US Airlines Prepare for Busy Holidays Travel Season Avoiding 2022 Meltdown

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced that it is prepared for the busier end-of-year holiday travel compared with the same peak period a year earlier when storms led to thousands of canceled flights and congestion. The DOT said that it has taken measures to ensure that airlines comply with consumer protection laws and provide adequate compensation to passengers who face travel disruptions.


One of the measures is the $140 million civil penalty that Southwest Airlines agreed to pay for numerous violations of consumer protection laws during and after the operational failures that canceled 16,900 flights and stranded over two million passengers over the 2022 Christmas holiday and into the New Year. This penalty is 30 times larger than any previous DOT penalty for consumer protection violations. The majority of the penalty will go towards compensating future Southwest passengers affected by cancellations or significant delays caused by the airline. The penalty is in addition to the more than $600 million in refunds and reimbursements that DOT already ensured Southwest provided passengers who faced travel disruptions during the operational meltdown.

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The DOT also said that it will be closing its investigation into whether the travel disruptions were caused by an unrealistic flight schedule set out by Southwest, saying it was unable to reach a firm conclusion. Southwest has said it was cooperating with the investigation, which was launched in January.

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Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan admitted that his company "messed up" and apologized to customers who were affected by last year's mass cancellations. He said that his company has learned from its mistakes and has made changes to improve its customer service. He also said that his company will continue to offer generous compensation policies, such as rapid rewards, future credits, or vouchers for future travel. The DOT's actions are expected to deter other airlines from failing to protect customers during disruptions and ensure that passengers have access to fair and timely compensation. The DOT also urged consumers to check their flight status before traveling, sign up for alerts from their airlines, and file complaints if they encounter any problems with their flights.

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