Southwest is offering all passengers whose flights were canceled or delayed during the travel meltdown 25,000 Rapid Rewards points in a “gesture of goodwill,” according to a widely circulated email sent Tuesday. The 25,000 points, which the airline says is worth more than $300, will be distributed in addition to ticket refunds and reimbursements.
“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,” Chief Executive Officer Bob Jordan says in the email.
Southwest’s apology comes after the airline canceled more than half of its flights during the winter holiday rush, stranding thousands across the country. While winter storms across the country played a role in the delays, Southwest was the only airline to face a complete meltdown.
Travelers shared their nightmarish stories online, including an unresponsive customer service phone line, lost baggage, and extra expenses for lodging and rebooking flights.
@zachblondin a christmas nightmare at the airport🥲 #southwest #southwestairlines #fyp #foryou #ReasonForBooking #CODSquadUp #stlouis #miami #airport #christmas #travel #2022 ♬ Players - DJ Smallz 732 - Jersey Club Remix - Coi Leray
Those affected by the delays and cancellations between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2 can submit requests for reimbursement on Southwest’s website, though the process is expected to take weeks.
The airline will also come under intense scrutiny in the coming weeks as it faces lawsuits and a Department of Transportation investigation.
In a video message, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigiege said that the DOT had received “thousands” of complaints.
.@SecretaryPete: "We will 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." pic.twitter.com/7dYcuYAEm8— The Hill (@thehill) December 31, 2022
"We will 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."
On Reddit, where Southwest travelers have been sharing their experiences of the meltdown, some customers continue to criticize the airline despite the airline's most recent apology.
“Southwest's biggest problem is thinking that people want compensation in a format that will let them try the airline again,” one commenter writes. “ I don't think anyone wants that. They want cash compensation and then to never fly Southwest ever again.”
In a different thread, another Redditor echoed that sentiment.
"It’s a nice gesture, but it means I’m still paying my credit card bill for a failed vacation at the hands of SWA," they wrote. "I understand what they are trying to do, but this should not be in lieu of cash reimbursement."