GW Expert Available: Southwest Airlines offers 25K bonus points to travelers stranded by holiday meltdown

Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 15,000 flights over the holidays after a storm and a breakdown of its internal technology. Now, the company says it’s offering affected customers 25,000 bonus points as a “gesture of goodwill,” according to The Washington Post

If you would like more context on this matter, please consider Larry Yu, professor of hospitality management at the George Washington University. Professor Yu’s current research focuses on hotel market analysis, tourism product value chain analysis, tourist satisfaction and hospitality crisis management.

“This is a colossal, multidimensional corporate management and service failure, embodied in leadership, corporate communications, technology, and a lack of quick service failure management actions to take care of stranded passengers,” Yu says.

Yu adds that there are multiple lessons and takeaways that can be learned from this failure.

“Southwest Airlines needs to refresh its brand by investing in technology. A low-cost carrier does not mean low-tech management systems. Southwest Airlines needs to reevaluate its corporate communications strategy when dealing with management crises: not just reporting how many flights are cancelled each day, but what actions are taken to care and compensate the passengers.  Southwest should also consider forging a partnership by codesharing, which may alleviate the crisis by moving some of the passengers by its partners during a crisis like this. Any of the above concrete actions and improvement, along with apologies from the senior leadership, will win back customers. Moreover, in addition to timely compensations, one other way to win back passengers is to consider offering extra miles.”

Yu can also discuss the limitations of the federal government in response to Southwest’s meltdown as well as what travelers should know moving forward. 

If you would like to speak with Professor Yu, please contact GW Media Relations Specialist Cate Douglass at [email protected].