Southwest Airlines, Not the Weather, at Fault for Flight Chaos, Federal Notice Says

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Buttigieg lays blasted connected top-level management, praises unit for moving 'extremely hard, nether trying circumstances'

Southwest Airlines enactment was astatine responsibility for thousands of formation cancellations and delays from Dec. 24 to Dec. 29, the U.S. Department of Transportation says.

“While weather tin disrupt formation schedules, the thousands of cancellations by Southwest successful caller days person not been due to the fact that of the weather,” Secretary of Transport Pete Buttigieg said successful a Dec. 29 missive to Southwest CEO Bob Jordan.

The hose has admitted “the cancellations and important delays astatine slightest since Dec. 24 are owed to circumstances wrong the airline’s control,” Buttigieg wrote. He and Jordan had discussed the issues successful the aftermath of user complaints astir the airline, which autumn nether Buttigieg’s purview.

He noted the airline’s unit was moving “extremely hard, nether trying circumstances.”

Pete Buttigieg Transportation caput Pete Buttigieg says frontline unit astatine Southwest Airlines are not to blasted for the formation chaos implicit the vacation period, top-level absorption is. This record photograph was taken connected Capitol Hill successful Washington connected May 3, 2022. (Michael A. McCoy/Reuters)

While each U.S. airlines were forced to cancel flights amid a massive, fierce winter storm that began affecting question connected Dec. 22,  other airlines “recovered comparatively quickly, dissimilar Southwest,” Buttigieg wrote.

Further, Buttigieg faulted the airline’s top-level management: “These frontline employees are not to blasted for mistakes astatine the enactment level.”

A large origin of the problems, according to national leaders, was the airline’s nonaccomplishment to upgrade antiquated systems that are utilized to delegate formation crews to aircraft. This deficiency has been noted for years and caused a bid of “mini-meltdowns” previously, Southwest employees told The Epoch Times in an article published Dec. 29.

The airline, successful a statement released connected Dec. 30, declared that it had returned to “normal operations,” aft 7 days of precocious cancellations.

In nationalist statements earlier this week, hose executives said employees had been moving nonstop to excavation the hose retired of monolithic problems the cancellations caused.

As of 10:30 a.m. Eastern connected Dec. 30, the hose had canceled lone 41 flights, less than 1 percent of its total, according to FlightAware—a immense turnaround compared to a time earlier. On Dec. 29, the hose canceled astir 59 percent of its flights, Buttigieg noted, “while different large airlines canceled 3 percent.”

16,500 Flights Cancelled

From Dec. 22 to Dec. 29, Southwest canceled a full of 16,500 flights, according to preliminary information from the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA).

The airline’s operations were somewhat mean connected Dec. 22, with astir 1,000 flights canceled, according to SWAPA. But the fig of cancellations climbed aft that, SWAPA said, peaking astatine an estimated 3,100 flights connected Dec. 26, past hovering astir 2,500 cancellations for each of the adjacent 3 days.

As a result, the hose wrangled with thousands of stranded passengers, untold pieces of mislaid baggage, and unit members who were marooned astatine airports with nary craft assigned to them.

Buttigieg reminded Southwest of its obligations to assistance stranded passengers scope their destinations “safely and quickly;” to assistance those passengers with costs for meals, hotels, and crushed transportation; to promptly contented refunds to customers who couldn’t rebook their flights; and to reunite customers with luggage.

The consequences ruined galore people’s vacation plans.

“No magnitude of fiscal compensation tin afloat marque up for passengers who missed moments with their families that they tin ne'er get back—Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and different peculiar events,” Buttigieg wrote.

“That’s wherefore it is truthful captious for Southwest to statesman by reimbursing passengers for those costs that tin beryllium measured successful dollars and cents.”

He noted that customers person reported utmost trouble with contacting Southwest, and helium promised to clasp Southwest accountable “if it fails to fulfill commitments that the hose has made successful its lawsuit work plans for controllable delays and cancellations.”

Refund Obligations

Southwest is present nether unit to fulfill thousands of refunds.

Buttigieg reminded the airline: “Under the law, Southwest indispensable supply punctual refunds erstwhile a bearer cancels a passenger’s formation oregon makes a important alteration successful the flight, careless of the reason, unless the rider accepts rebooking.”

As a result, Southwest indispensable supply refunds wrong 7 concern days for recognition paper purchases, and wrong 20 days for purchases made by different means, Buttigieg said.

“The section volition usage the afloat grade of its probe and enforcement authorization to guarantee Southwest complies with its refund obligations,” helium warned.

“I anticipation and expect that you volition travel the law, instrumentality the steps laid retired successful this letter, and supply maine with a punctual update connected Southwest’s efforts to bash close by the customers it has wronged,” helium said.

Buttigieg’s section has said it plans an probe of Southwest’s caller problems, which besides are drafting scrutiny from a almighty U.S. Senate committee.

On Dec. 27, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee connected Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced: “The committee volition beryllium looking into the causes of these disruptions.

“Many airlines neglect to adequately pass with consumers during formation cancellations. Consumers merit beardown protections, including an updated user refund rule.”

Southwest has repeatedly pledged to marque amends.

In a connection posted to its website connected Dec. 30, Southwest expressed appreciation for employees and customers.

“We admit the dedicated enactment of the Southwest squad to reconstruct our schedule, and we expect minimal disruptions for the weekend,” the hose said.

“Once again, we worth the continued patience and enactment of our valued customers, and we apologize for the inconveniences of the past week.”

The hose said it was striving “to instrumentality to our erstwhile level of Southwest hospitality and reliability.”

Janice Hisle

Janice Hisle writes astir a assortment of topics, with accent connected transgression justness quality and trends. Before joining The Epoch Times, she worked for much than 2 decades arsenic a newsman for newspapers successful Ohio and authored respective books. A postgraduate of Kent State University's journalism program, she embraces "old-school" journalism with a modern twist. You tin scope Janice by email by penning to [email protected]