Stranded Southwest Travelers Entitled to Meals, Lodging

  • US Department of Transportation gets involved in Southwest Airlines delays.
  • Sec. Pete Buttigieg met with the CEO of Southwest airlines, as well as union leaders, on Tuesday.
  • The DOT reminded passengers that the airline promises to provide meal vouchers and hotels for stranded travelers.

Secretary Pete Buttigieg met with Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan, as well as union leaders, to reiterate the company’s “responsibility to customers” amid travel chaos, Buttigieg told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

Buttigieg told CNN that the Transportation Department would hold Southwest accountable after he said the airline had promised the department in writing last summer that it would “take care of customers” during delays and cancellations.

“Now that we have the commitments that were made to us over the summer, we’re going to use that as a tool to hold them accountable,” Buttigieg said on CNN. “And I made that clear to Southwest management. Now…the CEO promised me that they will not only meet but exceed the customer service standards and commitments they’ve made to us in the past and that we’re in. a position to enforce.”

Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights after the holiday weekend as a result of the historic winter storm that has swept across the country. On Monday, the airline canceled almost 2,900 flights, or 70% of the total number of flights.

Southwest told Insider in a statement Monday that the cancellations arose in part because of its scheduling tools, which some airline workers have complained are outdated.

“We encourage customers to submit receipts to be considered for reimbursement. We have assisted with hotels in some situations,” the airline told Insider.

On Twitter, DOT connected to Southwest Airlines’ Customer Service Plan, which states:

  • The airline will rebook customers on the next available Southwest flight to your destination at no additional charge. Southwest also provides refunds for tickets.
  • For circumstances within the airline’s control, staff will provide a meal voucher upon request or will provide a “reasonable” refund for meals purchased.
  • For circumstances within the airline’s control, staff will arrange accommodation upon request if available or provide a reasonable reimbursement for accommodation. Staff can also offer transport vouchers or refunds.
  • For circumstances beyond the airline’s control, staff may try to arrange discounts for accommodation close to the airport.

On Monday, USDOT called the amount of Southwest cancellations “unacceptable” and announced it would investigate the cause of the delays.

“USDOT is concerned about Southwest’s unacceptable frequency of cancellations and delays and reports of a lack of prompt customer service,” it said in a statement. “The department will investigate whether cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”

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