Covid 19 cancellation Southwest Airline

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Jun 2, 2020
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My family , all 17 of us were booked on a Disney Cruise scheduled to leave Miami on Mar 23, 2020. I was treating my children , their spouses and my 9 grandchildren to the trip. I booked flights for all 17 of us through Southwest. We were leaving Baltimore Md on Mar 22, and returning Mar 28. I did get a group rate for all of us to the tune of $5460.40.
As you are aware we entered a lockdown in March and Disney did end up cancelling the cruise. My husband and I are both over 70, my husband is a 100% disabled veteran , I have asthma, so because of the seriousness of Covid 19, I was relieved we were not going to go. I rebooked the cruise for March 2021. When I called Southwest to rebook my flights for the next year, I was told that wasn’t possible. The person I spoke to told me because it was a group rate I would not be able to use the tickets at a later time, nor was I able to get a refund. I made 2 calls to Southwest pleading my case. I was unsuccessful. Out of desperation I disputed the charge on my credit card. Southwest would not honor that as they wanted something in writing saying they approved of the cancellation. Of course I had nothing in writing because they refused to cancel or rebook the flights. I normally would not go to this length if it was a single flight but there were 17 round trip flights. In fear of a resurgence of Covid next year I ended up canceling the cruise booked for 2021. Disney refunded the entire amount.
 

justlisa

Feb 12, 2019
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This quote I found on the group travel FAQ does not look promising:

"Tickets must be used on the flight purchased, and the deposit could be forfeited for failure to meet this requirement. "


It seems like the group tickets come with some benefits, but also come with restrictions compared to regular Southwest fares.
 
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Patina

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Dec 22, 2015
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You may want to get familiar with the terms of the tickets you purchased. It sounds like the fare you booked was a 'use it or lose it' type fare. As @Neil Maley mentioned, if you cancelled the tickets and the fare was non-refundable and non-changeable, there really is not much you can do at this point other than write to the executives of Southwest asking for an exception to the fare rules. Know that you are asking for a goodwill gesture during a very trying time financially for the airlines. If anything, you should ask for a credit to be used in the future rather than a refund.
 

Neil Maley

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This is why you need to be very careful when you book on your own. You need to understand the fare rules of what you are booking and many of these type of fares are use it or lose it.

You should have received specific terms from Southwest for you group. That should state the restrictions.

Even we rarely book group air because of limitations like this.
 

jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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You may want to get familiar with the terms of the tickets you purchased. It sounds like the fare you booked was a 'use it or lose it' type fare. As @Neil Maley mentioned, if you cancelled the tickets and the fare was non-refundable and non-changeable, there really is not much you can do at this point other than write to the executives of Southwest asking for an exception to the fare rules. Know that you are asking for a goodwill gesture during a very trying time financially for the airlines. If anything, you should ask for a credit to be used in the future rather than a refund.
Oh, this is awful, Barb, I am so sorry. As Patina suggests, it may be possible to persuade SW to make an exception. Key word here is "may". I would wait until life slows down a bit and travel providers aren't stretched to the max. When people are no longer forced to work at home, doing business should become a bit easier. Compose a concise, polite email asking them for a "favor", a listing of the facts. You want someone to read it once and totally grasp your message. Explain that you have rebooked the cruise and are ready to rebook the flights. Give them the dates and flights you want to rebook. Be very appreciative. Submit to Customer Service, wait two weeks. If no response, use our Company Contacts to go up the ladder, waiting a week between each submission. I think it's possible an executive might be moved to grant you this favor. If you want to post a draft here, we'll be glad to have a look at it.
 

justlisa

Feb 12, 2019
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I will say I wish Southwest was more deliberate in making this known on their group page. Southwest is known for free bags, no assigned seating, and zero change fees. I definitely would not have expected them to sell tickets you couldn't change given no change fees is so ubiquitous with them, even knowing group tickets tend to have slightly different rules.

@jsn55 Southwest's March schedule won't be open until end of September unless they delay or move up their schedule release. Last year flights after March 5th didn't open until Sept 26. It might behoove Barb to wait until the schedule is opened before beginning the campaign. Or at least close to opening.
 
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Neil Maley

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Actually the information on their group info says the tickets are only valid for that particular flight:

Are there any differences in policy that apply to Group Travel?
Please note the following differences in policy that will apply to Group Travel Program bookings:

Deposits cannot be applied toward the purchase of tickets. Deposits will be refunded within five business days after final payment and ticketing and are subject to any additional processing time incurred by the credit card company. It may take up to two statements to receive your refund.
Tickets must be used on the flight purchased, and the deposit could be forfeited for failure to meet this requirement.


If the flight went out and the group wasn’t on it- they aren’t due a refund. This is when you need to know as much as a travel agent when you book on your own so they would have understood the ramifications of not flying with this type of a ticket. You don’t know what you don’t know until something like this happens.

However, I think the page is too vague and if I were the OP, I would go up the corporate ladder and ask for an exception if they did not receive a contract, which should have had this information in it. If she did receive a contract, it should have listed cancellation information and we’d need to see what the cancellation policy says. The worst that can happen is they get a no, but the best is it hits the desk of a sympathetic executive.
 

justlisa

Feb 12, 2019
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Yes, I found that page. I just would have figured if the policy was so different from their stated no change fees (which is the first thing they mention on the main page under Why Fly Southwest? I believe pre-covid it was in more than one spot on the main page) I would expect it to be on the main group page https://www.southwest.com/html/air/business-groups/group-travel.html not having to click on the FAQ and then within a question there. I agree it's too vague because of that. Especially since the page says you have to call to book group travel so it's not like a pop-up specifying this was ignored when booking.
 
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jsn55

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Yes, I found that page. I just would have figured if the policy was so different from their stated no change fees (which is the first thing they mention on the main page under Why Fly Southwest? I believe pre-covid it was in more than one spot on the main page) I would expect it to be on the main group page https://www.southwest.com/html/air/business-groups/group-travel.html not having to click on the FAQ and then within a question there. I agree it's too vague because of that. Especially since the page says you have to call to book group travel so it's not like a pop-up specifying this was ignored when booking.
Totally agree, Lisa. Everybody knows how customer-oriented SouthWest is. The tix buyer wouldn't even think to look at the fine print. The SW rep could have told our OP about the restrictions, but unless the agent made a big deal out of it, few travellers would have picked up.