Aviation News

August 6, 2012

Southwest Half-Price Sale Leads to Website Meltdown, Multiple Charges

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By: BNO News
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Southwest Zuckerbird 737. (Image by Southwest Airlines)
Southwest artists designed a Facebook-styled livery which became known as the 'Zuckerbird.' (Image by Southwest Airlines)
Southwest Airlines said Sunday it has begun initiating refunds for hundreds of customers who were billed dozens of times when booking a flight to take advantage of a limited-time promotion to celebrate the airline reaching three million fans on Facebook.

Southwest Airlines announced a special discount on Friday when it became the first airline to reach three million Facebook fans. Using a promotion code, customers were able to get 50 percent off a roundtrip if they were flying on certain dates in September, October or November.

Many people took advantage of the discount which ended on late Friday evening, but scores of customers were shocked to find their credit cards were charged multiple times. Some customers reported receiving confirmation emails for more than 50 flight tickets, resulting in more than $10,000 in charges on their credit cards.

Southwest Airlines scrambled to fix the computer glitch and called in additional staff, but many customers reported being on hold for hours before being able to get through to customer service. Some affected customers also reported financial problems due to the multiple charges, including drained checking accounts, bounced checks, overdrawn credit limits and canceled bank cards.

“The overwhelming response from Customers who took advantage of our August 3 limited time offer created website performance issues at various times during the weekend,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement late Sunday. “Our Employees worked tirelessly to resolve the issue and have confirmed that the duplications are no longer occurring.”

The airline said it has identified all customers who were affected and has begun initiating refunds. “These refunds are currently being processed, but timing will vary depending on the individual bank,” the statement said. “If a refund has not yet posted to your account, we recommend contacting your bank – they will be able to provide the quickest update regarding pending refunds.”

For customers who used a debit card, Southwest Airlines said it will process a reimbursement for overdraft fees that were caused by duplicate charges. “If you incurred overdraft fees, please fax documentation of those fees via a letter from your bank or a copy of your account showing the fees,” the statement added.

Some customers said their initial reservation was also canceled, but Southwest Airlines said they will be restored with the special discount price. “We have heard Customer concerns regarding cancellation of their original reservation and have instructed our Employees to restore the itinerary, honoring the original fare,” the airline said.

UPDATE: Southwest is also providing $150 flight vouchers to affected customers.