Southwest Airlines offering ‘goodwill’ gesture to customers affected by cancellations: What does that mean?

Nation/World

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – OCTOBER 11: A screen displays Southwest Airlines flight information at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on October 11, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. Southwest Airlines is working to catch up on a backlog after canceling hundreds of flights over the weekend, blaming air traffic control issues and weather. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Southwest says it will be extending a “gesture of goodwill” to customers affected by the cancellation of thousands of flights last weekend.

“In these situations, we do our best to make things right, and we are working directly with Customers who have been impacted by recent disruptions offering our apology and a gesture of goodwill,” a spokesperson for the airline confirmed in an emailed statement.

Southwest declined to detail what these “gestures” would entail, specifically. But on Twitter, Southwest and its customers have indicated that the airline was sending vouchers — known as “LUV Vouchers” — for future travel with Southwest Airlines, in amounts of up to $250.

Not everyone appeared to be so happy with the promise of vouchers, however. Some Twitter users complained of not being able to get in contact Southwest to get their vouchers at all, while others complained that vouchers were not sufficient to compensate for the expenses they incurred while trying to find meals, hotels and alternate modes of transportation.

Other customers on Twitter have complained that they had yet to be refunded for their canceled itineraries. According to Southwest’s own customer service policy, customers are eligible for refunds if the airline cancels a flight — just as all major carriers are required to do, per the Department of Transportation (DOT). A representative for Southwest further confirmed that eligible customers must request a refund, otherwise they merely retain their travel funds to put toward a future trip.

Still, Southwest customers who request refunds may not see the money for weeks. Southwest’s Customer Service Commitment says refunds will be processed within seven business days of requests, and credit card companies may take an additional 10 days to post it to customers’ accounts.

On the other hand, airlines are not required to reimburse passengers for expenses incurred outside of the cost of the tickets, which means that costs for things like meals, lodging and ground transportation are not the responsibility of the carrier. Southwest, however, has confirmed to USA Today that it will decide on reimbursement in certain situations.

Southwest representatives on Twitter have also been telling affected guests that they can direct-message the company to discuss further complaints to “take a closer look” or “discuss” their concerns.

The Southwest representative who spoke with USA Today also claimed that all affected passengers would be getting vouchers automatically, via email, but noted that the emails might be delayed because of the “number of customers we are processing.”

Southwest began canceling thousands of flights last weekend, blaming weather disruptions and “other external constraints,” but denying that the delays were caused by workers who had staged “sickouts” to protest Southwest’s vaccination requirements.

Southwest began to resume more normal operations midweek.

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