveler in so many ways is wrong and loses. sara8032 (And for that matter of fact, my daughter got a paper ticket (lap child at the time, sounded as if it was standard at least then to get paper tickets for lap childs) when we flew over seas over the holidays 07-08, and that was with UA. Lucky too that we got it, because when we showed up at check-in (ALL of the flights) there was no record of her in their systems at all, but we had her paper ticket as proof for all flights. Nothing for them to do but fix it and get us on the flight. Had it been electronic we’d likely been screwed (was even told something to that effect when we checked in for one of the flights). TomRI ok HE LOST THE TICKET. But who else can use that ticket? NO ONE, they are non transferable, right? So why not refund the money then? Southwest wants to play the waiting game why? Because they are corporate pigs? Can anyone find the ticket and cash it in for a refund other then him or sit in that seat without being worked over with a fake id by TSA. SOUTHWEST SHOULD HAVE REFUNDED THE MONEY or gave him a new ticket then! NO wait a year. RW I’d think a busy executive would know how to use their electronic calendar program to set up a simple reminder. And what’s with losing all the important paperwork? I hope he’s not an executive at any company I deal with! Sorry, he had plenty of time to get his refund. It apparently wasn’t that important to him during the time allowed, but now it is. Expensive lesson. RW No, it couldn’t happen to any of us! $319 is a lot of money to me and you can be sure if I COULD get a refund from an airline, I’d do whatever it takes. In this case, it wasn’t too much to expect him to hang on to the documentation and set up a simple reminder. Michael K Can someone explain why Southwest Airlines couldn’t take the OP’s refund application in Omaha in 2008 and then issue the refund at whatever time they were ready to do so? Telling passengers that they need to wait 1 year to apply for a refund (when of course rules can change in the interim, and then SWA can tell the passenger s/he waited too long even if they have the paperwork in order after 1 year) sounds like a recipe for inappropriately pocketing lots of unearned revenue. Charles What’s a “busy executive” doing on Southwest Airlines anyway? Shouldn’t he be flying first class all the time on some legacy, or on a chartered jet? No sympathy here. Bodega They wait to make sure some one didn’t try and use it. This has been standard policy for decades. A ticket is an accountable document and you, the passenger, have a responsibility to safe guard it. Once the ticket date becomes invalid, the refund is given. Not an unreasonable policy. David There’s another legal principle called “escheat.” Technically, Southwest should have turned the ‘unclaimed property’ over to the state (which state, I’m not sure) from whom the OP could then recover it. Teresa Stewart Point of fact – Southwest funds actually WERE transferable up until just a few months ago. So when Southwest said anybody could find his paper ticket and use it, they were in fact telling the truth. Bottom line… he was careless, and he lost a piece of paper that had a financial value to it. Southwest was nice enough to give him a second chance to reclaim that value, and he blew that too. If he was writing to Chris to say he left $319 in cash in a hotel room, we wouldn’t be here discussing this right now (or maybe we would, given some of the recent stories, but we shouldn’t). Bodega The tickets have an expiration date and if not used, the money does not go to the purchaser as unclaimed property. Snooze, you lose. Noahr I said “no,” but I bet the poll answers would have been flipped if he had not said he was a “busy executive.” Dave Lieberman Busy executives have personal assistants who could chase this down and simply transfer a call once the hold time was up. Tickets are not negotiable instruments. He waited too long and unfortunately paid $319 “better luck next time” tax. Dave Lieberman Ah, you took the $10 law class, not the $20 one. Escheatment doesn’t apply in this case, because he never actually applied for a refund. He called and was told he couldn’t call for a refund until the tickets had expired, a year after the date of travel; he then sat on it for three years. If he’d applied for a refund and then the check had gone uncashed, it would have to go to the state as unclaimed property under the escheatment laws. Checks are negotiable instruments; airline tickets, even paper ones, are not negotiable instruments. What was in the system for six months after his tickets expired was akin to a voucher. Vouchers (and gift cards, in some states) are not subject to escheatment. He could sue—though he’s a busy executive whose time is presumably worth more than the $319 plus costs he’d be seeking—but he’d almost certainly lose. Southwest could have done a better job of explaining, maybe, why he had to wait, but the fact of the matter is he fell asleep at the switch. LeeAnne Too much “lost this lost that forgot this forgot that” going on here. Give it up dude – you screwed up and lost your money. Get over it. If you’re such a “busy executive” who can ignore a missing $319 for years, then I assume you can afford to lose it. Dave Lieberman Until about a year ago, full-fare Southwest Airlines tickets—even electronic ones—were transferable. When I worked on a project that required trips to Northern California, we used to transfer tickets all the time in order to make sure the right person was there at the right time. So technically, someone could have found the ticket in his hotel room, gone to Southwest Airlines and transferred it to their own name, and flown. A paper ticket is a little bit like a money order in that sense, in that if you show up with it in your hand, you can use it. Now, SWA tickets are not transferable so if this had happened this month, they could have processed the refund as soon as the date of travel had passed. Martin I suspect this “busy executive” would have a different opinion of how things should go if it were one of his business’s customer expecting a refund years after the fact. Dip I am skeptical you would have been SOL if not for a paper ticket. If you have the original email confirmation you should get an actual ticket number. Dip A paper ticket is usually issued at the airline counter say if you go in to turn a voucher into a plane tickets. Thus his is a true proof of purchase. Before the nine days everyone got paper tickets. Now you likely have to pay a fee to get them. Other easy of getting paper tickets could be through frequent flier accounts that you use for award tickets that they mail to you Craig test Dave There is only one argument in favor of the OP: it’s not clear he was made aware of the 6-month restriction once the ticket’s 1-year validity had expired. Nevertheless, he lost the receipt — his problem, not Southwest’s. Lindabator But when do people start taking responsibility for their actions/inactions? The rules are for a year, not 3, but HE shouldn’t have to follow them! this constant sense of entitlement is getting ridiculous. cjr001 So, I’ve been spoofed by a troll the last day or two. As one can see, my posts are now distinguishable due to the change in username on the posts (this is my first post on this blog entry, for example). Also note that one can click on the avatar to see the poster’s profile, and you can see the that the impersonator only has a handful of posts to their ‘name’, which is in fact tied to the e-mail address they use when posting. The troll has in fact used several e-mail address already. Said troll needs to find something better to do with their time than wasting theirs, as well as Christopher’s for having to deal with the mess such people create. Lindabator Actually, he had to wait because he LOST the ticket, and someone else may have used it. Carver Agreed. This is very disturbing. I haveto wonder how much of this is animus because the OP imprudently made the statement about being a busy executive. I see no reason why his inaction should be a windfall for Southwest. Carver That troll spoofed me as well. cjr001 Yeah, unfortunately it’s happened to a few different people now. Tony A. Wow, I finally agreed with Carver. I also have to add that I see no reason why he had to call back after one year (of date of issue). Why couldn’t WN log his request and they wait till the end of one year to refund his ticket? Tony A. I wonder if he used his credit card to pay for the ticket? Wouldn’t that be a way to prove he bought the ticket? TonyA_says Point of fact – Southwest funds actually WERE transferable up until just a few months ago. Correct me if I am wrong, the way I understood it, the unused amount of non-refundable tickets could be credited back to the payors account. Then the original payor can use the funds to buy another WN ticket for anyone. That changed later to credited back to the passenger’s account only. Refundable tickets were credited back to the original form of payment. In either case, the money from Mr. Travia’s unused ticket would either go back to his SWA account or his credit card since he was both the payor and the passenger. You make it sound like a Southwest ticket was as good as cash. I don’t think Southwest tickets are finders keepers. Maybe I’m wrong. TonyA_says Sara, the opposite of what you are saying is true for UA and others. One of the major advantages of an e-ticket is that you can’t lose it. TonyA_says Sara, until June 29, 2011, SouthwestVacations was issuing PAPER documents on WN according to their website. On June 30, they moved to issuing ELECTRONIC documents. HeyItsK I don’t see in the article where Southwest told him any rules other than he had to wait a year before he requested a refund. Nor does he say, “I knew it was expired but I should still get my money.” If you’re in the travel industry, perhaps you know that you can only get a refund on a paper ticket for a certain time, but it seems like a paper ticket, like a gift certificate, has value that shouldn’t expire. I agree that people and companies should take responsibility for their actions. Guest When a paper ticket is lost, a Lost Ticket Application is filled out. All this information is on that form that is given to the passenger. HeyItsK Again, it says in the article that he was told to wait a year before filing, which wasn’t done–so we don’t know if he received any written instructions. Perhaps you know more than the everyday traveler–I can only go by what I’m reading in the column. TonyA_says Why I don’t think this is fair. If a passenger buys a ticket from Southewest, he is allowed credit on the unused portion of his ticket. Depending on the type of fare, the credit can be a refund of money back to the payor’s original form of payment (i.e. credit card) or an amount to the passenger’s Southwest account that can be later used to buy new tickets. The problem is that rights of the passenger is different if Southwest issues a ticketless ticket or a paper ticket. Since a passenger cannot lose a ticketless ticket then his rights to a refund or credit is preserved no matter until the ticket is used or expires. A refund could be requested at any time for as long as the ticketless ticket was not expired. On the other hand, a paper ticket can get lost and the passenger is SOL (according to the most recent Contract of Carriage). In the case of the OP (Mr. Travia), he was asked to wait one year before he could request a refund. Questions: Why couldn’t Southwest provide a ticketless ticket to anybody who is buying a ticket? Why did it sell the OP a paper-ticket? Did he specifically ask for a paper ticket? Southwest had been issuing tickeless ticket since 1995 and has been proud of the fact that they were one of (if not) the first major airlines to do e-ticketing. So why give the OP old style paper tickets? So what are modern paper tickets anyway? In the old days, paper tickets were used as traffic documents. It was not only a proof that the passenger paid for the flight listed on the ticket, but it (the coupon) was also lifted by the airline and submitted to the payment settlement company (ARC) so the airline can collect its money. So the physical coupons had value. You needed to return the coupon or file a Lost Ticket Indemnity (LTI) Form to process a refund. E-ticketing changed all this. While you can still get a paper ticket today (you usually pay extra to get it), the paper ticket itself is really just an image of the Electronic Record. The ticket is not used to exchange documents or collect money from ARC the settlement company. Today, the airline gets the money from ARC about a day after the eticket is issued. In the case of Southwest which sold the ticket directly to the passenger, they got their money immediately since there is no ARC settlement at all. Southwest had the OP’s money all the time. There was nothing to settle. Please note that if you buy a WN ticket online you get a 13 digit e-ticket number starting with Southwest 526 IATA accounting code. So I am going to assume WN issues e-tickets and therefore has an eticket database. Could the lost paper ticket be used by anyone or by Mr. Travia himself had Southwest given him a refund earlier? By anyone other than Mr. Travia – NO, because after 9/11, positive ID is required to check in and print a boarding pass. Furthermore, tickets are NON-Transferable. I don’t suppose anyone with his ticket can just show up and use it at anytime especially after the scheduled departure date. Also, why would WN reissue tickets to a different passenger name – that does not make sense. By Mr. Travia himself – NOT UNLESS WN does not query or check their e-ticket database before checking-in a passenger. Besides, even a paper ticket’s coupons have the date, origin, destination, flight numbers and class on them. Probably even has an endorsement VOID for travel BEFORE and AFTER dates. What I am saying is that Southwest probably had an ELECTRONIC RECORD of his paper ticket and it could have found his records using his name, flight date and numbers, and even his credit card. They could have changed the status of his e-ticket to SUSPEND or something like that so it cannot be used. Note you can only check-in if your e-ticket status is OPEN FOR USE. So why make the passenger wait one year before he can even FILE or REQUEST A REFUND? The only thing that makes sense to me why this happened was that Southwest ticketing at the airport could not issue e-tickets. If this was true, then Southwest effectively sold two types of tickets – e-tickets online and crappy paper tickets in the airports. If so, then Mr. Travia got a lousy deal because the refund service options associated with his ticket was lousier than that of an e-ticket. Did they disclose this pertinent fact to him before he bought the ticket? In my opinion, the OP was handed a lousy deal. Legal yes. TonyA_says By transferable do you mean REFUND TO PAYOR THEN REISSUE TO DIFFERENT PAX? Or did you mean the BEARER of the ticket could exchange it to any pax? TonyA_says maybe their revenue accounting is just slooooow or asleep. Read this… http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/3843012/?threadid=3843012&searchid=3843036&s=WN%2Bpaper%2Btickets#ID3843036 bodega3 No, WN allowed you to let anyone use the funds and you applied them by using the confirmation number. I never issued WN in Sabre, always on their website because of ease of reunse bodega3 Yes, I have sold airline tickets for many years. He wasn’t just told something, he was also given something which he just isn’t mentioning. cjr01 They probably would be if it were some minority or disadvantaged group. bodega3 No airline refunds on the spot for a lost paper ticket. Their rules are filed with the US Gov and you can find them online. A refund on a paper ticket is based on the rules at the date of issue. Maybe a passenger shouldn’t have lost their accountable document? Ann Lamoy I voted no because he waited too long. Personal responsibility here Mr. Travia. I don’t care you are a busy executive. I’m a busy person as well but if I have to return something to the store, I make sure I return it within the window that the store gives me to return it. If I forget or lose the receipt, I will go to the store and ask if they can accommodate me. If they tell me no, they can’t then I thank them, shrug my shoulders and walk away. Knowing it was my error that caused me to lose my money. I didn’t take care of business when I should have. The customer isn’t always right-despite what they might think. And sometimes business need to learn to stop bending over backwards and kissing customers asses to make them think that. A line needs to be drawn somewhere. Cybrsk8r I’m no friend of the airlines, but in this case I voted no. He lost the reciept and files the claim several years late. It does seem strange though, that the airline made him wait that way. The name on the ticket has to match the traveler and that’s just as true for a paper ticket. So the person who found the ticket would have to have the exact same name. Unlikely to say the least. Then again, considering the TSA’s propensity for allowing people on planes with phony tickets, maybe Southwest was justified. TonyA_says Chris, are you sure the OP actually received a paper ticket – meaning all the flight coupons are on ATB documents? Or the OP got his eticket receipt ONLY printed on ATB stock. It is hard to believe a paper ticket was issued in 2008. Maybe he just got confused because if you bought a ticket in the airport counter, the receipt could be printed on the same ATB stock used for paper tickets. Maybe he lost his e-ticket receipt, then called Southwest and misinformed the agent saying he had paper tickets. So the agent told him he had to wait till the paper tickets expired. I can’t figure out why anyone would be issued a paper ticket unless you asked for one. Issuing an eticket is cheaper and easier. I haven’t seen a paper ticket in ages. Am I missing something? TonyA_says Actually the current Southwest COCs says for LOST paper tickets NO REFUNDS, period. That said, I can’t find a reason why anyone would want WN paper tickets. y_p_w Paper tickets always seemed rather risky to issue and too easy to counterfeit. A relative of mine was a travel agent, and I remember that they were typically printed, but sometimes they were hand written. I heard of some case of a kid who hung around a ticket issuing office (might have been an airline) and asked around about how the tickets were issued. They showed him most of the codes and how they hand wrote the tickets. Apparently he used that knowledge (and a stack of stolen ticket stock) to write up his own tickets and fly around the country. It took the airlines a while before they figured out they weren’t getting paid for the tickets. There might have been some additional details I don’t remember, but back then I think it was possible to actually get on a plane without them necessarily verifying that the ticket was authorized by the airline. TonyA_says The paper tickets you are referring to are MANUAL . They are written on Four-Flight Passenger Ticket stock. I am not sure who still uses these manual documents nowadays. They were mostly replaced with 2 kinds of AUTOMATED documents – TAT and ATB stocks. The ATB stock are still in use since they also function as a Boarding Pass . Because these documents are used “physically” by the airlines to settle payments then surrender of the actual document is necessary for refunds. The potential for fraud is really very high. By mid 2008, all International airline members of IATA were mandated to be 100% e-ticketing. The US DOT did not support this and allowed US carriers to continue to use paper tickets. Southwest (WN) is one the pioneers of e-ticketing in the USA. They had e-ticketing since 1995. WN calls e-tickets – Ticketless Travel Tickets . Remember that since WN does not interline with other carriers, their ticketing and revenue accounting processes are much more simplified compared to airlines that do interlining. I went to flyertalk last night and read that many posters were shocked that Southwest only sold paper tickets on airport counters. I thought I was dreaming. But a little reading in Tnooz led me to a recent article about Southwest’s Achilles heel – their Reservation System. http://crankyflier.com/2010/11/02/southwest-explains-the-reservation-system-delays/ Apparently WN uses a system called SAAS that was salvaged from the Braniff days. Now I understand why they still use paper ticketing at the airport counters. Pretty much a relic from the Flintstones. Majority of the post here regarding “funds transferability” are referring to Ticketless Travel Tickets . Since unused portions of the e-ticket were simply swapped to e-certs then they were transferable until the end of 2010. That not true for paper tickets. They are completely separate and different from Unused Ticketless Travel Tickets and Ticketless Travel Funds (excess from partially used ticketless tickets). Paper Tickets were nontransferable. The passenger needs to surrender the paper ticket to get a refund to the original form of payment. Bottom line is this – if you buy a Southwest ticket at the counter make sure you know the limitations of a paper ticket. It ain’t like the ticketless tickets we’re familiar with from the Southwest website. Sorry for the OP’s loss but at least now we know. Use the website! Teresa Stewart Actually, you are wrong. Unused amounts on non-refundable tickets were usable by anybody who had the original record locator. All you had to do was go online, book your new flight, and when it got to the payment stage you chose to pay with unused ticket funds. All you needed to know was the record locator and name of the person who bought the ticket to begin with. We as an agency did it many times for people who had unused funds that they weren’t going to use. We’d cash them out of their old ticket (simply giving them cash or an agency credit for whatever the unused balance on the ticket was), and then use those funds for another passenger who was paying us with cash or check. All it would have taken for someone to use his ticket would be for them to go online and book a new ticket with the information they had printed right there. No, they couldn’t have just shown up at the airport with the lost ticket and actually flown on it, but the funds could have been used very easily. Up until they made unused funds non-transferable, Southwest tickets WERE as good as cash. y_p_w OK – I’m starting to remember more about it. I remember the red carbon four-flight ticket stock from ARC. He used to have some of the old receipts lying around his house which were just the last page of the booklet. I’d been in his office, and they had one of those credit card style swipe machines to impress on to carbon-paper forms. I remember there was a card with the name of the travel agency, and I thought there might have been a stack of different cards with the logos of specific airlines. Apparently ARC is still listing the stuff in some of their manuals: https://www.arccorp.com/forms/pp/iah/current/iah3_0.pdf Michael__K Who wrote about “refunds on the spot?” Not me. Please re-read what you were responding to. bodega3 There were two coupon stock, too. When clients paid with cash I use to have to hand write many of these. Never liked writting conjunctive tickets. Linda Bator Seriously? NO business is going to carry a debt for three years on their books, let’s get real! And I’m sure that since he would have had to FILL OUT a lost ticket application to GET a refund at all, he would have the rules in writing. Linda Bator But once he got the PAPER TICKET, that ticket was treated as cash – so if someone else used that ticket, why on earth would the airline need to refund him as well? That is why there is a waiting list in those cases – to ensure the ticket was not used in the time allowed. Linda Bator Actually, up until a short while ago, they WERE transferable – which is why he would have to wait for a refund – but he should still have had to fill out a form and then WAIT (not to file) but for the actual refund. I don’t think he’s telling the entire truth here. Linda Bator But the legacy carriers moved over to etickets far earlier than Southwest did. So you are comparing apples to oranges by comparing them to the other carriers. They issued paper tix, and they were FULLY transferable. Now, they’ve changed this (due to the abuse of the flexibility they originally had). TonyA_says Teresa, you are talking about ticketless funds . The OP had paper tickets . The refund from paper tickets cannot be moved to ticketless funds. They are in separate planets as far as Southwest is concerned. The trading shenanigans you describe as seen on ebay, craigslist, etc., is done ONLINE with ticketless funds. They are also done on RR awards. For paper ticket exchanges/refunds it is a different ball game. Whoever has the ticket needs to go to a ticket counter and exchange the unused portion of the ticket. But as far as I *read* (from flyertalk) the actual passenger must come in an do the exchange. In fact, some of the posts complain about kids not able to use (exchange) their parent’s (same family name) unused PAPER tickets. For refunds of LOST paper tickets, you need to send in the paper ticket and wait one year from the date of issue. (This is exactly the predicament of the OP.) Finally – The question is whether LOST AND FOUND PAPER TICKETS is as good as CASH? From what I can see the answer is NO. Why? Because the correct passenger needs to comes in (airport counter) with the ticket. So am I missing something here? TonyA_says Yes (apples and oranges) Legacy vs Southwest is not the same since Legacies INTERLINE. In other words, they are TRUE E-TICKETING that need links between carriers. My question is the PAPER TIX of Southwest and at what point did they stop being transferable. I see posts since 2004 in flyertalk saying it wasn’t transferable then. So if the OP bought paper tix in 2008, and they were not transferable then why wait 1 year for refunds? The reason (answering my own question) is the OP himself could re-use his so-called paper ticket if he found it. That was the problem. bodega3 You know Tony, I can’t remember. I think any ticket with WN was transferable expect those through WN Vacations. bodega3 He certainly had to file a lost ticket application and the directions for getting his funds were on that. He screwed up. All the carriers have rules on lost tickets, WN isn’t any different. Linda Bator Not expire??? So hold on to that ticket for 10 years and fly at that time? RIDICUOLOUS! Linda Bator Exactly — we aren’t getting the whole story here – thanks! Linda Bator Yep! And he still should have filled out a LTA — don’t think we are getting the true story from the pax. (Surprise!) It is a shame that all the leniency WN offered their pax was abused to the point that they are just as strict now as the legacy carriers.