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Southwest says it will reimburse travelers for 'reasonable' expenses during travel meltdown

For many travelers, the cancellations have meant hundreds of dollars in unexpected costs from hotels to alternate travel plans, meals, and replacing essential items in lost luggage.
Southwest Airlines
Posted at 9:58 AM, Jan 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-02 10:58:18-05

MILWAUKEE — Southwest Airlines is now saying it will reimburse people for any additional travel or accommodation costs brought on by the thousands of cancellations over the last several days.

The airline set up a new web page with information about the major travel disruptions. There, the airline says:

"If you have been impacted by a flight cancellation or significant flight delay between December 24, 2022, and January 2, 2023, you may submit receipts for consideration via Email Us on Southwest.com. We will honor reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotel, and alternate transportation."

Many travelers have been stranded for days over the Christmas holiday as flight after flight was canceled. For many travelers, the cancellations have meant hundreds of dollars in unexpected costs from hotels to alternate travel plans, meals, and replacing essential items in lost luggage.

Andrew Pelkey was at the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport on Wednesday checking to see if he could find his daughter's luggage. His daughter is a medical student in Phoenix and was heading back to Milwaukee on Friday to spend Christmas with family.

Pelkey said his daughter's flight on Friday was canceled. She was rebooked on Christmas Eve, but that flight was ultimately canceled too.

"Finally she just brought a one-way ticket on American Airlines to get to Chicago. So I went down and picked her up. So at least she got here for the holidays which is better than most people got," Pelkey said. "We've spent about $900-$950 on flights and driving and such just to accommodate this situation."

southwest reimbursement

Andre Minich and Samantha Skonieczny were on their way back to Milwaukee Tuesday night after spending Christmas in Denver. Their Southwest flight was canceled as well.

But after hearing horror stories from so many, they just didn't want to deal with the airline anymore.

"That's the thing, we knew that we'd possibly be at their will for a whole another day or two," Skonieczny said.

"We just ended up getting the refund for the tickets and then renting a car and driving out here," Minich said.

They had to spend $1,000 on a rental car for one night and drove overnight from Denver to Milwaukee.

Kyle Potter with Thrifty Traveler is advising travelers to save receipts for all those additional costs incurred because of the delays. But, he says what's deemed "reasonable" is solely up to Southwest and you may have to wait weeks or months before seeing that check.

Potter also advises checking any travel insurance that might be associated with the credit card you used to book your original travel.

Finally, if you need to get anywhere in a few days, Potter recommends booking a backup flight with another airline.