Southwest may spend $75,000 to ‘make it up’ to passengers on plane that slid off runway

Southwest may spend $75,000 to ‘make it up’ to passengers on plane that slid off runway
Southwest Flight 1643 landed in Omaha on Friday as freezing drizzle was coating the city. There were no injuries when the plane slid off the runway. RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD

Passengers of the Southwest Airlines flight that slid off a runway at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield on Friday may have experienced a nerve-racking landing amid freezing drizzle, but as a result they walked away with $500 toward a future flight.

Two passengers said they received the $500 voucher by email Friday evening. If all 150 people aboard Flight 1643 got the same amount, that means Southwest shelled out $75,000.

A Southwest spokesperson said in an email that the company’s customer service team regularly doles out vouchers when things don’t go according to plan.

“It’s not uncommon for them to reach (out) to an entire planeload of people to share an explanation of what happened, an apology and (travel funds) as a gesture of our thanks for their patience and to acknowledge the inconvenience,” the spokesperson wrote. “It invites them to come back and allows us to ‘make it up to them’ on a future Southwest flight.”

The plane landed in Omaha on Friday afternoon as freezing drizzle coated surfaces across the city. The airport was closed for a few hours, and multiple flights were delayed or canceled as crews worked to ensure that the runways were safe.

The aircraft was flown Sunday to Southwest’s maintenance base in Phoenix for a required inspection before it returns to service, the spokesperson said.

Benny Salz, a passenger on the flight who was traveling to Omaha from Los Angeles to visit friends and family, said he didn’t request anything from Southwest; the voucher simply showed up in his email inbox, as did a letter from the company.

The graduate of Central High School and Creighton University said he was appreciative of the gesture, though he was hoping for multiple free flights. “But I’ll take it,” Salz, 30, said.He said he plans to use the voucher to fly his best friend from Omaha to California for a visit.

Michael Rittershaus of Gretna received the same voucher and letter. He said he doesn’t yet have plans for the flight. But based on the weather, Rittershaus said he might want to head somewhere warm.