Southwest Airlines: Planes are flying again; apologies keep coming.

(CNN) — The boss of Southwest Airlines has vowed to “compensate” passengers hit by the company’s disastrous holiday debacle, as the airline followed through on a promise to resume better service on Friday.

“It’s affecting a lot of people — a lot of customers, over the holiday season,” CEO Bob Jordan said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“I’m so sorry about that. There’s almost no way to apologize.”

Jordan said the passenger reimbursement would cover travellers’ expenses, including “car rentals, hotel rooms, meals, booking customers with other airlines — those are the parts we cover.”

“We offer refunds, pay the fee – after that we go back with more money,” he said. “Other than safety, there’s nothing better at the moment than taking care of our customers, reuniting them with their bags, processing refunds.” There are more important things.”

The airline’s difficulties started with a massive cold winter storm, but they lingered — and even worsened — at Southwest as other major airlines recovered. Southwest has canceled nearly 15,800 flights since Dec. 22, a disruption that has shaken the company to its core.

“This is an unprecedented storm for everyone — for all airlines,” Jordan said. “The storm had an impact, but our impact went beyond the storm and obviously it had a very different impact on Southwest Airlines.”

how is the flight on friday

Jordan said the airline would implement its full schedule of about 3,900 flights on Friday. So far, everything is working as promised – things have improved a lot.

As of 2:20 p.m. ET, Southwest had canceled just 43 flights, or just 1% of its total, flight-tracking site FlightAware showed.

In fact, these are the best days to fly since a winter storm first ravaged much of the United States just before Christmas. As of 2:20 p.m. ET, only 118 flights had been canceled on Friday. As for delays, there were about 2,850 in the US. Southwest Airlines accounts for about 460 of them.

As for Saturday, as of 3:20 p.m. ET Friday, Southwest had not issued any cancellation notices, and the US had only 20.

Southwest launched for customers to submit refund and reimbursement claims for meals, hotels and alternative transportation; and to connect customers to their luggage.

baggage consequences

A Salt Lake City police officer and his K-9 partner check unclaimed luggage at Southwest Airlines baggage claim at Salt Lake City International Airport Thursday.

A Salt Lake City police officer and his K-9 partner check unclaimed luggage at Southwest Airlines baggage claim at Salt Lake City International Airport Thursday.

Rick Baumer/AP

As the planes took off again, there were still mountains of misplaced luggage scattered across the country.

Take Southwest Airlines passenger Lisa Carpenter, for example. After being stuck in Chicago this week, she’s finally back home in Phoenix. She said she received a call from Southwest Airlines Friday morning telling her the missing luggage had arrived at its intended destination and that it would be delivered to her home by FedEx.

“My luggage got to Albany, New York, but I didn’t. I didn’t know what to do, but they didn’t give me a flight. I don’t know how that happened, but I didn’t get to see my family there,” Carpenter said. told CNN.

She also said she plans to buy a tracking device for her luggage before traveling again, and that she hopes to fly with other airlines.

“I would be very skeptical to book Southwest again,” she said. “I was out alone and had to buy new clothes.”

DOT to the Southwest: It’s up to passengers to do the right thing

Senior U.S. government officials are disturbed, to say the least, by how Southwest has come to this point. And they’re asking Southwest to get things right — or face financial consequences.

The DOT formally warned Southwest Airlines on Thursday that it would face consequences if it fails to get stranded and inconvenienced passengers back on track.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote in a letter to Jordan that if the airline does not meet its commitment to reimburse passengers for alternative transportation and provide uniform meals, hotels, refunds and baggage, officials will Take action against the airline.

Penalties include the ability to impose fines.

“Failing to honor this commitment to passengers would be an unfair and deceptive practice,” Buttigieg wrote, referring specifically to alternative travel reimbursements.

“The department will use its fullest investigative and enforcement powers to hold Southwest Airlines accountable if it fails to comply with its commitment to pay for alternative transportation for passengers.”

These fines can be substantial.

“Airlines have told me they’re going to go above and beyond what’s being asked of them,” Buttigieg said in an interview with NBC News on Thursday. “I want to make sure they do, and if they don’t, we’re going to have tens of thousands of dollars in fines per passenger per violation.”

Regrets and Repairs

A passenger checks luggage in the baggage claim area inside a Southwest Airlines terminal in St. Louis. Louis Lambert International Airport on Wednesday.

A passenger checks luggage in the baggage claim area inside a Southwest Airlines terminal in St. Louis. Louis Lambert International Airport on Wednesday.

Jeff Robertson/AP

The airline’s chief commercial officer, Ryan Green, on Thursday lamented the collapse in service and pledged to rebuild customer relationships that have hit rock bottom.

“My personal apology is the first step in making things right after many plans have changed and the experience has not met your expectations for us,” Green said in a video.

“We’re continuing to work hard to remedy this for you, and you’ll continue to hear about that soon. But for now, we’re focused on restoring the level of reliability and customer experience we expect from ourselves, you expect or us.”

His comments came as Buttigieg offered his own scathing assessment of Southwest’s troubles, calling the situation a complete “collapse.”

“There’s a company here that needs to do a lot of cleaning up,” he said.

People want to know: what causes this?

Ask the employees of Southwest Airlines about their company’s technology. You won’t get many good reviews.

While Southwest has grown from a Texas-based low-cost carrier operating three planes to one of the largest U.S. airlines, union officials representing Southwest workers say the company has not kept pace with technological change pace of. They said they had expressed concerns for years.

“We’ve been bawling at them every year since 2015,” Mike Santoro, captain and vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told CNN.

They and the airline itself described an internal process that required multiple departments to manually redesign the airline’s schedules — a system that worked “the vast majority of the time,” the airline said in a statement.

When things go wrong, Southwest software — including crew scheduling system tools — leaves much of the work of rebuilding that fragile network to manual work.

some understanding passengers

Some passengers took it all in stride and expressed some sympathy for Southwest.

Several people at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport spoke to CNN’s Nick Valencia on Thursday about their experiences traveling with Southwest Airlines this holiday season.

“I mean, it’s just par for the course. It’s air travel and everyone’s trying to get everywhere at the same time. Unfortunately, Southwest has borne the brunt of this year’s travel misfortune,” Roderick Heath told CNN.

Asked what he thought of the lack of queues at the Southwest counter at the airport, Histor said: “Maybe it’s an indication of the improvements they’re trying to make because there’s no long queues and people don’t complain here. So , and perhaps you know that the effort to redeem yourself is working.”

Winston Williams, who was standing near Heist, said he intended to continue using the airline in the future. “I love Southwest. I mean, the bags are free,” Williams said.

Damaged reputation

Bride-to-be Katie Demko talks to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins about missing her wedding in Belize after Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights experience.

But many still have a hard line on Southwest.

Elaine Chao, who served as transportation secretary during the Trump administration, described Southwest’s outage as an “incredible failure.”

She told CNN it was “a perfect storm of everything that’s going on with the company. It’s taken them a long time” to rebuild consumer trust, she added.

Phil Dengler, co-founder of travel advice site The Vacationer, agrees.

“It will take a long time for Southwest to regain public trust. While extreme weather has affected other airlines, Southwest has had a real meltdown at the worst possible time,” he told CNN Travel in an email Thursday. Say.

“A large percentage of Americans only fly once a year and they want a hassle-free experience. I’m sure a lot of people stop when they book their next flight and they think Southwest is the cheapest option,” Dengler said .

“While low prices are tempting, this breakdown will lead many travelers to explore other low-cost options.”

what the client should do

Dengler cautioned against handling these promised chargebacks.

“Southwest said, ‘We will accommodate reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotels and alternative transportation,'” he said. “While Southwest has been vague about the amount they will reimburse, I would avoid any expensive hotels or restaurants. Use Google Hotels to search for nearby hotels near the airport where you are stranded.”

He also cautioned against piling up large bills.

“Do some Google searches like ‘free activities near me’. I doubt Southwest will reimburse travel or other paid activities, so I wouldn’t book any expensive excursions you can’t afford.”

CNN’s Andy Rose, Andi Babineau, Adrienne Broaddus, Dave Alsap, Nick Valencia, Devon Sayers, David Goldman, Leslie Perrot, Carlos Suarez, Karla Cripps and Ross Levitt contributed to this story.

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