Southwest Airlines Facebook Promotion Goes Awry

A Southwest Airlines promotion Friday celebrating the carrier’s Facebook like No. 3 million turned into a huge dislike, as a computer error caused several customers to be booked and charged multiple times, with the airline receiving mostly negative reaction to its efforts to remedy the situation.

Southwest announced Friday that travelers booking flights on Southwest.com could enter the promo code “LUV2LIKE” to receive 50 percent off round-trip “Wanna Get Away” fares for the following seven dates, up to 11:59 PT Friday:

  • Sept. 5
  • Sept. 11
  • Sept. 18
  • Sept. 25
  • Oct. 2
  • Oct. 31
  • Nov. 6

But MediaPost reported that several customers were booked and charged multiple times, with Southwest Spokeswoman Ashley Dillon telling MediaPost:

It was an error with our system and we’re taking responsibility for it. We’re working to make sure it never happens again.

Southwest updated customers in a post on its Facebook page:

Update: Overnight effort resolves issue for customers who experienced multiple bookings in error.

The overwhelming response from customers who took advantage of our Aug. 3 limited-time offer created website performance issues at various times during the weekend. Our employees worked tirelessly to resolve the issue and have confirmed that the duplications are no longer occurring. By initiating an “all-hands-on-deck” approach, we have identified all customers impacted and proactively initiated refunds back to their financial institutions for any erroneous bookings. These refunds are currently being processed, but timing will vary depending on the individual bank. 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.

Here is an overview of our current efforts:

  • All erroneous bookings have been identified and refunds are currently being processed for all customers impacted with duplicate bookings.
  • We have heard customer concerns regarding cancellation of their original reservations and have instructed our employees to restore the itinerary, honoring the original fares.
  • For those customers who used debit cards and have received overdraft fees as a result of the additional charges, we will process a reimbursement for all overdraft fees that were caused by duplicate charges from Southwest for a single purchase. 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 to 877-506-0154.

Southwest Airlines is committed to providing customers with exceptional service both online and onboard. Our goal was to resolve this issue as quickly as possible to minimize any inconvenience to you, our valued customers. We will continue to work with each of you on any outstanding issues you may be experiencing. Please contact us at http://southwest.com/feedback.

Some customers were happy with the airline’s efforts, with Diana Griego, of Albuquerque, N.M., posting on the Southwest Facebook wall:

I booked a flight and it booked 10 trips rather than one. I got 39 emails on it, but Southwest Airlines took care of it quickly and professionally. Well worth it!!!

Another Southwest customer who was charged 11 times wrote that she called her credit card company, which called Southwest, “and it was taken care of right away.”

However, CNN.com shared some Facebook posts from customers who weren’t quite as forgiving:

Bobi Fox:

Customers who purchased tonight got no tickets, no confirmation, and many, like me, were charged on their credit cards repeatedly until credit card companies stopped the purchase process — some customers say they have been called by their credit card companies questioning fraud purchases. My credit card might be typical, my purchase was repeated nine times (cost in excess of $2,300 for one pair of round-trip tickets from STL to SLC). This is not unlike what everyone else is experiencing. Current wait time hold with Southwest customer service: more than two hours.

John Seymour:

I had a $4,000 limit on my card. I now have zero available because of 25 confirmations. I called when I was having errors, and the customer-service rep told me the website was slammed, and to keep hitting purchase and it would eventually go through. Looks like all of them went through.

I waited almost three hours last night to speak to someone. Finally got someone on the phone, and I had to remember which specific flights I had picked so that she could look up the flights and cancel the duplicates. She had to send the confirmation for the one flight I did want twice before it ever made it to me. I woke up this morning to 25 or so confirmations, and 25 or so cancellation emails. The charges remain pending on my credit card, so I can’t use that card to book my hotel room in Vegas for my trip. Thanks for ruining my Friday night. Wish I had never seen this deal. And I was so glad when you came to Atlanta.

Bella Ventresca:

‎36 confirmations, over $7,000 in charges to my account, and two hours on the phone with SWA. I thought that this was just me, but apparently SOMEONE really dropped the ball here. PLUS it will take 7-10 days to process returns? Unacceptable.

June Wood:

The flash sale made a nightmare out of my day. It just happened to be on a day that I needed to make arrangements but not one of the flash dates. I was on hold the first time for three-and-a-half hours; then someone picked up the phone and, click, it was gone again. I tried numerous times throughout the day and evening. I was put on hold again for 45 minutes. I was working on the booking from 6 p.m. Aug. 3 until 2 a.m. Aug. 4. The reps seemed to be exhausted and not able to think clearly. Nice try, but don’t repeat.

Steve Kafkas:

I’m a loyal Southwest customer, but at the moment I don’t know that I would risk buying another ticket from Southwest. How about a statement with a few more specifics than, “We’re working on it,” and that hours after the fact? For example, can people really cancel their flights online and get refunds? If so, why not post that here or on your website? If not, then tell people, because there are people suggesting it on this page.

Suzanne Worrell:

I was sympathetic to the situation before I actually spoke with a rep from Southwest who said there was nothing she can do. Southwest will refund the charges when they get to it, and it will take eight to 10 business days before I get my money back. Now I have to call customer relations to get the over-limit fees back, and I was charged interest on the $1,400 on the duplicate charges, and I have to pay for the long-distance fees to call customer relations as they do not have a 1-800 number. SERIOUSLY?!?!? Are you freaking kidding me?

You guys screwed up, took MY money through no fault of my own, and now you are telling me I have to work to get it back and I am gonna be out more money??? For a company that prides itself on customer service, you guys are falling on your face!! I spent more than give hours last night on hold just to be disconnected. I can’t buy groceries or gas because you guys have taken all of my money, and there is nothing you can do about it??? This is CRIMINAL!!! I get there was a glitch, but compensate me, fix it, don’t tell me I have to call someone else on Monday to get it fixed! I am so disappointed and angry at Southwest!

Christine Ylan Ho:

I appreciate your generous sale, but this is the last time I will ever fly Southwest. Maybe you’ve made this mistake yesterday, but the lesson here is how you’ve dealt with it, which is poorly. Good intentions, but you should have been prepared to deal with the ramifications of charging thousands of dollars, especially to those who need access to that money to survive. Egregious really. IMPROVE YOUR RESPONSE TO THIS KIND OF CRISIS. I do not like your Facebook page.

Readers: What should Southwest have done differently once it learned of the erroneous charges?

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