Lawsuit against Southwest Airlines may result in big payday, but not for angry customers

Nick Natario Image
Thursday, January 5, 2023
Southwest lawsuit may bring big payday, but not for angry travelers
If you had a flight canceled through Southwest Airlines, you might find out about the lawsuit even if you don't contact an attorney.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Following the days of Southwest Airlines' flight cancellations, a lawsuit has been filed, but legal experts caution there could be a big payday, and it's not for angry customers.

More than 15,000 Southwest flights were canceled during the holiday week. One of those cancellations triggered a new federal lawsuit.

A Louisiana man flying to Oregon last week had his flight canceled. He said Southwest only offered credits and not a refund.

To get money, he filed a lawsuit in federal court.

"Let's be clear, this is not, not, not, not going to be a windfall for the plaintiffs and people that were damaged on this case," attorney, Steve Shellist explained. "The lawyers that head up the class action, they'll do OK."

Shellist said this is because the lawsuit goes after Southwest for money lost in flights and other expenses. It doesn't go after Southwest for the pain and anguish caused by people not being able to get home for the holidays.

"Usually, when you're going to get damages for mental anguish, at least in Texas, it's got to be tied to some sort of physical type of injury," Shellist explained.

Federal leaders said if a flight was canceled, Southwest must issue a refund within seven business days if they paid by credit card. Southwest said it will also reimburse customers for meals, hotels, and other transportation.

If you had a flight canceled, you may find out about the lawsuit, even if you don't contact an attorney.

"I would imagine people are going to start to get letters in the mail and correspondence from the law firm asking if they want to join this lawsuit," Shellist said.

Customers said Southwest has offered reward points for missed flights. Legal experts advise reading everything before you accept anything, because you may not be able to take the airline to court if you accept compensation.

Even if you go that route, keep in mind that the lawyers, not the passengers, may be the ones who win big in court.

"They'll be lucky to get back what they're out-of-pocket," Shellist explained. "That's it. Not much more."

The lawsuit was filed in Louisiana, but you don't have to live there to join it. Legal experts say you could hire your own attorney or contact the ones who have already filed. If you're interested in details, call the attorney and ask how long they expect it to take, and exactly what you could get back in compensation.

Eyewitness News reached out to Jim Hall Law Firm, who filed the lawsuit, for a comment but did not hear back. We also reached out to Southwest, and while the airline didn't say anything about the lawsuit, it did send the following statement.

"There are several high-priority efforts underway to do right by our Customers, including processing refunds from canceled flights, and reimbursing customers for expenses incurred as a result of the irregular operations. We have a long and proud 51-year history of delivering on our customers' expectations, and we are committed to the all-important imperative of taking care of them during operational disruptions. In fact, on Dec. 28, we launched a website to assist customers with requesting refunds and reimbursements, and those requests are being processed and issued.

If your flight was canceled, you can request a refund on Southwest's website.

For updates on this story, follow Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.