Airline has so far canceled an estimated 10,000 scheduled flights
Washington (December 27, 2022) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Senate Commerce Committee, released the following statement today in the wake of Southwest Airlines’s cancellation of thousands of flights over the holiday weekend, due largely to internal failures at the company.
“Southwest Airlines is failing consumers during the most important travel week of the year. Instead of a holiday spent celebrating with family and friends, passengers are sleeping in airports or desperately trying to reach customer service agents. For those travelers whose holidays have been ruined, there is no real way for Southwest to make this right. But the company can start by fairly compensating passengers whose flights were canceled, including not only rebooked tickets, ticket refunds, and hotel, meal, and transportation reimbursement, but significant monetary compensation for the disruption to their holiday plans. Southwest is planning to issue a $428 million dividend next year – the company can afford to do right by the consumers it has harmed. Southwest should focus first on its customers stranded at airports and stuck on interminable hold.
“Southwest cannot avoid compensating passengers by claiming these flight cancellations were caused by recent winter storms. As Southwest executives have acknowledged, the mass cancellations yesterday were largely due to the failure of its own internal systems. As such, those cancellations should be categorized as ‘controllable,’ and Southwest should compensate passengers accordingly.”
In November, Senators Markey and Blumenthal, along with Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), filed a comment on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposed rule on airline ticket refunds, urging DOT to strengthen and expeditiously finalize the proposed rule to ensure that consumers are fairly compensated when an airline cancels or significantly delays their flight. In May, the three lawmakers wrote a letter to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg urging the Department to use its regulatory power to take actions to protect consumers by clarifying and codifying policies requiring carriers and ticket agents to provide prompt refunds after a flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, as well as clarifying the rights for consumers who are unable to travel due to government restrictions or the declaration of a public health emergency.