Is this enough compensation? My Rapid Rewards expired and I can’t get them back

Rachel Cabarcas’s timing isn’t the best. No, not because she has an expired awards problem she’s sharing with us today, but because if she’d waited a little longer, then this probably wouldn’t have been a problem.

And what, exactly, is the problem? Her Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards are no longer valid, and she’d like them back.

As some of you probably know, Rapid Rewards no longer expire. But they used to.

Cabrcas and her husband have been a Rapid Reward member since 2004. They racked up a lot of flight credits, because he was a frequent traveler.

“We used some of the awards we had, but we’ve been saving them to used toward a family vacation,” she told me. “He doesn’t travel as much now and we aren’t accruing them as readily as we used to.”

Under the old Rapid Rewards program, the clock was ticking on those credits awarded years ago.

In 2008 we relocated, and I was in the process of updating all of my information with various rewards groups, I noticed we had four awards with Southwest that had expired but were “available for reissue.”

I pride myself on being thorough, so I called Southwest to see if I needed to reissue them right away. Do the “expired” awards ever expire? I was told that they did not. That even if I couldn’t see them, they were still in their database and could be reissued when I was ready to use them.

That wasn’t quite right. The credits did expire.

I went online to go about the reissue process to find that only one of my awards was there. I called Southwest and was told that the other awards had expired.

You can imagine my surprise and frustration. I immediately called customer relations and was told the same story. They said they would not make those awards available to reissue.

My question is, why not? If they can see in their system that I earned them, why won’t they let me pay the reissue fee and use them? I earned them, right? It’s not like I’m making it up. They can see that I earned them. I just want to be able to use them.

I understand Cabarcas’s frustration. If a Southwest representative told her the credits would be usable, then they should have been. But I’m almost certain this was a misunderstanding. As a matter of fact, under the old Rapid Rewards, the credits expired, and anyone with even a passing familiarity with the program would have known that, or should have been able to find the terms online.

Still, it’s possible someone at Southwest made arrangements to extend her vouchers but then didn’t follow through. So in order to get some clarity on her case, I suggested she get in touch with a manager at Southwest.

Southwest gave her 2/3 of her rewards back.

“Something’s better than nothing, right?” she says.

True. But should Southwest have given her all the credits back, given the likely misunderstanding and the fact that none of its rewards now expire? Or was she lucky to get most of her credits?

(Photo: Phil Ost roff/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Lucky.

  • Absherlock

    I fine it ironic that she “prides (herself) on being thorough”, yet let the rewards expire in the first place.

  • Carver

    You shouldn’t. There is nothing ironic about it at all. According to the OP she was given incorrect information and acted based upon that misinformation. If the OP is correct the expiring miles are not because of any lack of diligence of thoroughness by her part.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Ann-Smith/1222156177 Elizabeth Ann Smith

    Southwest awards used to be in the form of roundtrip flight awards that could be used as two one-ways or a roundtrip, not miles, and not the point system they use now, effective March 1, 2011. Under the old system, flight awards expired within one year of issue. She should have known this in 2008, as when one was issued an award, one received an e-mail with a clear expiration date. The expiration date was and is also clearly shown when you log in online to view your awards from the old system. I am also still puzzled why she allowed so much time to lapse between 2008 and 2011 before following through with the reissue process. I would not have expected the award flights to still be there after three years.

  • MikeZ

    I voted NO, and here is why. When she earned those credits, the “fee” for using them on any specific trip was probably lower than it is now. SWA (and all other airlines) make changes to their program and if it costs more for a flight now than it used to, guess what price you will pay. If the credits do not expire now, then her credits should not have expired, the same way they make you follow their new rules, not the ones you lived by 10 years back.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    @Elizabeth Ann Smith you’re right. I changed the lede to reflect that the old RR has awards, not miles.

  • Absherlock

    From the OP –

    “I noticed we had four awards with Southwest that had expired but were “available for reissue.””

    It was only upon calling to find out if she needed to reissue them immediately was when she was supposedly given the wrong information.

    I stand by my original statement.

  • Mark K

    The old Rapid Rewards worked like this:

    You flew 16 one way flights (8 round trips), you got a free round trip you could use on any Southwest flight with an available seat. The award was good for 1 year from date of issue and could be extended for another year for $50. All of this was clearly detailed both on the web site and the reward notification you received. And under the completely new Rapid Rewards program the previous awards still have the same rules for use and cannot be changed to the new system where they don’t expire.

    There was no “price” attached like other programs where a set number of miles or points is required that could change. So you could fly your 16 flights from Houston to Austin for example (approximately 200 miles each way) at a low cost and then use your reward on a flight to Florida or Seattle or somewhere much further than the total number of miles you collected on your qualifying flights. A lot of passengers who flew coast to coast felt that this was unfair since the award was based only on number of flights and not on distance or price paid for the ticket. The new program is a complete cluster and no one can tell you how many flights you need to fly before you can get a free flight to any specific destination. You just have to amass points and keep looking until you find something.

  • Mark K

    It was more than generous that Southwest gave here that much back. The expiration was clearly listed on both the web site and the reward notification. I feel she misunderstood the statement by the customer service rep. She should have kept better track of the awards and used them or at least had them reissued when she first noticed they were expired.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Ann-Smith/1222156177 Elizabeth Ann Smith

    I log in to post to your blog via Facebook, and for some reason it still has my full (TSA) name and I dumped that a long time ago! Every time I read/hear it, I feel like my mother is fussing at me, as that’s how she used to address me when I was in trouble! :))

  • Carver

    You shouldn’t. Thorough means you deal with the situation as soon as you are aware of it. It is reasonable that upon relocating some items would slip through the cracks. However, as soon as she learned about the issue, she took the proverbial bull by the horns, and resolved it to what would have been a satisfactory conclusion had she received correct information.

    I realize that several of the poster in this forum expect perfection from the various OPs. Good luck with that.

  • BG

    Having been in her shoes I have learned that going forward you MUST get everything in writing from a SWA representative vs. just taking their word over the tele. Get their name, and ask them to confirm back via e-mail as to what they exactly are doing for you so you don’t have any issues going forward. I had 3 1/2 Rapid Reward tickets this year that due to the poor communication of their Rapid Rewards program transitioning were taken away from me yet after MANY communications I was able to point out to SWA their error and I had the 3 1/2 tickets replaced into my Rapid Rewards account.

  • Aaron

    >As some of you probably know, Rapid Rewards no longer expire.

    This is not entirely true. Note the asterisk on Southwest’s site. Rapid Reward points DO expire if you go 24 months without earning miles… same as most other FF programs.

    Southwest is slowly becoming more and more like other airlines. What a shame.

    Aaron

  • Staynlessj

    But I think you’re missing the point. Under the old system, awards expired after one year, but at any time after that, you could have an award reissued for a $50 fee. I, too, was told by Southwest that there is no time limit for reissuing expired awards. So I don’t understand why Cabarcas shouldn’t get all her expired awards back. She WAS thorough and was working within the rules of Southwest’s system.

  • Chris in NC

    The old Rapid Rewards “credit” system gave 1 free roundtrip for every 16 flight segments. The free flight expired in 1 year, and this was CLEARLY disclosed when the flight credit was issued.

    I don’t expect perfection from the OP, but waiting 3 years to take action does not warrant too much sympathy from me. Had it been just over 1 year, different story, but 3 years?

    What the OP does may still not realize is that if her Standard or Freedom Award was reinstated, there is STILL AN EXPIRATION date attached to the reactivated certificate. My understanding is that only points have no expiration date, not the certificates.

  • Carver

    I don’t flew SW so let me know if I am misunderstanding something. In 2008 she learned that the certs had expired, but that she could reinstate them whenever she was ready to travel. In 2011 she decided to reinstate them and learned that she couldn’t.

    Several folks, including you, have suggested that the 3 years difference was somehow dilatory behavious by the OP. Please explain.

  • Chris in NC

    I do understand the OP’s plight. If she reinstated the tickets in 2008, then they would expire in 2009. So, she held on to the expired ticket with the assumption or expectation that she could reinstate it at a later time.

    The OP has some responsibility to access and check her Southwest account on a regular basis. Not checking an account that has value (ie 4 tickets * $600 / ticket = $2400) for 3 YEARS is irresponsible. Not only would she not be able to catch “errors” in a timely manner, but she would be oblivious to changes in terms and conditions of the FF program.

    Bottom line, no one has a printed copy of the terms and conditions of Southwest’s FF program in 2008 in regards to “expired” and “reinstated” tickets. FF terms and conditions change faster than the weather around here, so is it also possible that the policy changed? How would the OP know if she doesn’t access her account?

    The OP is fortunate to at least recover 3 out of her 4 certificates. Had it been any other airline, she would have been so out of luck!

  • Brooklyn

    I am so very tired of companies – and not just in the travel industry – refusing to stand by information provided by their own employees. If you work for a company and you tell me something in error, too bad! You should still be bound by what your employee said. Yet over and over, we hear them try to wiggle out of it….

  • Absherlock

    Funny – I would consider the “thorough” surgeon to be the one who doesn’t leave sponges in me (not the one who moves most quickly to get them back out), the “thorough” pilot to be the one who lands on the runway without another plane (not the one who turns from the wrong runway first), and the “thorough” chef to be the one who doesn’t serve me spoiled food (not the one who refires the steak before I’m done my salad).

    I’m not faulting her for what she did, I’m taking exception with her self-classification, just as I would someone who posted “While I was eating at Five Guys, I noticed the soda had HFCS. Being the health-conscious person I am…”

  • Carver

    Again, I would call that the perfect person. Unfortunately mistakes happen and circumstances arise. Its how we deal with them that’s at issue.

  • http://www.travelenvogue.com/ Kailyn

    O she’s blessed. I feel like big corporations always try to pick on us little people. :-(

  • sferrell615

    i just tried to get some of my points back. 40k expired in october (4 months ago). they claim they sent me an email but i check it regularly and didn’t get it. they apologized but couldn’t do anything.