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Southwest offers 25,000 points to passengers stranded by meltdown

‘We’re so sorry,’ CEO Bob Jordan said in an email to customers

(iStock/Washington Post Illustration)

Southwest Airlines offered an olive branch on Tuesday to passengers affected by a meltdown last week: 25,000 bonus points.

The airline said it sent the “gesture of goodwill” — the equivalent of more than $300 — to travelers whose flights were canceled or significantly delayed between Dec. 24 and Monday. Southwest described a significant delay as being greater than three hours late upon arrival.

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“Our Purpose has always been to connect our Customers to what’s important in their lives,” said the email, signed by CEO Bob Jordan. “And this holiday season, as you made plans with us to do just that, we fell short. For that, please accept my personal apology.”

The extra points are in addition to the refunds travelers are owed or reimbursements they’re allowed to request for hotel stays, lost bags, food or alternate transportation. Southwest has said that it would review requests for “reasonable” reimbursements related to the flight woes “on a case-by-case basis.”

What to know about Southwest refunds, rebooking and lost luggage

In the email, Jordan says the travel crisis started with severe weather at the airline’s busiest airports, which cascaded into other “other operational challenges.” Southwest canceled more than 15,000 flights before resuming close to normal operations Friday.

Some travelers missed out on long-planned trips and were still trying to find their luggage on Tuesday. Others had to scramble to find alternate tickets at high prices. Some drove long hours to get home after being stranded. The chaos drew the attention of lawmakers and the Department of Transportation, with officials pledging to hold the airline accountable.

“I know that no amount of apologies can undo your experience,” Jordan wrote. He said the processes for refunds, reimbursements and lost baggage recovery were being “handled with great urgency.”

Long a fan favorite, Southwest’s model now faces questions

On Friday, a passenger affected by the cancellations filed a lawsuit accusing the carrier of breach of contract. The suit, filed in New Orleans federal court, alleges Southwest did not provide passengers with other flights or quick refunds.

Zach Griff, a reporter for the Points Guy, said on Twitter that he received the offer in addition to a $39 refund, $149 reimbursement and $250 travel voucher. He later tweeted that the online portal to redeem the offer for the points had a waitlist.

“14 minutes to get in right now!” he wrote. “Nothing about this meltdown has been seamless ...”

Justin George contributed to this report.

This post has been updated to include clarification from Southwest on who will receive Rapid Rewards points.

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