A class-action lawsuit of San Diego families affected by the recent mass Southwest Airlines cancellations in late December and Early January was announced this week, joining several other lawsuits filed nationwide against the company over the holiday cancellations.
The mass number of cancellations at Southwest began on Christmas Eve last month, and continued on into the New Year, with some cancellations continuing on into this week. Due to bad weather at many locations, fatigued crews, a continuing buildup of passengers, and numerous other factors, the number of cancelled flights went from a trickle around Christmas to roughly 60% of their total flights on December 27th. California in particular was affected due to a large number of Southwest going in and out of the state, as well as many of those flights going to airports affected winter storms in the Rockies and Midwest.
By the end of the month, over 15,000 Southwest flights were cancelled, with hundreds of thousands passengers left stranded at their locations and airports all over the U.S., and millions more affected. While many passengers have now made it back home, cancellations have continued, with 204 flights, or 4% of their total flights, cancelled on Monday, and 1% of all flights cancelled on Tuesday. In addition, 43% of Southwest flights are also under delay, with the lingering cancellation hangover still affecting the airline months.
“Cancellations and delays from Monday were related to weather and air traffic control-related issues,” said Southwest Airlines on Thursday. “We resumed normal operations from our operational challenges over the Christmas holiday on Friday of last week.”
The delays brought frustration for passengers, who missed out on spending holidays with families, missed work and school, and felt abandoned by the airline. The lack of refunds have been additional source of frustration in recent days, with a huge backlash now on the company Wednesday for offering affected travelers 25,000 frequent flyer points instead.
As a result, passengers have filed several lawsuits over the delays. In Louisiana, a significant lawsuit was filed on December 30th over Southwest not offering refunds for the cancelled flights. However, another was filed in San Diego County Superior this week by San Diego residents Carla Hill and Cameron Youssef. Instead of being about refunds, the suit says that “regardless of weather conditions, Southwest knew or should have known it could not perform due to woefully inadequate staffing and complete inability to provide services as promised.”
Youssef, who filed after being stranded in Nashville for several days with his wife, and Hill, who bought a ticket for her son in Ohio but never made it due to the delay, hope that the lawsuit will continue forward. As the cancellations affected California more than most other states, those in support of the class-action lawsuit hope it will snowball into a major case.
A class action suit in San Diego
“An airline should not have hung that many people out to dry and abandoned them,” a legal advisor explained. “We’re talking millions nationwide, not just those on the planes, but those awaiting them at home, needing them to come to work, needing them for support, who were gone. So now we have a bunch of suits up, including this one in San Diego that is alleging that Southwest still carried on as usual anyway despite knowing that they couldn’t fulfill everything as needed. It’s a big allegation, but one that many ticket buyers are really believing right now. Southwest has been called “California’s unofficial airline“. But after all those cancellations, strife, and now these suits, that is really now in jeopardy.”
In response to the lawsuits, Southwest said in a statement this week that “There are several high priority efforts under way 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. We have a long and proud 51-year history of delivering on our customers’ expectations, and we are committed to the all-important imperative of taking care of them during operational disruptions. In fact, on Dec. 28, we launched a website to assist customers with requesting refunds, and those requests are being processed.”
More possible action against the airline is likely soon, as cancellations finalize across the U.S.
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