'Unacceptable': US to examine Southwest Airlines cancellations amid blizzard

Other major American airlines suffered significant cancellations in recent days — but not nearly as much as this — and they have now largely recovered

By Reuters

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Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Published: Tue 27 Dec 2022, 8:04 AM

Last updated: Tue 27 Dec 2022, 8:13 AM

Late on Monday, the US Transportation Department (USDOT) said it would examine the large number of Southwest Airlines flights that were cancelled/delayed in recent days, in order to determine if they were in the airline's control, calling them "unacceptable".

Southwest cancelled 2,886 flights on Monday (or 70 per cent of scheduled flights) after cancelling 48 per cent on Sunday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. It has also already cancelled 60 per cent — or more than 2,400 — of its planned Tuesday flights.

"USDOT is concerned by Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays, as well as the failure to properly support customers experiencing a cancellation or delay," the department said.

It said that it would "closely examine whether cancellations were controllable, and whether Southwest was complying with its customer service plan, as well as all other pertinent DOT rules".

Southwest delayed 48 per cent of flights on Sunday, and 16 per cent on Monday.

The airline declined to comment late on Monday on the USDOT statement but pointed to a statement it issued earlier, offering "heartfelt apologies", and in which it said:

"With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable."

The airline added that it was working "to urgently address wide-scale disruption by rebalancing the airline and repositioning crews and our fleet ultimately to best serve all who plan to travel with us".

Other major US airlines suffered significant cancellations in recent days, but not nearly as much as Southwest, and they have now largely recovered.

On Monday, USDOT pointed to the Southwest Airlines customer service plan, which noted that the airline would provide meal or hotel vouchers for extended delays that were due to issues within the airline's control, but not for unforeseen issues like the weather.

In August, major US airlines including Southwest told USDOT that they would commit to provide meals for customers delayed by three hours and hotel rooms for stranded passengers if prompted by issues under the airlines' control.

Many airlines have previously offered vouchers or hotel rooms for delays they caused but did not spell out all commitments in customer service plans.


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