Consumer Watchdog

Southwest flights grounded at least temporarily; here’s a reminder of passengers’ rights

Flight board showing cancelled flights
SynthEx |

Today’s announcement that Southwest Airlines grounded all flights this morning because of  technical issues resurrected concern about whether one of the big four airlines is able to offer reliable schedules now and in the future. There are reports the ground stoppage was lifted about 11 a.m. ET for most flights.

But the airline’s schedules are likely to be messed up for at least part of the day. In an update about 12:30 p.m. ET, FlightAware said about 1,800 of Southwest’s planned flights — more than 40% of its schedule — were delayed today. Interestingly, about 30% of Southwest’s flights were delayed on Monday.

It’s important for travelers to know their rights, whatever the circumstances, whether it’s a cancellation, lost baggage, refunds or other issues. Here’s a link to our consumer guide on flyer rights.

Travelers should also know that Southwest is one of the airlines that has made commitments to the U.S. Department of Transportation on consumer protections in cases like these. In cases of cancellations or delays that Southwest could control, the airline has vowed to:

  • Rebook passengers on its own airline.
  • Provide meals or vouchers for delays of three hours or more.
  • Provide hotel accommodations and ground transportation for overnight delays.

Southwest is the only large airline that hasn’t agreed to rebook travelers on another airline at no additional cost in cases such as these.

Any traveler who can’t get acceptable resolution from Southwest or any airline can  file a complaint with the DOT.

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