Southwest Airlines still struggling to get back to normal after holiday cancellations and delays
Problems at Southwest Airlines continue to plague holiday travelers. The airline canceled more than 60% of flights on Tuesday, including dozens out of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
Wednesday morning, the airline pulled another 2,500 from arrival and departure boards.
In a statement, the airline blamed extreme winter weather for causing havoc over the holiday weekend. A Southwest spokesperson said the airline is trying to catch up and get back to normal safely.
Still, thousands of travelers were left to either wait at airports over the Christmas weekend or find alternative travel arrangements.
According to the FlightAware tracking service, more than 91% of all canceled flights in the U.S. early Wednesday were from Southwest, which has been unable to recover from ferocious winter storms that raked large swaths of the country over the weekend.
The operational systems of Southwest have been uniquely effected, so much so that the federal government is now investigating what happened at the Dallas carrier, which has frustrated its own flight and ground crews as well.
This week, with cancellations from other major airlines ranging from none to 2%, Southwest has canceled nearly 10,000 flights as of Wednesday and warned of thousands more Thursday and Friday, according to FlightAware.
On the heels of wide-scale disruptions, we're working diligently to Safely recover our operation & accommodate displaced Customers & Crews. We know this is unacceptable & sincerely apologize. If your travel was impacted, explore self-service options here: https://t.co/B6L8HR9Yqc pic.twitter.com/mLWndYMned— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) December 28, 2022
In a video that Southwest posted late Tuesday, CEO Robert Jordan said Southwest would operate a reduced schedule for several days but hoped to be “back on track before next week.”
Jordan blamed the winter storm for snarling the airline’s “highly complex” network. He said Southwest's tools for recovering from disruptions work “99% of the time, but clearly we need to double down” on upgrading systems to avoid a repeat of this week.
The airline is now drawing unwanted attention from Washington.
On Tuesday, Congressman Ruben Gallego sent a letter to Southwest’s CEO demanding answers regarding refunds for missed flights, as well as costs incurred due to flight cancellations.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has criticized airlines for previous disruptions, said his agency would examine the causes of Southwest's widespread cancellations and whether the airline was meeting its legal obligations to stranded customers.
“Because what we’re seeing right now, from the system and the flights themselves to the inability to reach anybody on a customer service phone line, it is just completely unacceptable,” Buttigieg told CBS early Wednesday.
The Department of Transportation said on Twitter that it was “concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and reports of lack of prompt customer service.”
In Congress, the Senate Commerce Committee also promised an investigation. Two Senate Democrats called on Southwest to provide “significant” compensation for stranded travelers, saying that the airline has the money because it plans to pay $428 million in dividends next month.