When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, demand for travel cratered. As the world "sheltered in place" and sought to "flatten the curve," it seemed like nobody was flying. Airlines responded by canceling thousands if not millions of flights.
In some cases, airlines refunded ticket purchases, but in others passengers were given vouchers good for future travel. These airline travel vouchers generally come with an expiration date 12 to 24 months in the future. Now that these airline travel vouchers are starting to expire, what can customers do if they're not ready to travel?
- First, contact the airline that gave you the voucher and ask if they’re extending expiration dates.
- Many airlines are now offering free changes on tickets, so you may be able to book a trip with your voucher for several months in the future.
- You can also file a complaint with the Department of Transportation, which oversees airline travel in the United States.
Reach Out to the Airline
If you have an airline voucher that’s expiring soon, the first step is to reach out directly to the airline. Many airlines are extending voucher expirations as the industry continues to come out of the pandemic. Be polite but persistent in asking how the airline can help make this right for you.
If you don't have success with getting your voucher extended the first time, don't give up. Try calling again and hope you get a more sympathetic agent the second time. Another tip is to consider reaching out to the airline in a different way. Many airlines have teams on Twitter or Facebook Messenger that may be more willing to help you with your expiring voucher.
Book a Speculative Trip
If you aren't able to get an extension from the airline, there are a few other things you can try before giving up on your voucher as lost money. Check the fine print on your airline travel voucher—in many cases, you only have to book your trip by the voucher's expiration date. If you have ideas for an upcoming trip, it may make sense to book that trip, even if you're not 100% sure you'll be able to take it.
Even if you don't have a specific trip in mind, it might make sense to book a speculative trip to use your voucher. Many airlines have dropped change fees on airline tickets going forward. What that means for consumers is that you may be able to use your voucher to book a flight in the future. Then, if circumstances dictate that you're not able to take that flight, just keep changing it out into the future.
You can also watch your email inbox or airline notifications for an airline schedule change. Airlines change their flight schedules often, so if your flight is for several months in the future, it's possible if not likely that your flight times will end up being changed. If that happens, you may be eligible for a refund on your new ticket.
File a Complaint With the Department of Transportation
The Department of Transportation oversees airline travel in the United States, and is responsible for making sure that airlines are following the law. If you feel that the airline did not provide you with a refund that you were legally entitled to (like if an airline canceled your flight), you can consider filing a complaint with the DOT.
You're likely to have more success filing a DOT complaint than trying to initiate a chargeback with your credit card company. Most credit card companies have a chargeback period where they’ll accept disputes. The length of the chargeback period varies by credit card companies, but is usually only a few months. If your original flight was further in the past than that, you are likely to have more success with the DOT.
When do airline travel vouchers expire?
Depends on the airline. Still, vouchers commonly expire one or two years from when they were issued. Make sure to check with your airline to see when your voucher is set to expire, which will help you make a plan for what to do.
What should I do if my travel voucher is about to expire?
If your travel voucher is about to expire, the first thing that you should do is contact the airline that issued the voucher. Many airlines have been extending vouchers that were issued over the past two years. If the airline won't extend your voucher, you may still have options. Many airlines have loosened their change and cancellation policies, so you might consider booking a trip several months into the future, even if you're not 100% sure you can take the trip.
Who can I complain to if the airline won't extend my voucher?
The Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees all transportation inside the United States, including air travel. If you feel that your airline has not lived up to its agreement, you can file a complaint with the DOT.