Southwest Airlines promises to reimburse customers for costs caused by cancelations

Passengers stranded at Southwest check-in
(Image credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines has promised to reimburse customers "for meals, hotel, and alternate transportation" following its disastrous cancelation spree. The airline canceled thousands of flights because of inclement weather across the country and its operational structure, which left it unable to bounce back from the initial scheduling issues.

Starting on Christmas day, the airline canceled thousands of flights leaving many passengers stranded and scrambling for accommodations and alternate travel plans, The New York Times reports. "This was just an unprecedented storm for everybody -- for all airlines," said Southwest CEO Bob Jordan "The storm had an impact, but we had impacts beyond the storm that obviously impacted Southwest very differently."

"There'll certainly be an impact to the fourth quarter," Southwest's Chief Commercial Officer Ryan Green said on Thursday "We're ... working through all the financial elements of this." Experts posit that the reimbursements could cost the company 9 percent of its fourth-quarter earnings, despite projecting an increase in earnings for the holiday season just two months ago, per Reuters.

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In response to the disruption, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (D) wrote to the CEO calling the cancelations "unacceptable." Several senators have also called for investigations against Southwest, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) writing that the government "must hold Southwest's CEO accountable for his greed and incompetence."

The airline is expected to resume normal operations on Friday.

The company apologized in a statement saying, "We know even our deepest apologies — to our customers, to our employees, and to all affected through this disruption — only go so far."

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