Department of Transportation Working with Southwest to Ensure the Airline ‘Does Not Allow a Situation Like This to Happen Again’

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 16: Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg participates in a “Moving America Forward: A Presidential Candidate Forum on Infrastructure, Jobs, and Building a Better America” at University of Nevada February 16, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. United For Infrastructure held the …
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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke with the CEO of Southwest Airlines, Bob Jordan, amid the ongoing issues and mass cancellations the airline has experienced in the days leading up to Christmas and beyond.

“This afternoon, Secretary Buttigieg spoke with the CEO of Southwest Airlines and conveyed that he expects the airline to live up to the commitments it has made to passengers, including providing meal vouchers, refunds and hotel accommodations for those experiencing significant delays or cancellations that came about as a result of Southwest’s decisions and actions,” the department said in a statement, adding that the airline is also “obligated to provide a cash refund for passengers whose flights were cancelled and decided not to travel.”

Passengers wait in line to check in for their flights at Southwest Airlines service desk at LaGuardia Airport, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in New York. The U.S. Department of Transportation says it will look into flight cancellations by Southwest that have left travelers stranded at airports across the country amid an intense winter storm. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Passengers wait in line to check in for their flights at Southwest Airlines service desk at LaGuardia Airport, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in New York. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

According to the department, Buttigieg also “conveyed to Southwest CEO that he expects Southwest to do right by their pilots and flight attendants — and all their workers — in these situations.”

Further, the department plans to work with the company “to make sure the airline does not allow a situation like this to happen again.”

The statement follows the Department of Transportation publicly expressing disapproval of Southwest’s handling of the situation the past several days, resulting in thousands of canceled flights across the country:

According to data from FlightAware, Southwest canceled over 70 percent of its flights the day after Christmas. Further, its cancellations comprised 73 percent of all canceled U.S.-related flights in the United States on that day alone.

Southwest said in a statement that it was fully staffed and “prepared” ahead of the holidays and attributed the mess largely to the winter storms that rocked the country. The “operational conditions” forced what the airline described as “changes of an unprecedented volume and magnitude to our flight schedule and the tools our teams use to recover the airline remain at capacity.”

“As we continue the work to recover our operation, we have made the decision to continue operating a reduced schedule by flying roughly one third of our schedule for the next several days,” the airline said.

Southwest ended up canceling 64 percent of its flights on Tuesday.

CEO Bob Jordan apologized in a video message released Tuesday evening, expressing hope that the airline will be back on track before next week.



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