A Southwest Airlines passenger has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the Texas-based airline, claiming that the carrier did not refund his tickets after a flight cancellation left him stranded with his daughter in New Orleans, Louisiana. The action against Southwest comes amidst a period of severe disruption, with the airline having cancelled thousands of flights following a harsh winter storm that swept across the U.S. over the Christmas holiday weekend.
Passenger Eric Capdeville was due to fly with Southwest from New Orleans to Portland on December 27th, but upon arrival to the airport was informed that his flight had been cancelled. Capdeville was offered credit towards a future flight with the airline, but not a refund or any expense reimbursement. Capdeville’s lawsuit, filed in New Orleans’ federal court on December 30th, argues that Southwest Airlines is in breach of section nine of the Contract of Carriage, which states that if the carrier cancels the flight due to service interruptions, they must “transport the passenger at no additional charge on the carrier’s next flight” to their destination, or “refund the unused portion of the passenger’s fare”.
Southwest Airlines suffered a system-wide meltdown over the holiday period as they struggled to respond to the bomb cyclone which gripped the U.S., causing blizzard conditions, with strong winds and heavy precipitation. From the 21st through to the 29th of December, Southwest reduced approximately 45% of its operations, according to FlightAware. The airline has cited staffing shortages and outdated scheduling software as the source of the operational meltdown; Southwest employees faced difficulty in planning a new flight timetable due to the extent of cancellations.
The airline now faces scrutiny from passengers and stakeholders alike, and in response to the criticism directed at the airline, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan announced: “We have plans to invest in tools and technology and processes, but there will be immediate work to understand what lessons are learned here and how we keep this from ever happening again, because it cannot happen again,”.
Southwest is yet to make a direct comment on Capdeville’s lawsuit. However, the airline said in a statement that “there are several high priority efforts underway to do right by our customers, including processing refunds from canceled flights, and reimbursing customers for expenses incurred as a result of the irregular operations.”.
Yet many passengers are still expressing their frustration with the airline, to the extent that the U.S. Department of Transportation intervened and warned Southwest of the consequences it will face if it fails to reimburse passengers in line with its own contract and with federal law. Eric Capdeville’s lawsuit is now seeking damages for all passengers whose flights were cancelled and who were not booked on alternate flights or refunded their fare or other travel expenses from December 24th onward.
The case is Capdeville v Southwest Airlines Co, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 22-05590.
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