DOT Outlines Expectations For Southwest Airways

Over the previous a number of days, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been speaking about how Southwest Airways might be held accountable for its operational meltdown. Even because the airline resets its operation as of at this time, there are nonetheless infinite stranded vacationers and misplaced luggage. Buttigieg has now written a letter to Southwest Airways CEO Bob Jordan, highlighting precisely what that accountability will appear to be.

What Buttigieg requests from Southwest Airways

On Thursday, December 29, 2022, the Division of Transportation (DOT) printed the letter that was despatched to Southwest Airways’ CEO, highlighting what’s anticipated of the airline within the coming days and weeks. That is helpful, because it provides shoppers some reassurance as to what they’re entitled to.

The letter begins by appropriately blaming Southwest for its operational points since December 24. Whereas climate was the preliminary downside, the mess since then has been inside Southwest’s management. Buttigieg shares his 4 priorities for Southwest Airways:

  • Getting stranded passengers to their locations safely and shortly
  • Offering or reimbursing passengers for meals, inns, and floor transportation to or from inns
  • Promptly refunding affected passengers for his or her cancelled tickets ought to the passenger not settle for various supplied akin to rebooking
  • Making certain that passengers are shortly reunited with their baggage

The letter goes on to spotlight expectations for every of those factors, so let’s go over that.

Getting passengers to their vacation spot

Right here’s what the DOT expects from Southwest in the case of getting passengers to their vacation spot:

Southwest ought to be certain that each obtainable useful resource is getting used to help stranded passengers to find a solution to attain their vacation spot as shortly as doable. Southwest has acknowledged that it’s going to honor cheap requests for reimbursement for alternate transportation, akin to different airline tickets, Amtrak, or rental automobiles, for these impacted by a flight cancellation or important flight delay between December 24, 2022, and January 2, 2023. It could be an unfair and misleading follow to not fulfill this dedication to passengers. The Division will use the fullest extent of its investigative and enforcement powers to carry Southwest accountable if it fails to stick to the guarantees made to reimburse passengers for prices incurred for alternate transportation.

Vacationers might be reimbursed for flights on different airways

Reimbursing for meals, inns, and floor transportation

Right here’s what the DOT expects from Southwest in the case of offering meals, inns, and floor transportation to and from inns:

Southwest has dedicated to offering meals when a controllable cancellation or delay ends in passengers ready for 3 hours or extra for a brand new flight. This contains all passengers touring between December twenty fourth and January 2nd who skilled a cancellation or important delay. As well as, Southwest has promised to offer lodge lodging and floor transportation to and from inns for any passenger affected by a controllable in a single day delay or cancellation. The Division will take motion to carry Southwest accountable if it fails to meet commitments that the airline has made in its customer support plans for controllable delays and cancellations.

Vacationers might be reimbursed for lodge bills

Refunding passengers

Right here’s what the DOT expects from Southwest in the case of refunding passengers:

Beneath the legislation, Southwest should present immediate refunds when a provider cancels a passenger’s flight or makes a major change within the flight, whatever the motive, until the passenger accepts rebooking. This implies Southwest should present refunds inside seven enterprise days if a passenger paid by bank card, and inside 20 days if a passenger paid by money, verify, or different means. The Division will use the total extent of its investigation and enforcement authority to make sure Southwest complies with its refund obligations.

Vacationers ought to be refunded for canceled flights

Reuniting with baggage

Right here’s what the DOT expects from Southwest in the case of reuniting passengers with their baggage:

Southwest communicated to the Division that each one baggage has been scanned and that there might be higher transparency for purchasers about the place their luggage are at present positioned, the place they need them despatched, and after they’ll obtain them. We count on you to make each effort, together with alternate delivery strategies, to get baggage again to clients as shortly as doable. Additionally, underneath DOT’s regulation, Southwest is required to reimburse passengers as much as $3,800 for provable direct or consequential damages ensuing from the disappearance of, injury to, or delay within the supply of a passenger’s baggage.

Vacationers ought to be reimbursed for bills incurred from baggage points

My tackle the DOT’s letter to Southwest Airways

Whereas there’s nothing earth shattering within the DOT’s letter to Southwest Airways, I believe that is fairly beneficial, and may put many vacationers comfortable. It creates very clear expectations of what Southwest Airways must do, and likewise makes it clear that the DOT will maintain the airline accountable (probably within the type of fines) if it doesn’t comply with by on its customer support plans.

Southwest has supplied to reimburse vacationers for bills incurred because of points inside the provider’s management, however has been fairly imprecise about that. With this letter from the DOT, the stress is on for Southwest to ship. Particularly, for flights between December 24, 2022, and January 2, 2023:

  • Southwest must reimburse vacationers who pay for various transportation; in case your Southwest flight is canceled and you find yourself having to guide on one other airline, count on to be reimbursed, even when the ticket is de facto costly (in any case, fares are actually excessive with how little stock there’s)
  • Southwest must reimburse vacationers for inns, meals, and transportation to and from inns
  • Southwest must refund vacationers inside seven days for canceled flights
  • Southwest not solely must get luggage again to folks as shortly as doable, but in addition must reimburse them for any needed bills they’ve incurred because of delayed or misplaced luggage

Southwest Airways has a monumental activity forward of it right here, so a few ideas…

To begin with, I can’t even think about how a lot this complete state of affairs will value Southwest. The airline must refund passengers on canceled flights, and that might simply be a ten determine quantity. Then the airline can even must reimburse passengers for some (probably) very pricey bills. That doesn’t even start to handle the long run injury to Southwest’s popularity (although shoppers do are inclined to neglect).

Subsequent, the airline has some severe time stress right here, and I really feel dangerous for Southwest’s frontline staff working in customer support. I can’t think about Southwest’s customer support division is supplied to deal with a whole lot of 1000’s of pressing buyer requests in a really quick time interval.

So how precisely will the airline deal with that? Will Southwest tremendously improve its staffing in that division, or how will the airline guarantee it might probably get to passenger requests in a well timed method, whereas the DOT watches? It’s actually essential that Southwest does this promptly, as a result of many are paying out of pocket for journey bills that they in all probability can’t afford.

I might count on that Southwest might be very beneficiant in the case of reimbursements, since dissatisfied clients can file complaints with the DOT, and that might result in pricey fines for Southwest.

Backside line

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has written a letter to Southwest Airways CEO Bob Jordan, clearly outlining what he expects of the airline in the case of customer support restoration efforts. This creates a fairly good framework for what clients ought to count on, together with reimbursements for passengers impacted by operational points.

What do you make of this letter to Southwest’s CEO?

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