Southwest passengers are still waiting for refunds


Weeks after the collapse of Southwest Airlines caused the cancellation of thousands of flights and stranded passengers, the nation’s air travel system was briefly shut down on Wednesday due to a crash in a computer system used by the Federal Aviation Administration. providing important pre-flight information to pilots.

Although the FAA system was back online within hours and flights slowly returned to schedule, passengers whose lives were upended in last month’s Southwest crash are still reeling from the devastation and counting the financial toll they took.

Passengers interviewed by The Times said the fiasco cost $700 in one case (for gas costs) and up to $70,000 (for a ruined wedding) in another.

“I try to be patient and let them sort it out,” said one Southwest passenger, actress Deborah Rombo. “What worries me is that I don’t have a clear timeline for when I will get the money back.”

Thousands of vacationers like Rombo were left stranded late last month when Southwest Airlines said its computer system that tracks crew schedules couldn’t handle a severe winter storm. Airlines have been canceling flights at a much higher rate than other major airlines, according to the Department of Transportation.

Since then, the airline has awarded each affected traveler 25,000 loyalty points, worth about $300, and is issuing refunds and refunds.

“I’ve said this before, but I can’t express enough how sorry I am for the impact these challenges have had on our employees and customers,” Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said in a statement. statement.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called Southwest’s rate of cancellations “unacceptable.”

As of Dec. 28, Southwest had canceled 59 percent of its flights, compared to only 3 percent of other major airlines, Buttigieg said in a letter to Southwest.

Travelers affected by the cancellation have been asked to provide their receipts for additional expenses. Many have received refunds for their airfares, but additional costs are difficult to calculate as potential passengers rush to travel long distances by other modes of transportation during the post-holiday rush. .

Among the crash victims was Madeline Luzzo, a registered nurse who estimated she spent an extra $1,000 to get home from Dallas to Los Angeles when her Dec. 26 flight was canceled. Luzzo, her husband and sister drove for 22 hours in a rental car, alternating between drivers when the person behind the wheel couldn’t stay awake.

“It was terrifying. I don’t recommend it,” Luzzo, 31, said.

The rental car was $400 and they spent $250 on gas. Luzzo said the trio only ate fast food, which cost an extra $100. She then had to pay a dog sitter an extra two days to look after her pet.

Luzzo, who works at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said, “I’ve always loved the Southwest because it’s a major hub and my family is in Texas. “But on the way home, my husband said, ‘I’m never flying Southwest again. I will pay another 200 dollars to fly with another airline. And now I’m like 50/50.

Kate Shelter and her daughters Zoe, 12, and Mila, 9, were on their way to Universal Studios Hollywood on Dec. 26 when their flight from Oakland was canceled. When it became clear they wouldn’t be able to catch another flight, Shelter’s husband took the family car to the Oakland airport and drove south with their daughters.

Shelter refunded a total of $720 for the canceled flight on Friday and the early check-in surcharge.

She also spent about $700 on gas, travel supplies and an Uber ride to get her husband home from the airport.

When Shelter and her daughters did not board the plane from the Oakland airport, their luggage flew to Los Angeles without them. When the trio tried to claim their bags at the Southwest terminal, he had to pay for parking at LAX.

“All in all it was a very difficult 24 hours, but we were able to continue once we got our bags,” Shelter said. “Luckily, I was flexible with my schedule to make the six-hour drive home.”

Rombo estimated that he spent about $1,200 to get home from Sacramento to Hollywood, including money he spent to book a rental car that never materialized.

His flight on Christmas Day was cancelled, as was his next flight the following day. Southwest wouldn’t offer him a hotel, so he stayed with a friend’s relative in Sacramento.

“I was going to spend Christmas with my pets and my roommates,” Rombo said. “I spent Christmas on my friend’s mom’s couch.”

He ended up renting a luxury SUV – one of the last cars he would get from the rental counter. Rombo met three other women heading south from Sacramento, so they took an unplanned trip.

After arriving home, Rombo submitted his detailed expenses to Southwest. He received several automated emails confirming that the airline had received his receipts.

As a member of the airline’s loyalty rewards program, Rombo received a pass from Southwest that allowed another passenger a free flight, plus tax. Rombo had originally planned to take a trip to Hawaii with his roommate, but now that’s unlikely.

“My roommate doesn’t want to be my girlfriend,” she said. “I don’t think they have all their ducks in a row. I want to see how they do it. I’m not ready to be stuck at the airport again.

But other passengers lost more than money and time during the layover.

St. Louis resident Katie Demko missed her wedding — a destination wedding in Belize, the bride-to-be told Insider.

Demko’s fiance flew to Belize and the two were to be married on December 30th. But as his plane was about to land on December 27, the pilot reported that there were not enough flight attendants for the trip.

“I cried on the morning of December 30,” Demko told New Online Magazine.

Southwest reimbursed Demko for missed flights and she was able to reschedule some wedding services, such as the photographer and decorations, but she was not reimbursed for everything.

The resort where her wedding guests were staying told her they couldn’t give her a refund or change her reservation on short notice.

He estimates the wedding party lost more than $70,000 on reserved rooms.

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