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Transportation Department issues warning to Southwest Airlines to follow through on promises to passengers

<i>Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>The US Department of Transportation formally warned Southwest Airlines that it will face consequences if it fails to do right by stranded and inconvenienced passengers
AFP via Getty Images
Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images
The US Department of Transportation formally warned Southwest Airlines that it will face consequences if it fails to do right by stranded and inconvenienced passengers

By Gregory Wallace, CNN

The US Department of Transportation formally warned Southwest Airlines on Thursday that it will face consequences if it fails to do right by stranded and inconvenienced passengers.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote in a letter to Southwest CEO Bob Jordan that officials will take action against the airline if it does not follow through on promises to reimburse passengers for alternative transportation costs, as well as provide meals, hotels, refunds and baggage reunification. The department has the ability to levy fines as a penalty.

“It would be an unfair and deceptive practice not to fulfill this commitment to passengers,” Buttigieg wrote, specifically referring to alternative travel reimbursements. “The Department will use the fullest extent of its investigative and enforcement powers to hold Southwest accountable if it fails to adhere to the promises made to reimburse passengers for costs incurred for alternate transportation.”

Buttigieg made similar warnings related to the airline’s other commitments.

“No amount of financial compensation can fully make up for passengers who missed moments with their families that they can never get back—Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and other special events,” the transportation secretary wrote. “That’s why it is so critical for Southwest to begin by reimbursing passengers for those costs that can be measured in dollars and cents.”

A Southwest executive said in a Thursday morning message to customers that the airline is making “a pledge to do everything we can and to work day and night to repair our relationship with you.”

Southwest did not immediately provide comment to CNN on the letter.

As CNN previously reported, Buttigieg spoke with Jordan on Tuesday and warned him that he would hold the airline accountable after its operational meltdown put the Dallas-headquartered company under serious scrutiny.

“Their system really has completely melted down,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

“I made clear that our department will be holding them accountable for their responsibilities to customers, both to get them through this situation and to make sure that this can’t happen again.”

Southwest Airlines said it’s poised to resume normal schedules on Friday, as the disruption has left hundreds of thousands of passengers delayed or stranded.

In a statement released Thursday — following another day in which a further 2,300 flights were canceled — Southwest said it hoped for minimal disruptions over the New Year’s weekend.

“We are encouraged by the progress we’ve made to realign crew, their schedules, and our fleet,” it said. “With another holiday weekend full of important connections for our valued customers and employees, we are eager to return to a state of normalcy.”

The-CNN-Wire
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CNN’s Forrest Brown, Karla Cripps and Barry Neild contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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