Southwest Airlines Owes Passengers 5.8 Million Free Drinks

Two years ago, Southwest Airlines abruptly changed the rules of its Business Select program, which allows travelers to breeze through security, get to the front of the boarding line, earn extra reward points, and, most importantly, get free booze.

Before August 1, 2010, could use their free drink vouchers whenever. After August 1, the airline decided they could only be used on the day of travel that was printed on them.

This apparently enraged Chicago attorney Adam Levitt, who, according to the Chicago Tribune, filed a class action lawsuit claiming that Southwest had screwed him and untold other Business Select passengers out of their free drinks.

The airline finalized a settlement this week, the Tribune reports and covers the period between October 2007 and August 2010. Customers who earned vouchers during that time, or say they did, are eligible for a new one that will be good for a year.

All of this means there will be a lot of booze flowing on Southwest Airlines flights. According to the settlement, there are 5.8 million unredeemed vouchers from the period in question. At $5 a pop, that'll cost Southwest more than $29 million. It should also make for an interesting holiday traveling season.