Southwest Airlines could be slapped with main penalties for ruining Christmas for 1000’s of vacationers by canceling flights throughout the vacation weekend, federal officers warned Wednesday.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and congressional leaders have known as on the price range airline to difficulty refunds and pay for bills after the Dallas-based company grounded greater than 14,500 flights since Friday — together with greater than 2,500 on Wednesday.
“They need to make sure that these stranded passengers get to where they need to go and that they are provided adequate compensation — not just for the flight itself,” Buttigieg stated on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday.
Buttigieg described the Southwest journey chaos as unprecedented throughout his tenure and stated the division will “mount an extraordinary effort” to make sure passengers are compensated for his or her troubles.
Southwest’s customer support plan notes that it’s going to present vouchers and lodging for delays or cancellations “within our control.”
“We will honor reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotel and alternate transportation,” a Southwest spokesperson instructed The Post on Wednesday.
Buttigieg stated the airline has pledged to exceed the required stage of customer support.
“In order to restore that relationship with their customers, Southwest is going to have to not only make them financially whole, but find a way to really rebuild trust and confidence,” Buttigieg stated. “They pledged to me that they’re going to do that. I want to see exactly what that means.”
Last month, the Department of Transportation fined six airlines — together with a $2.2 million penalty to Frontier — over what it described as “extreme delays” in buyer refund funds.
Potential repercussions could additionally come up from Capitol Hill. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) of the Senate Commerce Committee argued that affected fliers are due “significant monetary compensation for the disruption of their holiday plans” that ought to transcend ticket refunds and vouchers.
“Southwest is planning to issue a $428 million dividend next year – the company can afford to do right by the consumers it has harmed. Southwest should focus first on its customers stranded at airports and stuck on interminable hold,” the senators stated.
A watchdog group blamed Southwest’s failure to spend money on up to date technology for its gradual effort to answer flight disruptions brought on by harsh climate circumstances round a lot of the nation.
The group, Accountable.US., called Southwest’s “cancellation crisis a problem of its own making” after it selected “to spend $5.6 billion on stock buybacks in the 3 years leading up to the pandemic rather than making investments in infrastructure to be better prepared for extreme weather events like this week.”
The group stated Southwest “even reinstated dividends earlier this month, the first major airline to do so after the pandemic.”
“Southwest Airlines made a risky gamble that mass layoffs and spending billions of dollars on handouts to investors rather than fixing infrastructure would pay off with record profits,” Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig stated in an announcement. “The airline lost that bet badly and now it’s their customers left paying the price including the thousands stranded in the middle of holiday-season travel.”
Shares of Southwest Airlines have been down greater than 2% in buying and selling Wednesday. The company’s stock has plunged about 25% since January.
Southwest CEO Bob Jordan issued a public apology for the mess late Tuesday.
“We’re optimistic to be back on track before next week,” Jordan stated.
However, the spate of cancellations might have been averted if Jordan heeded a warning from a Southwest govt days earlier than the vacation weekend journey kicked off.
Chris Johnson, Southwest’s vice chairman of floor operations, circulated a memo to ramp employees on Dec. 21 declaring a “state of operational emergency” at its base in Denver after “an unusually high number” of staff didn’t present up for work, according to Bloomberg News.