If you have an airline travel voucher and hope to use it, you might have little time to waste.
Countless travelers who booked flights in 2020 saw them canceled, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Typically, airlines offered these fliers vouchers that could be used for a future flight.
But Consumer Reports says a large percentage of such vouchers will expire soon. In fact, about one-third of the business airline vouchers in the database of travel-management company TripActions that have 2021 expiration dates will expire at the end of March, CR says.
Although TripActions looked specifically at business vouchers, the same rules likely apply to vouchers for nonbusiness customers. So, if you have a travel voucher and are unsure when it expires, contact your airline soon — you may have only days or weeks to book a flight before the voucher will be worthless.
Once you’re ready to cash in the voucher by booking a flight, prepare to wait. Some travelers trying to use vouchers before they expire are spending hours on hold when trying to book a flight, reports The Points Guy website:
“It took 2 ½ hours for Kathryn Schalow to get a call back from Delta when she tried to book a flight using a credit from a canceled trip. Chris Ruegsegger spent more than two hours on the phone with United to deal with an itinerary change on an award ticket, while Sonya Sneed called Delta four separate times. She spent hours on hold before she eventually managed to get an answer to her question by text message at 4 in the morning.”
The long wait times are a result of what appears to be growing confidence that the worst of the pandemic is now behind us. As more people are vaccinated against COVID-19 and new infections continue to steadily decline, the appetite for travel is picking up.
The number of travelers going through airport security checkpoints has been more than 1 million per day for a couple of weeks, the longest such streak since the pandemic largely halted travel last year, The Points Guy reports. Bookings for future flights also are up sharply.
If you fear your voucher is about to expire, Consumer Reports suggests you do the following:
- Confirm that the expiration date hasn’t been extended. Some airlines have done this, but haven’t publicized it. So, a quick call to the airline may be in order.
- Inquire about substitute rewards. Some airlines may be willing to convert an expiring voucher to frequent-flyer miles.
- Ask if you can transfer the voucher. If you aren’t planning to fly before the voucher expiration date but know someone who is, ask if you can transfer the voucher to that person.
For more travel stories, check out:
- “Airlines Enticing Travelers With New Routes, Cheaper Fares“
- “Will a New Federal Rule Create Headaches for Travelers?“