Transportation Department issues warning to Southwest Airlines to follow through on promises to passengers

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The U.S. Department of Transportation formally warned Southwest Airlines on Thursday that it will face consequences if it doesn’t do the right thing by stranded and inconvenient passengers.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote in a letter to Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan that the airline will reimburse passengers for alternative transportation costs and provide meals, hotels, reimbursement and baggage reconsolidation. The department has the power to impose fines as penalties, he said, adding that the authorities will take action against airlines if they fail to keep their promises.

“Failure to honor this promise to passengers is an unfair and deceptive practice,” wrote Mr. Buttigieg, referring specifically to another travel reimbursement. “The agency will use its full investigative and enforcement powers to hold Southwest Airlines accountable for failure to honor its promise to reimburse passengers for costs incurred for alternative transportation.”

Buttigieg issued similar warnings in relation to other airline commitments.

“No financial compensation can fully compensate passengers who miss irreversible moments with their families, such as Christmas, birthdays, weddings and other special events,” the Secretary of Transportation wrote. “That’s why it’s so important for Southwest Airlines to start by reimbursing passengers for costs that can be measured in dollars and cents.”

Southwest Airlines executives said in a message to customers Thursday morning that the airline is “committed to doing everything it can, working around the clock to repair customer relationships.” rice field.

Southwest did not immediately provide CNN with comment on the letter.

As CNN previously reported, Buttigieg spoke with Jordan on Tuesday and warned him that the Dallas-based company would hold the airline accountable after an operations meltdown that put it under serious scrutiny. did.

“Their system has completely collapsed,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

“Our department has made it clear that we will hold them accountable for their responsibilities to customers in order to work through this situation and ensure it does not happen again.”

Southwest Airlines said it was ready to resume its normal schedule on Friday as the disruption has delayed or stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers.

In a statement released Thursday, Southwest Airlines said it hoped to minimize disruption over the New Year’s weekend, after another day of cancellations of an additional 2,300 flights.

“We are encouraged by the crew, their schedules and the progress we have made to reorganize the fleet,” it said. “After a holiday weekend full of important connections for our valued customers and employees, we want to get back to normal.”

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