Southwest Airlines experienced a week-long meltdown around Christmas and the New Year (read more here) after their crew scheduling automation collapsed due to insufficient funding and development, resulting in the cancellation of tens of thousands of flights.
Southwest Airlines has deposited 25,000 Rapid Rewards points for each affected passenger, promised to fully refund affected tickets, and reimburse expenses incurred due to Southwest Airlines IT under-investment.
You can access Southwest Airlines here.
Southwest Airlines sent out an email blast to all Rapid Rewards members, supposedly coming from the airline’s CEO, telling what they are doing trying to ensure that nothing like this would ever happen again:
Southwest Airlines hubless model partially attributed to the mess they ended up in, in addition to the insufficient investment into crew assignment automation (crew members had to call the airline and speak to have them assigned).
The airline doesn’t have interline and ticketing agreements with other airlines that would have allowed them to rebook some affected passengers with airlines that operated flights. However, this would not have helped a lot because all airlines’ flights tend to be full between Christmas and the New Year.
The real problem is that there is no incentive for airlines, not just Southwest, to ensure that the system doesn’t collapse every once in a while.
They are not required to provide adequate compensation in terms of cash payment to affected passengers like European airlines must per law (EC 261/2004).