Southwest Airlines sued for allegedly breaching passenger refund policy

Southwest Airlines aircraft
Steve Heap / Shutterstock

The New Orleans federal court is examining a proposed class action filed by a passenger who has accused Southwest Airlines of breaching its refund policy and failing to provide a refund to travelers left stranded during the airline’s operational meltdown last month.

Eric Capdeville claims he was left stranded in New Orleans when the airline canceled his flight to Portland on December 27, 2022. According to the legal claim, which is dated December 30, 2022, the passenger was unable to board the scheduled flight because it was canceled.

Capdeville said that both he and his daughter, who was supposed to fly on the same day, were not able to book an alternative flight, so the low-cost carrier promised to cover all expenses. However, the airline only offered credit.

“Passengers cannot use their airline tickets through no fault of their own and they are not getting the benefit of their bargain with defendant,” stated the legal claim, which was seen by Reuters on January 3, 2023.

As per Southwest Airlines’ travel disruption policy, all passengers traveling through January 2, 2023, have a right to rebook their flights “within 30 days of your original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with our accommodation procedures” without paying additional charges.

The carrier also said it would cover all expenses related to flight cancelation or delays, such as dining, car rental, or hotel.

“In the event your flight is canceled or significantly delayed during the travel period beginning on December 24, 2022, through January 2, 2023, you may request a refund of your unused ticket to the original form of payment,” the airline’s website reads.

What caused Southwest Airlines’ operational meltdown?

Southwest Airlines faced operational difficulties due to a massive winter storm in the United States during the Christmas week of 2022. The challenging weather conditions negatively affected the airline’s operational systems, overloading internal flight scheduling platforms, which are crucial to match crews with the planned flights.

The air carrier canceled more than 15,000 flights in December 2022, partly blaming the fierce storm and staff shortages for disruptions.

The massive operational halt caught the attention of the US Department of Transportation (DOT), which said that Southwest was the only US carrier to cancel almost 3,000 flights the day after Christmas and called the disruptions “unacceptable”.

The department promised to examine whether the airline is following its own customer service policy.

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