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As announced earlier this year, Southwest Airlines will now be enforcing a “no show” policy for Wanna Get Away and DING fares, and will no longer be as lenient about passengers who simply do not show up for their flights.
As of today, September 13, 2013, the new rule means that passengers holding non-refundable Wanna Get Away or DING tickets booked after May 10 will lose the value of their round-trip ticket if they don’t cancel or change their flight at least 10 minutes before the scheduled departure.
Until now, Southwest had one of the most lenient and flexible attitudes towards anyone who wanted to change their travel plans last minute, letting them get the entire value of their flight repaid back in credit or Rapid Rewards points (depending on how they paid) if they didn’t show up – without even having to call to request it. That meant that you could oversleep or simply change your mind, and you would not be penalized.
The new policy only refers to Wanna Getaway Fares or DING Fares booked after May 10, 2013, and does not affect the pricier Anytime Fares and Business Select Fares or those flights booked with points. However, if you booked the higher fare for one leg of a trip and a non-refundable Wanna Get Away or Ding fare for another leg, you are still slapped with the no-show penalty.
Southwest says that the new rule is to help them judge how many empty seats there are in advance so that they can resell them.
Unlike most airlines that charge hefty fees to alter flights, Southwest still allows customers to cancel or change their reservation before departure without any fees or penalties, and the “no show” policy only kicks in 10 minutes before take off.
I decided to take a look at other airlines to see how they compare to Southwest even with their stricter rules.
American Airlines: American charges a $200 change fee plus fare difference on domestic tickets these days (excluding its new Choice fares). It also has a “cancel or lose it” rule regarding non-fundable tickets. If a customer has purchased an AA non-refundable fare ticket that allows changes and wants to make a voluntary change to their itinerary, they must cancel their ticketed flight reservations prior to departure time. If not the ticket will have no value. If canceled before then, you must travel within one year of the original ticket issue date. Customers who no-show a flight without canceling will lose the value of the remaining fare.
Delta: Delta charges a $200 change fee plus fare difference on domestic flights, but as I discovered when I tried to alter a trip last October, when viewing my reservation on Delta.com -> Travel Information -> Itineraries & Check-in, there is a button that is called “Request Refund” that sends you to a form to fill out. I luckily got a full refund of $152 just for asking!
JetBlue: If a JetBlue customer does not cancel their flight prior to the scheduled departure time resulting in a no-show, the ticketed fare is forfeited. However, if they call to change on the same day of departure then they can rebook to any flight the same day for a $50 change fee. For no-shows on a refundable flight, the money on the reservation will be placed into a JetBlue credit for future travel within one year.
United Airlines: Like the other legacy carriers, United raised their change fee from $150 to $200, and defines a no-show as “Inventory spoilage caused by the failure to issue tickets and/or cancel ticketed or unticketed reservations.”
US Airways: When flying on US Airways, domestic flight changes are subject to a $200 fee and international flight changes are subject to a $250-$450 fee, in addition to any difference in fare. If a customer is a no-show and any part of the ticket is unused after the ticketed departure date and the reservation has not been canceled, then ticket has no value.
Virgin America: Simply stated on their website, Virgin America’s no-show policy is that if you fail to turn up for your flight, the airline will cancel that reservation and all subsequent segments for continuing or return flights. On non-refundable fares, the fare or Elevate points spent will be forfeited. They politely ask that you contact them before you departure time if you are going to miss your flight, and they will reschedule or cancel it.