Southwest Airlines moves quickly after sale problems

6:48 AM, Aug 7, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- What started as a large-scale airfare discount celebration for Southwest Airlines last week, quickly turned into a discounting nightmare.

Southwest customers responded instantly Friday to what the airline called "an amazing deal" -- a 24-hour 50 percent off sale to celebrate 3 million Southwest fans on Facebook.

The response overwhelmed the computers and combined with a technical software glitch, caused thousands of customers to be billed as many as 40 times for the same airfare purchase.

Southwest is now issuing credit card refunds and paying overdraft fees on debit cards, but lingering credit issues could face customers who used debit cards.

"If the charge is not reversed quickly then it could affect your credit score. So you should check it out, talk to a banker and watch your account," said Jay Lawrence of Wells Fargo Bank in Atlanta.

But despite the airfare debacle, Southwest is getting high marks from marketers.

"I think they've responded quickly. They've acknowledged fault quickly and told the consumer what they are going to do, which is what the consumer wants. (Southwest) handled it textbook perfect," said Dr. Kenneth Bernhardt, Georgia State University marketing professor.

If no credit issues surface, a bumpy takeoff will end with a smooth landing, with each Southwest passenger that was overcharged getting a $150 Southwest travel voucher.

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