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Southwest offers frequent flyer miles while too much luggage remains in limbo

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Southwest Airlines planes are at Baltimore Washington International Airport on December 28. It could be up to two full weeks after the start of Southwest Airlines’ schedule collapse before some passengers see their bags again. (Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

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DALLAS — Southwest Airlines is offering a new reprieve to some customers after last week’s glut of cancellations, while the misplaced luggage fiasco could last for days longer.

On Tuesday, Southwest informed some passengers affected by the Christmas travel collapse that they would receive 25,000 bonus frequent flyer points as a “goodwill gesture.”

In an email from the airline to passengers obtained by CNN, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan wrote that “no amount of apology can undo your experience.”

He said the 25,000 gift points are worth about $300, and the airline told CNN the offer is in addition to refunds and refunds.

“For those who have requested refunds, refunds and/or are waiting to be re-found with lost bag(s), these processes are being handled with great urgency and we appreciate your patience,” Jordan wrote.

The airline said the offer is being extended to travelers with flights canceled or delayed for more than three hours between Christmas Eve and January 2.

luggage in limbo

Meanwhile, it could be up to two full weeks after the start of Southwest Airlines’ schedule collapse before some passengers see their bags again.

In an internal memo to workers obtained by CNN, Jordan says the airline is relying on volunteer employees, working alongside those who normally handle bags, to return lost checked bags to those caught in its big schedule meltdown.

“At our specific stations, we have people volunteering alongside our amazing ground operations team to help scan and ship bags,” Jordan said in Tuesday’s memo.

He added that Southwest has reduced the number of lost bags “by half since Thursday” and the airline is “on track to ship most, if not all, bags to our customers later this week.”

He says Southwest is “working on a variety of ways to streamline the process of getting our customers together with their bags,” including partnering with FedEx and moving bags on Southwest flights as well as other competing airlines.

As for the meltdown itself and how it can be prevented, Jordan told officials: “We owe you these answers.” And they said they are “building an action plan this week”.

Intense scrutiny and a lawsuit for Southwest

The offer and baggage memo come as the airline faces multiple investigations, investor scrutiny and at least one lawsuit over canceling 15,700 flights at a time of peak holiday travel.

The lawsuit, filed by passenger Eric Capdeville, calls the airline’s collapse of operations an “internally created crisis” and accuses the airline of violating federal law and its agreement with passengers “to provide prompt refunds for canceled flights.”

Instead, Capdeville says the airline offered a credit towards a future flight.

Southwest did not respond in court. In a statement provided to CNN, the airline said it had “no information to provide regarding the pending litigation”.

“There are several high-priority efforts underway to do right by our customers, including processing refunds for canceled flights, reimbursing customers for expenses incurred as a result of irregular operations,” Southwest’s statement said.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last week that the Department of Transportation had received “thousands” of complaints from travelers against Southwest about the “operational breakdown” and warned that the department would “penalize Southwest as we would any airline, potentially with tens of thousands of dollars per breach if they fail to do what is required of them to take care of passengers.”

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