Southwest offers reward points to passengers affected by “holiday meltdown”

Southwest Airlines is reaching out to customers to try to smooth over its "meltdown". But is it enough by consumers' standards?
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 6:18 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Southwest Airlines planes and crews are back on schedule after the brutal Christmas week meltdown that made national news.

A lot of travelers who flew Southwest over Christmas are still waiting to see how the carrier will try to make things right. For the thousands of those who have a claim with the airline, they likely got an email this afternoon telling them that if they requested a refund or are dealing with a lost bag, Southwest will give you 25,000 Rapid Rewards points.

That’s good for about 300 dollars off your next fare with Southwest. The company is calling it a “gesture of goodwill” for travelers who ran into problems from Christmas Eve until Monday. Regardless, Southwest Airlines is still in hot water and is now facing a lawsuit after a passenger accused the company of violating a federal law. A federal judge is Louisiana has been asked to certify the lawsuit as a class action suit to include other passengers.

The U.S. Transportation Department is also investigating what’s being called Southwest Airline’s “operational meltdown” that forced tens of thousands of flights to be canceled during some of the busiest travel days of the year. Brian Kelly is the founder of the Points Guy website and said Southwest has 7 days to respond to your request for payment. So far, he says the airline has been good about getting back to travelers but that in general, there’s not many requirements for the company to make things right.

“The DOT does have the dashboard for airlines--what they owe you,” Kelly said. “But in general in the U.S, passengers don’t have rights. Until we press our lawmakers to have consumer protections like they have in Europe, it’s kind of every flier for themselves.” He said the airline likely burned a lot of bridges with its holiday failures but that in the big picture, he expects travelers to still book flights with Southwest because they don’t have a lot of other options.

“Let’s also remember, this last summer, American Airlines had their meltdown, Spirit had a meltdown, JetBlue, so it’s been a little game of hot potato with all the airlines melting down,” Kelly said. “So frankly, in the U.S. there just aren’t that many choices for consumers when it comes to flying. Southwest does have those two free checked bags which their fliers really love.”

So, if you check a bag, how do you make sure your bag gets back to you? For starters, experts recommend checking in early because if you’re trying to get your bags on the plane at the last second, you are more likely to run into issues. Also, consider using baggage tracking by using Apple Airtags. They’ll set you back about $30 a piece but you may find it’s worth your piece of mind.

Experts also recommend travelers putting their ID both inside and outside of the bag. If you only have the ID outside of your luggage, it can be torn off and tough to trace. Finally, consider reviewing your credit card coverage since it may include compensation for things you have to buy while you wait for the bag to arrive.