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Southwest fined for late, incomplete action on consumer complaints

Southwest Airlines was fined $150,000 Wednesday for failing to respond to consumer complaints in a timely fashion, the Department of Transportation announced.

Federal enforcement officers found that the Dallas-based airline did not answer "a large number" of disability-related and other consumer complaints filed on its website from June 2011 through January 2012. Further, the agency said, when the airline did respond, it was late and it did not include information specifically required by transportation department regulations.

Southwest and subsidiary AirTran are the largest carriers at BWI Marshall Airport, responsible for 71 percent of commercial passenger traffic. The federal order did not indicate how many complaints were involved or where the passengers were from.

The airline said a website technical glitch caused complaints to be mis-routed. Once it discovered the problem it assigned employees to work "around the clock" to contact the customers and issued refunds to those affected.

The transportation department and Southwest "reached a settlement of this matter to avoid litigation," the order said.

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