Southwest compensating passengers with 25K points each as a goodwill gesture (check your email!)


Southwest Airlines is compensating at least some passengers who caught caught up in the crazy Southwest Airlines meltdown over the holidays by sending out apology points. If you were scheduled to fly during that fiasco, check your email for the subject line “A message from Southwest CEO Bob Jordan”: I just received such an email and I’m seeing similar reports from readers in our Frequent Miler Insiders Facebook group. It appears that Southwest is compensating passengers with codes for 25,000 Rapid Rewards points per passenger as a goodwill gesture, but the subject line doesn’t indicate that’s what’s inside, so I wanted to send out this alert for readers ASAP. This is on top of their efforts at reimbursements announced last week, not in place of it. That amounts to more than $300 worth of points per passenger and at least in my case it’s more than quadruple the original cost of my flight. I’m sure that this won’t be enough for everyone, but it is yet another step in the right direction.

Note that if you haven’t yet received the email, don’t panic. I saw reports coming in our Facebook group a little while before the email arrived in my inbox, so it seems the emails are going out on some sort of a rolling basis.

Not quite the last row, but close.

As noted at the top, the subject line of the email Southwest is sending says “A message from Southwest CEO Bob Jordan”. I know that’s the kind of email I’ll usually skip over in my inbox — and truth be told, if I hadn’t seen Facebook group members posting about this, I probably would have skipped over that email too. I wanted to publish a quick post about this because rather than just credit your account with points, Southwest is providing codes that you must redeem to get the points.

Here’s the email in its entirety:

In my case, we had four passengers on a reservation that Southwest cancelled on 12/24, so I got 4 codes. One group member posted that they received 9 codes for 9 passengers on an itinerary and another posted that she received the codes for a flight that she proactively cancelled before Southwest cancelled it. That data point is interesting as I wouldn’t have expected to receive something if you proactively cancelled your flight.

As you can see in the details, it looks like you can deposit the points in anyone’s Rapid Rewards account, which makes the gesture as flexible as possible.

My initial reaction was that it was a shame to offer codes that customers need to redeem since passengers must take action to redeem the points — at first glance, this seems set up to intentionally cause breakage because some passengers won’t see the email or will delete it or just forget to redeem the codes. However, upon further consideration, I realize that not all passengers have or enter a Rapid Rewards number and some passengers may prefer to have all of the points in one account or another (I’d certainly rather have 100K points in one account than have 25K in each of my kids’ accounts since I have no reasonable way to top up their accounts for an award).

Note that the email is clear that this is a goodwill gesture and that reimbursement efforts are continuing (for more on how to submit for reimbursements, see: Southwest offering reimbursement for “reasonable” expenses). I do not expect that this will replace getting reimbursed for reasonable expenses as a result of the meltdown. Furthermore, I have read some reports of passengers having issues getting refunded for Southwest-cancelled travel. I did not proactively cancel our 12/24 flight and we did not receive an immediate refund of the points used to book, but I noticed that overnight last night Southwest refunded our points for our 12/24 flights. We had paid about 8,000 points per passenger, but my reservation was free as a companion, so that works out to an initial cost of about 6K points per passenger. They’ve already refunded that and now given us 25K points per passenger on top of the refund. If Southwest also reimburses me for gas and hotel to drive to my destination and back home, I’ll forgive them as much as one could since these points more than make me whole along with those reimbursements.

But I’m sure that those who were stranded in more extenuating circumstances probably still won’t be satisfied that Southwest has done enough. That’s certainly understandable and surely fair in many instances. That said, it certainly seems like Southwest is continuing to be proactive in making up for their missteps, so I’m hopeful that those who incurred far more expense will be made whole in the end. Like the extension to Companion Passes and the extra month to finish earning elite status, this is another step in the right direction. Hopefully they really start to hit their stride on reimbursements in short order and fix the issues that caused the meltdown in the first place.

Speaking of those reimbursements, I haven’t yet seen any update about when to expect them, but Southwest’s email confirming receipt of a submitted claim indicated that they were intending to respond within 10 days. That seemed to me like an ambitious turnaround time given the volume of requests they must have to process, but we’ll see when we reach the end of that window whether or not people have begun receiving reimbursements in addition to this goodwill gesture.

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