Southwest Airlines Offering Some Passengers Just 5% Of Their Requested Reimbursements

Southwest Airlines expects the cancellation of 16,700 flights over the holidays to cost them up to $825 million though the exact amount depends on how much passengers seek reimbursement for after having to find other means of travel – and how much Southwest actually approves in claims.

While the Department of Transportation is pressuring Southwest not just to provide the refunds, but also to do so quickly (noting that credit card payments must be refunded within 7 days), the sheer volume of requests is taking time to work through and also invariably means that some passengers get stuck in a Kafkaesque bureaucracy. And even DOT says that consumer complaints are only owned “substantive responses…within 60 days.”

While some passengers are thrilled by goodwill gestures of 25,000 Rapid Rewards points on top of reimbursements, others who believe they’re due those points haven’t received them. And some people who have submitted request for ‘reasonable’ expenses (and Southwest hasn’t told passengers what ‘reasonable’ means) don’t feel they and the airline have a meeting of the minds over how much of their cash outlay should be returned to them.

Would you believe we’re seeing reports of passengers being offered only 5% of what they’ve requested, and in one case just $9?

@SouthwestAir Reimbursement news seems to be a PR stunt and not paying out what is owed. Submitted over $4000 for our group with details and receipts. Was offered $200. What will it take for SW to step up?

— King Rabbit (@ZombieBunnyOrg) January 10, 2023

@SouthwestAir can you tell me why you said you’d reimburse my cancelled Christmas flight that stranded me and send only $9? Is this a joke? LOL #southweststolechristmas #SouthwestAirlines

— LALALand (@MsBombdiggity) January 9, 2023

It’s difficult to know how much a given passenger should have been reimbursed without seeing the details of their claim. Certainly many passengers will receive less than they’re entitled to due to paperwork deficiencies. Perhaps they haven’t submitted receipts, or the person reviewing the claim makes errors. It’s hard to imagine anyone whose flight was cancelled by Southwest, though, only incurred $9 in eligible expenses as a result. Even making a trip in vain to the airport and back is going to cost more than that for nearly everyone, without regard to hotel, meals, or alternate transportation. But some passengers won’t be adept enough at navigating the bureaucracy, and those same passengers may not be well-suited to pursuing DOT complaints against the airline either.

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