A massive wave of delays and cancellations is plaguing Southwest Airlines during the busy holiday travel season.
Southwest Airlines accounted for 63% of canceled flights on Tuesday morning, according to FlightAware, a website that tracks flight cancellations and other statistics. Of the 2,953 U.S. flights canceled by 11:57 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Southwest was responsible for 2556, FlightAware found. During the same time, the airline was also responsible for 10% of flight delays (440 flights).
The airline blamed “consecutive days of extreme winter weather” for the cancellation nightmare in a Southwest statement released Monday.
“We were fully staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when the severe weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S.,” Southwest stated. “These operational conditions forced daily changes to our flight schedule at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to recover the airline operating at capacity.”
It wasn’t just the winter storm that caused Southwest’s flight scheduling nightmare, according to flight blogger, The Points Guy (TPG). He said the airline “seemingly botched” the operational plan after the storms lifted. TPG said the airline’s pilots and flight attendants were struggling to get through to the scheduling department for their new assignments.
“Staffing and technology problems combined to send the carrier on a downward spiral,” TPG said. “With schedules deteriorating so quickly amid the winter storm, Southwest’s crew scheduling struggled to keep up with the quick changes needed to keep crews and planes in place.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation said Wednesday it is looking into whether the wave of Southwest flight cancellations violated the airline’s customer service plan. (RELATED: Can The Middle-Class Survive Biden’s Economy? It’s Not Looking Good)
“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” USDOT tweeted. “The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”
USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service. The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.
— TransportationGov (@USDOT) December 27, 2022
During significant flight delays or cancellations outside of Southwest’s control, the airline’s customers can be rebooked on the next available Southwest flight at no additional cost or receive a refund, the airline’s customer service plan promises.
Southwest is only operating about one-third of flights (~1,500 flights per day) until Friday, Dec. 30, and is not rebooking customers with canceled flights before then, according to an internal memo obtained by TPG.
Southwest responded to the Daily Caller with a press release acknowledging the operational changes, including reducing the number of flights operating through Dec. 30 and a link for Southwest customers to request refunds and submit receipts for reimbursement for incidental expenses.
Update: This article has been updated to reflect comment from Southwest regarding the flight cancellations and issues with rebookings.