Southwest Airlines fined $140 million over 2022 holiday season meltdown

Southwest is setting aside $90 million for customer vouchers available to those who arrive three or more hours late due to controllable circumstances.

Published: December 18, 2023 7:50am

Updated: December 18, 2023 7:51am

The Transportation Department fined Southwest Airlines $140 million over the holiday season meltdown last year that led to thousands of canceled flights and left more than two million passengers stranded.

Southwest has already paid customers affected by the flight disruptions more than $600 million in refunds and reimbursements, but the airline on Monday said it would pay $140 million in civil penalties to the Transportation Department.

As part of the settlement, Southwest is setting aside $90 million for vouchers available upon request if a customer reaches their destination three or more hours after their scheduled arrival due to controllable cancellations and delays. 

Southwest said it "is grateful to have reached a consumer-friendly settlement that both credits past compensation that went above and beyond requirements for Customers and incorporates a future commitment for Southwest Customer care with a new industry-leading compensation policy."

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, "Today's action sets a new precedent and sends a clear message: if airlines fail their passengers, we will use the full extent of our authority to hold them accountable," according to Axios

The Transportation Department had vowed to look into Southwest's scheduling process after nearly 17,000 flights were canceled amid Winter Storm Elliott over Christmas weekend last year, leaving passengers stranded across the country due to technology issues.

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