Southwest Airlines recently accepted a $140 million fine afterFlight disruptions hit over 400,000 travelers during the 2022 holiday season. The issue started when an unexpected surge in travelers at Southwest’s Texas hubs overwhelmed their scheduling and customer service departments. Without enough personnel, Southwest had no choice but to cancel more than 4,000 flights. Announced in early March, the settlement was agreed to with the Department of Transportation (DOT) in response to its investigation into the root cause of the problem. The issue seems to have started in October 2020, when Southwest’s Texas hubs experienced a sudden influx in passengers due to the pandemic’s mass layoffs and extended unemployment benefits. Without the proper personnel in place to deal with such sudden changes, Southwest had to cancel multiple flights, resulting in extended wait times and delays. The DOT states that the violations lie with Southwest’s failure to adhere to the international conditions of carriage. This means that Southwest failed to properly warn passengers of the flights disruption, as well as provide accommodations, which resulted in trip interruptions for thousands of travelers. As per DOT’s ruling, Southwest will return to affected customers 2× the ticket price up to $800 — that’s $1,600 per customer. The company will also pay the $140 million fine, of which $110 million is to be returned to compensation for affected travelers, and the remaining $30 million for future consumer remedies and outreach initiatives. Industry experts believe that this settlement will help ensure better accountability from airlines going forward. Thus, travelers can expect better customer service and on-time flights in the future. For its part, Southwest is committed to improving their customer service policies. The company’s new chief operating officer Robert Isom has personally overseen the company’s operational response protocol, which includes improved staffing plans, quicker updates about travel disruptions, and better communication to customers. Given Southwest’s commitment, travelers should feel confident booking flights with the carrier in the future, ensuring that their trips are less disrupted, and that customer service is handled with a much greater degree of respect.