Southwest Bills Customers Multiple Times In Failed Facebook Promotion

To celebrate its 3 millionth Facebook like — perhaps the most useless metric in social media — Southwest Airlines announced a half-price fare sale. But when some people tried to take advantage of the deal, they ended up having their credit and debit cards dinged with multiple charges.

One woman tells the AP she was billed twenty (20!) times for a $69.60 ticket. She said the Southwest website froze up when she went to finish her purchase of the ticket. And when she didn’t get a confirmation e-mail, she looked at her credit card account and saw the many, many charges from Southwest.

She, along with lots of others, tried contacting Southwest by phone but could not get through.

Earlier today, the airline, which tells the AP it wasn’t a hack but a “technology glitch in our system,” released a statement on its Facebook page:

The overwhelming response from Customers who took advantage of our August 3 limited time offer launched to celebrate three million Fans on Facebook, created website performance issues at various times during the day. We realize that some Customers were charged more than once for the same reservation and we want to ensure you that we have all hands on deck, actively working to process refunds for any duplicate charges incurred.

Here is a status of those efforts:

First, we want you to know that we are working to identify duplicate bookings and charges and are proactively cancelling those additional reservations, actively processing refunds to the Customer. In order to process the refunds as quickly as possible, we have called in additional staff to support these efforts.

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. It is our goal to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and minimize any inconvenience to you, our valued Customers.
The airline’s 800-number was busy and she said its website made no mention of the mix-up or suggestions about what to do late Friday, but when she got on Facebook she learned she was not alone.

While many debit card customers are understandably angry it can take 8-10 business days for the incorrectly debited funds to be put back in their bank accounts, it should be noted that Southwest can not really do anything about this delay.

This is not airline policy, but is instead a stipulation of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, which states that, upon being told of a possibly erroneous transfer, banks have 10 business days to provisionally credit customers’ accounts.

It’s possible the funds could be returned sooner, but unfortunately that is up to the financial institution and not Southwest.