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Southwest's Refund Process Seems Like A Mess

In the wake of the airline’s meltdown, travelers are looking for refunds and compensation for additional expenses
SW delays
Mountains of luggage piled at airports affected by flight cancelation. Screenshot: CBS Morning | Youtube

The recent service meltdown experienced by Southwest Airlines during the holiday weekend left thousands of travelers stranded and the magnitude of the cancellation rate has led to a federal investigation to determine if the company is complying with the required customer service plan

Roughly a week after the disastrous travel disruption, the airline is resuming operations as normal, according to NBCDFW, but many customers are still looking for compensation for all the extra expenses the delays have cost them. 

While the law states that travelers are entitled to a refund if their flight is canceled for any reason and the traveler chooses not to continue with the trip, navigating the refund process is not as straightforward as people would hope.

President Biden also twitted about the meltdown saying the current administration will work to ensure airline accountability and asking the public to review the U.S. Department of Transportation dashboard to see if they are entitled to compensation.

Southwest Airlines created a special “travel disruption” website for customers to request refunds for flights booked between December 24, 2022 and January 2, 2023. However, according to Texas Public Radio, increased web traffic resulted in more delays in rescheduling flights. Travelers were met with an array of problems from error messages saying the high demand could impact the functionality of the website to overwhelmed customer service lines to low flight availability.

Additionally, it’s hard to know exactly what expenses qualify for reimbursement. The company stated on its website that it will “honor reasonable requests for reimbursement,” but didn’t clarify what it considers reasonable. 

On the other hand, it’s not clear how the refunds will work. Journalist and founder of Granite Memo Steven Porter shared on Twitter a refund offer made through Southwest’s app that consisted of flight credit for future use.

According to The Oregonian, the airline’s chief commercial officer said the process will take several weeks.