Mechanical = Force majeure on SWA


#1

SWA just modified their contract of carriage, redefining “force majeure” to include mechanical breakdowns. “Force majeure” usually means mishaps that are outside the control of the airline, such as weather, earthquakes, war, and ATC snarls. But interestingly, now it includes things like hydraulic and electrical problems, which surely the airline can control (mostly) with its maintenance practices.

“Force Majeure Event means any event outside of Carrier’s control, including, without limitation, acts of God, meteorological events, such as storms, rain, wind, fire, fog, flooding, earthquakes, haze, volcanic eruption or any other event, including, without limitation, government action, disturbances or potentially volatile international conditions, civil commotions, riots, embargoes, wars, or hostilities, whether actual, threatened, or reported, strikes, work stoppage, slowdown, lockout or any other labor related dispute involving or affecting Carrier’s service, mechanical difficulties, Air Traffic Control, the inability to obtain fuel, labor or landing facilities for the flight in question or any fact not reasonably foreseen, anticipated or predicted by Carrier.”

I first saw this on Joe Sharkey’s High Anxiety blog, which quotes an AZ Daily Star article.
And it turns out somebody has already posted that article to Squawks.

How long until someone challenges this in court? Will it hold up? And why is the airline that prides itself on giving the customer a square deal and great service, now innovating on weaseling out of the consequences for its maintenance habits? :confused:


#2

As I responded in another forum, we can therefore expect SWA to add the following to the “Act of God” exclusions in their Contract of Carriage:

  1. Running out of fuel in flight.

  2. Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).

  3. Midair Collision.

  4. Their inability to seat 300 passengers in a 150 passenger aircraft. (This, of course, is SWA’s “Musical Chairs” seating procedure. “Boarding will commence when you hear the music begin. When the music stops, those fortunate enough to have fought their way to a seat will be allowed to fly with us today. Those standing, better luck next time.”)


#3

For the record, I have raved about SWA’s service. However, recently, they have engaged in practices which I deem “sleazy.”

For one, when buying a non “wanna get away” (I never buy them) fare, upon selecting that fare class, they say “This fare is no longer available, the new price is…” Usually only $5.00 more, but why not tell me that to begin with?

As a ridiculously frequent flier, I have tried to redeem my multiple rewards months in advance, and have been denied. Really? Two months notice to go from PHL-MDW and the Rapid Rewards is NOT available?

The new standby policy stinks, before you could fly standby anytime you wanted, I would buy the last flight out of PBI, as a backup, and just show up at the airport, if there was room, I would get on. Now, in order to fly standby, you have to have purchased the highest fare available, or be charged $30 per seat to get on the standby list.

The people you deal with are still great, but as a business traveler, i am turned off by being nickel and dimed by the airlines, that is why I go out of my way to fly SWA, but those days are coming to an end I think.

Bottom line, the service is great, please charge me enough to make a fair profit, but don’t mess with me when I am stuck, that is what I remember.


#4

here’s southwest’s response in their blog

Southwest Airlines Addresses Misinterpretation Regarding Contract of Carriage
Wed, 07/28/2010 - 13:42 ? Brian Lusk

Some of you may have noticed recent news stories regarding a minor change that we made to our Contract of Carriage(CoC) verbiage, regarding Force Majeure Events. Unfortunately, early news coverage misinterpreted the language of the revision and led to quite a bit of confusion for our Customers. Southwest has never defined Force Majeure Events in our CoC, so the verbiage is brand new, though the practice is not. In general, a Force Majeure Event refers to something that is outside of our control. We included “mechanical difficulties” as part of our Force Majeure list - referring to events such as airport mechanical difficulties (e.g., the airport de-icing system breaks) or Air Traffic Control issues (e.g., airport or regional tower goes down). We are not referring to our own aircraft maintenance difficulties, which would clearly be under our control.

We also included events that we consider an “act of God” (meteorological events) under Force Majeure in our new CoC verbiage. Although we consider both items (third-party mechanical difficulties and meteorological happenings) Force Majeure events, we do not consider any type of mechanical difficulty an “act of God”. Although we understand the confusion, these are actually separate items in the CoC verbiage.

The important message for Customers is none of our procedures have changed. We still accommodate you exactly the same as we did prior to adding the verbiage.

That being said, we heard you! We realize our newest CoC addition could use clarification, so we made a few tweaks to help it read more clearly:

Force Majeure Event: Whenever advisable due to Force Majeure Events outside of Carrier?s control, including, without limitation acts of God, meteorological events, such as storms, rain, wind, fire, fog, flooding, earthquakes, haze, or volcanic eruption. It also includes, without limitation, government action, disturbances or potentially volatile international conditions, civil commotions, riots, embargoes, wars, or hostilities, whether actual, threatened, or reported, strikes, work stoppage, slowdown, lockout or any other labor related dispute involving or affecting Carrier?s service, mechanical difficulties by entities other than Carrier, Air Traffic Control, the inability to obtain fuel, airport gates or landing facilities for the flight in question or any fact not reasonably foreseen, anticipated or predicted by Carrier. You can read the full contract of carriage here: southwest.com/travel_center/coc.pdf

We hope that helps clear things up! As always, thanks for your comments and questions!


#5

Uhhh… Never mind!

:slight_smile: Thanks, RW.


#6

Dunno about this. If you buy a ticket from SWA, where is the nickel and diming.

What you describe in flying standby is a change in your original itinerary which requires additional human services to effectuate (you can’t do this online), so why not be charged? Yes it’s a change from the past, but it wouldn’t surprise me that this extra charge isn’t TSA related way behind the scenes.

I fly SWA about 6 times a year, and only on my current upcoming trip the wanna fly away fee wasn’t available so I just went ahead and took the business select or whatever the highest option was (I gete 1/2 credit more for $30). Have you contacted SWA and asked why the option is available on the website when it’s not available when effectuating the ticket transaction?

You must fly in some high demand markets not to be able to cash in your rewards so easily??? My Vegas trip was on a reward and I planned that 3 weeks in advance. For my Baltimore trips, I have been able to cash in 1 week before departure.

Wouldn’t surprise me that YMMV since I am in a low demand market as who in the world would want to vacation in Jackson MS? :smiley: