Southwest giving passengers affected by meltdown 25,000 frequent flier points
By Pete Muntean and Gregory Wallace, CNN
Southwest Airlines is offering a new appeasement to some customers after last week’s glut of cancellations while the misplaced baggage fiasco could grind on for days longer.
On Tuesday, Southwest informed some passengers affected by its Christmas travel meltdown that they would receive 25,000 frequent flier bonus points as a “gesture of goodwill.”
In an email from the airline to passengers that was obtained by CNN, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan wrote that “no amount of apologies can undo your experience.”
He said the 25,000 gift points are worth about $300, and the airline told CNN the offer is in addition to reimbursements and refunds.
“For those who have requested refunds, reimbursements and/or are waiting to be reunited with lost bag(s), those processes are being handled with great urgency and we appreciate your patience,” Jordan wrote.
The airline said the offer is being extended to travelers with flights canceled or delayed more than three hours between Christmas Eve and January 2.
Luggage in limbo
Meanwhile, it could be as much as two full weeks after Southwest Airlines’ schedule meltdown first started until some passengers see their bags again.
In an internal memo to workers, obtained by CNN, Jordan says the airline is relying on volunteer employees, working alongside those that normally deal with bags, to get lost checked bags back to those who were caught up in its major schedule meltdown.
“Out at our specific Stations, we’ve got folks volunteering alongside our awesome Ground Ops Team to help scan and ship bags,” Jordan said in the Tuesday memo.
He added that Southwest has cut the number of lost bags “in half since Thursday” and the airline is “on track to get the majority if not all bags shipped to our customers later this week.”
He says Southwest is “[w]orking in a number of ways to expedite the process of getting our Customers reunited with their bags,” including partnering with FedEx and moving bags on Southwest flights as well as those of other competing airlines.
As for the meltdown itself and how it can be prevented, Jordan told employees, “We owe you those answers.” And said they are “building out an action plan this week.”
Intense scrutiny and a lawsuit for Southwest
The offer and the luggage memo come as the airline is facing multiple investigations, scrutiny from investors and at least one lawsuit over its cancellation of 15,700 flights at a peak holiday travel time.
The lawsuit, initiated by passenger Eric Capdeville, calls the airline’s operations meltdown an “internally created crisis” and accuses the airline of violating federal law and its agreement with passengers “to provide prompt refunds for canceled flights.”
Instead, Capdeville says the airline offered a credit toward a future flight.
Southwest has not responded in court. In a statement provided to CNN, the airline said it did not have “information to provide on the pending litigation.”
“There are several high priority efforts underway to do right by our Customers, including processing refunds from cancelled flights, reimbursing Customers for expenses incurred as a result of the irregular operations,” Southwest’s statement said.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last week that the Department of Transportation has received “thousands” of complaints from travelers against Southwest over the “operational meltdown” and warned that the department would “penalize Southwest as we would any airline to the tune potentially of tens of thousands of dollars per violation if they fail to meet what is required of them to take care of passengers.”
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Top image: Southwest Airlines planes at Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) on December 28, 2022. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)