Southwest fined $35K for mishandling complaints

Southwest Airlines agrees to pay $35,000 fine for slow response to passenger complaints

Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) -- Southwest Airlines Co. will pay $35,000 to settle government accusations that it responded slowly to complaints by passengers, including some with disabilities.

The Transportation Department said that the case involved "a large number" of complaints between June 2011 and January 2012. Southwest said that a problem with its website caused the complaints to be sent to the wrong place.

Federal rules give airlines 30 days to answer disabilities-related complaints.

Southwest was fined $150,000, but $115,000 of the civil penalty will be credited to Southwest for refunds that it gave the affected passengers, according to a consent agreement between the airline and the federal government.

The Transportation Department said it discovered the violations during an April 2012 inspection at Southwest headquarters.

Dallas-based Southwest is the nation's fourth-biggest airline by miles flown by passengers.

Its shares fell 22 cents to $13.48 in afternoon trading.

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