DOT Warns Southwest Airlines Over Large No. Of Consumer Complaints

The U.S. Department of Transportation has released its updated February 2023 Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR), which includes airline consumer complaint data for December 2022 and calendar year 2022.

In December 2022, DOT received 16,876 airline service complaints from consumers, the third highest total for one month on record. More than half of the complaints were against Southwest Airlines.

DOT said that the 8,729 complaints that consumers lodged against Southwest concerned travel problems that stranded millions.

DOT is in the initial phase of a rigorous and comprehensive investigation into this incident and has made clear to Southwest that it must provide timely refunds and reimbursements and that the Department will hold the airline accountable if it fails to do so.

DOT is also probing whether Southwest engaged in unrealistic scheduling of flights which under federal law is considered an unfair and deceptive practice. DOT said it will leverage the full extent of its investigative and enforcement powers to ensure consumers are protected.

Of the 16,876 complaints received in December, 13,912 were against U.S. carriers, 2,542 were against foreign air carriers, and 415 were against travel companies.

A huge increase of 155 percent was recorded in the number of complaints DOT received in December when compared to the previous month, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report.

More than half of the complaints received in December were regarding cancellations, delays, or other deviations from airlines’ schedules.

Most of the 8,857 flight problems complaints that DOT received were against Southwest.

DOT said that its Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, or OACP, routinely monitors airlines’ operations to ensure that they are not engaging in unrealistic scheduling of flights. OACP also contacts airlines with widespread cancellations or delays to make clear their obligation to promptly refund passengers who choose not to accept the alternative offered for a canceled or significantly changed flight.

OACP has reminded airlines of their obligation to adhere to their customer service plan that identifies the services that the airline provides to mitigate passenger inconveniences resulting from flight cancellations and misconnections. The Department said it monitors airlines’ actions and reviews complaints to ensure that consumers’ rights are not violated.

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