Passengers wait to board a Southwest flight at Dallas Love Field in Dallas on December 25, 2022. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images
Southwest Airlines was responsible for the bulk of flight cancellations and delays again on Tuesday, signaling that the airline’s recent problems aren’t parking at the gate just yet.
The last: Southwest accounted for 2,497 of the nearly 3,199 canceled U.S. flights as of 12:30 a.m. ET Tuesday, according to FlightAware.
Why Southwest Airlines Had Delays, Canceled Flights
The big picture: Southwest’s problems are due to a combination of extreme winter storms and how the airline’s flight routes are structured, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- The airline’s crew scheduling system also crumbled under the pressure of so many recent flight changes.
- The airline said in a statement Monday that it was “staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend” before the severe weather disrupted plans.
- “These operational conditions forced daily changes of an unprecedented volume and magnitude to our flight schedule, and the tools our teams are using to restore the airline remain at capacity,” Southwest said.
- Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan said Tuesday that the plan for the next few days was “to fly a reduced schedule,” and the company was “optimistic” it would be back on track before next week.
Zoom in: Travel blog The Points Guy wrote that “staffing and technology issues” sent “the carrier into a downward spiral.”
- “With schedules deteriorating so quickly amid the winter storm, Southwest’s crew scheduling struggled to keep up with the rapid changes needed to keep crews and aircraft in place,” The Points Guy reported.
Flashback: Southwest had a similar problem last year. Bad travel weather, pilot shortages and staffing problems led to many cancellations and delays.
What’s next: Review of the Department of Transport
Sørvest expects a tough week ahead for travelers. The airline said it will fly about a third of its schedule as it works through the mess this week.
- Jordan told the Wall Street Journal that he expected Tuesday to be another tough day “as we work our way out” of the situation. “This is the biggest event I’ve ever seen,” he said.
- The airline said it is looking to “make things right for those we have failed”, including its own employees.
- Southwest has booked hotels, rental cars and tickets for customers affected by the delays, Ryan Green, Southwest’s chief commercial officer, told the Journal.
Of the note: American Airlines tweeted that it was “doing our part to help people get to where they need to be, and we’re capping fares for select cities” in response to a Twitter user who stated the airline had “inflated fares.”
What we’re looking at: The Ministry of Transport said it would review Southwest’s actions and customer service policies that contributed to a tough holiday travel weekend.
- The agency said it was “concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable frequency of cancellations and delays and reports of a lack of prompt customer service” and “will investigate whether cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”
What they say: US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN On Tuesday, he had spoken with Jordan and “made it clear that our department will hold them accountable for their responsibility to customers, both to get them through this situation and to make sure this can’t happen again.”
- Two Democratic senators said Tuesday that Southwest is “failing consumers” and called on the carrier to “compensate passengers” with rebooked or refunded tickets, hotel and meal refunds and “substantial financial compensation for the disruption to their vacation plans.”
- “Southwest cannot avoid compensating passengers by claiming that these flight cancellations were caused by recent winter storms,” said Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in one joint statement.
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new flight cancellation numbers, a statement from Democratic Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal and additional comments from Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan.