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According to federal legislation, stranded travelers have some rights



Indianapolis, Indiana – Southwest Airlines’ responsibility will depend on how well it adheres to its customer service plan, according to a Friday airline industry expert.

After days of cancellations due to last week’s winter storm, the Texas-based low-cost carrier’s operations resumed on Friday. On December 28, 59 percent of Southwest’s domestic flights were canceled, versus just 3 percent for other major airlines. Airlines are susceptible to cascading failures, as occurred last week, according to Jeff Prince, an IU Kelley School of Business professor of business economics who researches airline performance.

“Airlines are very complicated networks and even sophisticated systems can have a snowball effect where things break down in one area and you can just have this ripple effect,” he said.

According to Prince, there are few laws governing passengers’ rights. Airlines are required by the U.S. Department of Transportation to reimburse passengers for canceled flights if they don’t rebook. There is no set definition of what constitutes a large delay, however, passengers who endure delays that are significant may also be eligible for compensation. The airline is required to reimburse you for the contents of your lost luggage. The airline is required to reimburse you for any additional expenses spent as a result of the delay. The maximum domestic flight refund in both situations is $3,800.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urged Southwest Airlines CEO Robert Jordan in a letter sent on Thursday to uphold the commitments his business had made, including providing accommodations for travelers, paying for alternate forms of transportation, and reconnecting customers with misplaced bags. According to Prince, there are few federal standards governing the kind of customer service that airlines must offer, but there are demands that they keep their promises. He said that the degree to which the business attempted to adhere to its plan would determine your eligibility for compensation.

“It’s always good to ask yourself, from what you were told by the company, how does what happened line up with that?” he said. “If you can honestly say to yourself, this was an unfortunate situation but the airline reasonably adhered to its customer service plan, those are the breaks.”

Prince warned that when rebooked passengers compete with regular airline traffic, ticket prices may stay high for some time. He claimed that an increase in last-minute reservations always drives up pricing. He advised that you keep checking in with the airline to see if your misplaced luggage has been found.

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