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Call Kurtis: Southwest Billing Glitch Leaves Customers With No Way to Pay Bills - August 9. 2012

Southwest Airlines charged Romona Cobian $11,407 for a ticket to Los Angeles.

“My stomach just flip flopped. I thought ‘oh, what’s going on?’ They’re going to deplete my bank account.”

They did, leaving Cobian with no way to pay her credit card bills, buy gas or even food. Her debit card statements show Southwest charged her 51 times the cost of the $135 airfare and then tacked on a strange additional charge of nearly $4500.

“I had to call my husband. ‘Honey, we have no money in our bank account,’ she recalls telling him.

The billing issue affected customers across the country, although the airline hasn’t told CBS13 how many.

Cobian booked her ticket with a debit card tied directly to her bank account.

In an online statement, Southwest blames the duplicate charges on a “website performance issue” after Friday’s half off sale to celebrate reaching 3-million Facebook fans.

The airline said Saturday it knew of the problem and was processing refunds and would reimburse customers all of their overdraft fees.

Cobian says she didn’t get her refund until Thursday morning. Now late paying a credit card bill, there’s concern the glitch could have a lasting effect.


“In this economy, you can’t afford to have credit problems for the consumer,” said Travel Attorney Al Anolik.

He says when airlines have sales like these; they should know what they’re getting into.

“You need to have enough I.T. people to be able to handle it,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of people calling. Make sure everything’s working.”

Cobian says her bank has erased her overdraft fees.

We asked Southwest if they’ll cover any late fees tied to unpaid bills and let the credit bureaus know it’s the airline’s fault customers couldn’t pay their bills. Southwest has not responded to our questions.

“It’s extreme. It’s just unreasonable. It’s unacceptable,” Ramona said.

(UPDATE) Southwest Airline responded to CBS13 on Friday and said it would pay for people’s late fees if they couldn’t pay bills on time because of this issue and will issue letters for credit bureaus explaining it wasn’t the consumer’s fault they were late.

Cobian says Southwest said she would get a $150 travel voucher. After the headaches, she thinks she deserves more.

Southwest has told customers with issues to contact them.

CBS Sacramento