Beleaguered Southwest Airlines announced that it plans to resume normal operations with “minimal disruptions” on December 30, 2022.
“We are encouraged by the progress we’ve made to realign Crew, their schedules, and our fleet. 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 airline said in an update.
Southwest, whose cancellations and disruptions have occurred for eight days straight, also issued an apology to its customers and employees.
“We know even our deepest apologies – to our Customers, to our Employees, and to all affected through this disruption – only go so far. We’ve set up a page at Southwest.com/traveldisruption for Customers to submit refund and reimbursement requests for meals, hotel, and alternate transportation; as well as to connect Customers to their baggage,” Southwest said.
Moving forward, the low-cost carrier said that it will invest in “new solutions” to manage wide-scale disruptions.
DOT issues an official warning to Southwest Airlines
Southwest’s announcement to return to normal operations comes as the US Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an official warning to the airline.
Addressing Southwest’s CEO Robert Jordan, US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said that the level of disruption that Southwest customers received over the holidays is “unacceptable”.
Buttigieg also reiterated that after the snowstorm hit, every US airline has recovered except for Southwest. Buttigieg said in his letter to Jordan that the thousands of flight cancellations are not weather-related.
“While weather can disrupt flight schedules, the thousands of cancellations by Southwest in recent days have not been because of the weather. Other airlines that experienced weather-related cancellations and delays due to the winter storm recovered relatively quickly, unlike Southwest,” Buttigieg wrote.
Southwest should reimburse passengers
In his letter to Jordan, Buttigieg stated that it is “critical” for the airline to begin reimbursing passengers.
“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. 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.”
Buttigieg also said that affected passengers who do not accept Southwest’s offer of rebooked flights should be given a prompt refund.
“Southwest must provide refunds within seven business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid by cash, check, or other means,” the letter stated.
The DOT also said it will use the full extent of its investigation and enforcement power to ensure that Southwest complies with its refund obligations.