NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Southwest Airlines stated in a recent filing that they are expecting fines from government agencies as a result of the company’s December 2022 travel meltdown. In the last week of December, Southwest alone canceled over 14,000 flights, according to the Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report.
According to the filing, the Department of Transportation (DOT) says Southwest Airlines “failed to provide adequate customer service assistance, prompt flight status notifications, and proper and prompt refunds.” In the filing’s “financial overview,” Southwest blames “extreme winter weather” for its breakdown of operations and flight schedules.
Alongside litigations that may be brought about by customers and shareholders, the airline will be subject to the DOT’s assessment to see if a “civil penalty” is warranted. Although Southwest is aware of potential fines, the report says they are “not able to estimate a range of possible loss.”
As the airline struggled to “realign” flight crews, schedules, and aircraft after the meltdown, its reputation took a turn for the worse, and bookings decreased during the first few months of 2023. Southwest’s filing says the resulting negative financial impact from the lack of bookings and flight cancellation reimbursements from January through September 2023 totaled approximately $380 million (pre-tax).
In March, the company announced its plans to prevent another winter meltdown. Southwest’s action plan included “improving winter operations, accelerating operational-related investments, and enhancing cross-team collaboration. According to the airline, those steps to improve winter operations were completed as of October 2023.