- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Department of Transportation officials are sending thousands of customer complaints directly to Southwest Airlines, including those alleging delays in refunds for the carrier’s holiday cancellations. 

“Since the Southwest meltdown, DOT has received thousands of consumer complaints about Southwest — including complaints about lack of ticket refunds and reimbursements for services when a traveler was stranded,” the DOT said in a statement to CNN. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized Southwest’s blame. 

“Our department will continue to hold Southwest to its responsibility to take care of customers affected by holiday travel disruptions. We will enforce their responsibility to refund flight tickets and reimburse for alternate & ground transport, baggage costs, meals & hotels,” Mr. Buttigieg tweeted. 

The department, which previously imposed a seven-day deadline to fulfill refund requests made for card-purchased tickets and a 20-day deadline for cash or check-purchased tickets, is now demanding Southwest respond to each complaint within 60 days. 

The air carrier faces thousands of both refunds and potential complaints resulting from the delays and cancellations caused by winter weather and technological troubles during the holiday season. 

Southwest is processing flight refund requests within an average of approximately three days. Per Department of Transportation regulations, air carriers must process refunds within seven business days from the date on which the customer submits full required documentation related to their refund request, and we are meeting that requirement – while completing tens of thousands of requests for refunds and reimbursements per day,” the airline said in a statement to The Washington Times.

From Dec. 21-31, Southwest canceled 16,700 flights; of those, more than 13,000 came from Dec. 24-29. The moves stand to cost the carrier $725 million to $825 million, according to the business publication Travel Weekly. 

The airline has committed to reimbursing assorted expenses, including travel, lodging and food, of passengers whose flights were nixed from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2. 

Southwest intends to, and is making every effort, to initiate refunds and reimbursements as we’ve stated in our Customer Service Plan – which is in alignment with the corresponding regulations. We appreciate our customers’ patience as we continue this all-hands effort to assist those affected by the recent travel disruption,” Southwest said.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.

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