Southwest Airlines is ready to resume its regular flight schedule Friday after the airline cancelled over 15,000 flights over the past week.
Southwest cancelled nearly two-thirds of its flights Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, according to FlightAware. The combination of Winter Storm Elliott, Southwest’s outdated scheduling system and holiday understaffing caused Southwest to meltdown.
Southwest CEO Bob Jordan announced Tuesday a plan to fly a reduced number of flights in order to rebuild the airline’s capacity by next week. Shrinking down has helped Southwest prepare to resume its full flying schedule Friday, executives told employees Wednesday night, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
“While Southwest continues to operate roughly one third of its schedule for Thursday, Dec. 29, we plan to return to normal operations with minimal disruptions on Friday, Dec. 30,” Southwest said in a Thursday statement.
“We are encouraged by the progress we’ve made to realign Crew, their schedules, and our fleet. With another holiday weekend full of important connections for our valued Customers and Employees, we are eager to return to a state of normalcy,” Southwest added. The airline has canceled 39 flights scheduled Friday, down from 2,362 Thursday according to FlightAware.
The company has set up a website for customers experiencing travel disruptions to request a refund, rebook travel or report missing luggage. They also have an ongoing travel advisory to assist customers with rescheduling flights. (RELATED: Travel Specialists Call Southwest ‘Meltdown’ The Worst ‘In Recent Memory’ As Cancellations Continue)
A week since the storm hit, every airline but one has recovered. Overall we’re seeing around 3% of flights canceled, excluding the unacceptable performance of Southwest – which canceled 59% yesterday. USDOT is investigating and we are enforcing customer service standards.
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) December 29, 2022
“A week since the storm hit, every airline but one has recovered. Overall we’re seeing around 3% of flights canceled, excluding the unacceptable performance of Southwest – which canceled 59% yesterday. USDOT is investigating and we are enforcing customer service standards,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted Thursday.
Buttigieg has received criticism from Democrats for his perceived lack of regulatory enforcement. They point to his reluctance to fine airlines for flight cancellations and inaction to prevent JetBlue from merging with Spirit. He was also criticized by the WSJ Editorial Board for perceived over regulation of the industry by expanding refund requirements.
Many travelers making trips for the holidays have been left stranded by Southwest flight cancellations. It’s unclear when they will receive assistance from the airline.
A Southwest spokesperson referred to the company’s Thursday statement in response to a request for comment.