Southwest ‘Expects' to Resume Full Schedule by Weekend, Promises to Reimburse Customers: CDA

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The Chicago Department of Aviation says that embattled carrier Southwest Airlines could potentially be back to full service by this weekend, with customers eligible for reimbursement for a wide variety of expenses incurred by service issues that plagued travelers nationwide.

Based on what it termed "frequent discussions with Southwest officials," a department press release says the airline expects to be back at full operations by the weekend as it continues to work through the challenges.

"Southwest has increased their overall operations by approximately 20% in the last two days, and based on frequent discussion with Southwest officials, the airline expects to be back at 100% by this weekend," the CDA said in a press release.

Chicago's Midway International Airport is one of the airline's busiest stops, and thousands of travelers were stranded in the city because of the chaotic situation.

Nationwide, thousands of flights have been canceled by the airline this week, as weather wreaked havoc on crew schedules and caused cascading breakdowns in the company’s staffing procedures.

The company says that technology platforms were overloaded by schedule changes, forcing pilots and flight attendants into hours-long waits to speak to scheduling services.

As a result, 60% of the airline’s flights were once again canceled on Wednesday, with another 60% of flights given the axe on Thursday in anticipation of further impacts of the issues.

The CDA says that all baggage being stored at Midway International Airport will be removed and placed into a secured location by the end of the day. Bags will then be transported to their final destinations in the days to come.

To help secure that baggage, the CDA has shifted security personnel from O’Hare to Midway.

Finally, Southwest has pledged to reimburse “reasonable” expenses related to the flight cancellations, including hotels, rental cars, meals, and tickets to travel with other airlines.

The company will also refund fares and other charges for canceled flights.

The challenges experienced by travelers this week have had a massive impact on the industry. Southwest’s stock price is down more than 10% on Wall Street, and the Department of Transportation says it is looking into whether the carrier is fulfilling its obligations to customers.

The CDA says that it has urged the company to “better communicate with the public” on reimbursements and flight cancellations.

Customers desperate to get to their destinations have booked up rental cars and seats on trains and buses in the days following the travel issues.

Several major carriers, including Delta, American and United, all capped fares for some impacted travelers, with Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg urging them to do so.

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