What happened was this: Southwest offered a 50-percent-off promotion Friday to celebrate reaching 3 million "likes" on its Facebook page. By entering a special code, the Facebook friends could take 50 percent off fares for flights on a handful of dates. But after they booked their flights, something very unfriendly happened: They were charged multiples times for what should have been a half-price ticket.
So, rather ironically, they took to Southwest's Facebook page to complain that they were charged as many as two dozen times or more for a single flight.
"I had a $4,000 limit on my card, I now have zero available because of 25 confirmations," one user posted.
"Your system error was unbelievable and your slow response in crediting your loyal customers' bank accounts is inexcusable," another said.
Others tweeted and blogged about canceled bank cards, bounced checks and overdrawn credit limits after the airline racked up hefty fees for the supposedly discounted flights. When they called Southwest to complain, many said the customer service line had a wait time of over two hours.
Southwest, meanwhile, was very apologetic once alerted to the problem, promising to remedy every issue as quickly as possible by initiating an "all hands on deck" approach.
"The overwhelming response from customers who took advantage of our August 3 limited time offer created website performance issues at various times during the weekend," it said in a statement Sunday. "Our Employees worked tirelessly to resolve the issue and have confirmed that the duplications are no longer occurring."
The airline added that all customers impacted were identified, all refunds are currently being processed and all customers whose original flights were canceled will have their flights restored at the discounted price. Moreover, it said it will process a reimbursement for all overdraft fees caused by duplicate charges from Southwest for a single purchase. But that reimbursement could get tied up in the bank for up to a week, leaving the "several thousands of people" who were impacted in a rough spot.
The Dallas-based airline -- which, incidentally, had over 3.1 million "friends" on Facebook as of Tuesday morning -- offers flights to over 97 destinations, but its "Wanna Get Away" promotion was mostly for short domestic U.S. flights on seven specific travel dates in the fall. The deal, which arrived by e-mail, lasted through midnight Friday and offered fares as low as $29 ... that is, before Southwest's promotional coup turned into a public relations nightmare.