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White House: 'Southwest Airlines failed its customers'

The White House on Tuesday said it will hold Southwest Airlines accountable to ensure it reimburses customers who qualify after a wave of cancellations around Christmas left thousands stranded.

“Southwest Airlines failed its customers, point blank,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday.

Jean-Pierre said the Department of Transportation will monitor to ensure Southwest makes its customers whole by covering the cost of rebooking, hotel rooms, meals, and transportation to and from hotels in cases where those costs apply. Those costs are covered under the airline’s prior commitment to its customers.

“The Transportation Department is watching,” she said. “They’re monitoring this very, very closely to ensure that this all happens. And we’ll see fines for Southwest if it doesn’t cover a cost.”

Thousands of Americans had their holiday travel upended because of widespread flight cancellations last week in the aftermath of a massive winter storm that has affected much of the country.

Southwest Airlines was by far the biggest source of trouble for travelers, canceling more than 60 percent of flights last Monday to Wednesday. The airline said the winter storm that brought frigid temperatures to nearly every state had upended its schedule, but union representatives argued long-overdue changes to the scheduling system also contributed to problems.

Jean-Pierre noted that every major airline faced the same challenges from the pre-Christmas storm but that all except Southwest were able to quickly recover without mass cancellations.

U.S. officials have said over the past week that Southwest could face fines if it does not follow through on its commitments to reimburse customers.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg last week wrote to Southwest Airlines CEO Robert Jordan, telling him he expects a “prompt update on Southwest’s efforts to do right by the customers it has wronged.”

Source: The Hill

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