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AAA says Southwest passengers are entitled to fare refunds

AAA Arizona is reminding Southwest Airlines passengers of their rights following nationwide delays and cancellations by the airline that began over the weekend.

Spokesperson Aldo Vasquez says the U.S. Department of Transportation mandates that airlines offer refunds to customers in certain situations, “when the airline cancels the passenger’s scheduled flight or makes a significant schedule change and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier.”

As of 3 p.m. Monday, over 20 Southwest flights at Sky Harbor had been canceled and more than 140 were delayed.  

The company blamed weather and air traffic control for a snowballing effect of cancellations that started Friday evening and issued the following statement:  

“We experienced weather challenges in our Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend, challenges that were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, triggering delays and prompting significant cancellations for us beginning Friday evening. We’ve continued diligent work throughout the weekend to reset our operation with a focus on getting aircraft and Crews repositioned to take care of our Customers.

With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, recovering during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged.

We’re working diligently to accommodate our Customers as quickly as possible, and we are grateful for their patience. We’re offering Customers added flexibility to explore self-service rebooking options on  Southwest.com, where they can get updates on the status of their travel. We know the frustration flight cancellations are creating for our Customers and Employees and we apologize, and we again thank everyone for patience as we work first to be safe, and second to be as quick as possible in solving disrupted plans.”

Last week, the airline joined other carriers in requiring most of its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to the carrier’s CEO Gary Kelly, “Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination directive. Southwest employees must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 or face termination. I encourage all Southwest Employees to meet the federal directive, as quickly as possible, since we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all.”

The airline said exemptions will be made for employees who have medical or religious reasons to oppose the vaccine.

Tom Maxedon was the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition from 2017 to 2024.