Southwest Airlines has long been known for its commitment to excellent customer service, even during hard times. This airline has proven that even in the face of adversity, a company can take care of its customers and improve its brand image.
One of the ways that Southwest Airlines has been able to do this is by putting its customers first. In the early days of the pandemic, when air travel came to a screeching halt, Southwest Airlines was one of the first airlines to offer refunds or credits to its customers, no questions asked. This move was not only the right thing to do, but it also improved the airline’s reputation and solidified its commitment to excellent customer service.
Another way that Southwest Airlines has been able to improve its brand during hard times is by being transparent with its customers. When flights were canceled or schedules were changed due to the pandemic, Southwest Airlines was quick to communicate with its customers, providing timely updates and information about the situation. By being honest and open with its customers, Southwest Airlines was able to build trust and loyalty, even in the face of adversity.
Additionally, Southwest Airlines has been able to improve its brand image by focusing on what it does best: providing excellent customer service. Even during the pandemic, Southwest Airlines continued to go above and beyond to ensure that its customers had a positive travel experience. From providing hand sanitizer and masks to offering flexible booking options, Southwest Airlines proved that it was committed to taking care of its customers, even in the face of difficult circumstances.
Southwest Airlines recently faced a significant meltdown during the holiday season, which raised questions about its customer loyalty and future prospects. However, despite this, recent reports show that travelers are not shying away from flying Southwest.
After the debacle of the holiday season, Southwest Airlines pledged to refund travelers whose flights were canceled and reimburse customers for additional expenses like last-minute flights on other airlines, rental cars, hotels, and meals. Over a month later, Southwest announced that it had managed to reunite all passengers with their lost luggage, processed almost all refunds, and responded to 80% of the reimbursement requests submitted by customers.
While Southwest agreed to honor “reasonable requests” for reimbursement, the airline did not provide any explanation for what it would consider reasonable. However, Ryan Green, the chief commercial officer of the airline, admitted that evaluating the claims is a “subjective” process. The executives directed the employees to “be generous in that regard and lean towards the customer.”
For travelers who submitted reimbursement requests, the payout amounts have varied. One traveler asked for $750 to cover the expenses of a one-way rental car, gas, meals, and hotels for a last-minute drive from Seattle to Phoenix. Southwest granted them $1,000, which was more than they had requested. On the other hand, another traveler received a refund for their canceled flight, but the airline shorted their request for reimbursement by approximately $37 – the amount they paid to fill up a rental car with gas. Some customers are still waiting to hear back from the airline.
The airline noted a slowdown in bookings and an increase in flight cancellations for January and February, which it attributed primarily to the holiday travel disruptions. However, CEO Bob Jordan said that booking trends are improving for March, particularly for leisure travel. This is a positive sign that customers are still interested in flying with Southwest despite the holiday season debacle.
As a gesture of goodwill, Southwest proactively issued 25,000 Rapid Rewards points to any customer whose flight was canceled or significantly delayed between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2. This has been received positively by customers, with 25% of those impacted customers already booking future travel on Southwest, either with those points or with cash.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has started a “rigorous and comprehensive” investigation into Southwest’s meltdown. The agency is investigating whether the airline scheduled more flights than it could realistically handle, which would be a violation of federal laws against deceptive trade practices. However, Southwest has maintained that its holiday flight schedule was “thoughtfully designed” and that the airline had ample staffing for the busy holiday travel season. The airline is cooperating with the federal investigation.
While Southwest’s holiday season meltdown may have raised questions about its customer loyalty and future prospects, recent reports show that travelers are still interested in flying with the airline. The proactive steps taken by Southwest to address the situation, including issuing Rapid Rewards points to impacted customers, have been positively received by customers. While the federal investigation is ongoing, Southwest’s cooperation and defense of its holiday flight schedule may help it retain its loyal customer base and move forward from this incident.