Southwest under scrutiny after wave of storm cancellations
Major U.S. airlines were blasted by the huge weekend winter storm that swept across large swathes of the country, but had mostly recovered heading into Monday. After the storm’s worst, Southwest Airlines seemed to be able to weather the storm and create a snowball effect. It cancelled more than 70% flights Monday and more than 60% Tuesday. It also warned that it would operate a little over a third its normal schedule in the days ahead, to allow crews to get to their destination.
American and JetBlue had cancellation rates between zero and 2% on Tuesday. The disparity has prompted a closer inspection of Southwest operations by U.S. Department of Transportation. It called the rate of cancellations “disproportionately unacceptable” and sought to ensure that the Dallas carrier was adhering to its obligations to customers stranded.
The storm’s severity and size caused havoc for airlines. Airports were ravaged by heavy snowfall and drifts. Many airlines cancelled 20% flights on Saturday and Sunday. Buffalo Niagara International Airport remains closed Tuesday, as it is close to the epicenter.
But it is clear that Southwest is experiencing a severe disruption. Southwest was responsible for 2 ,522 flight cancellations in the U.S. on Tuesday morning. At a press conference held in Houston, Jay McVay, a spokesperson for
Southwest, stated that cancellations grew as storm systems moved through the country, leaving planes and crews scattered. So we’ve been running after our tails, trying desperately to catch up and get back on track as quickly as possible, which is our number-one priority. “And that’s exactly how we ended up where we are today.”
Passengers stood in long lines trying to rebook their flights.
The Department of Transportation said on Twitter that it was “concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service.” The tweet said the department would look into whether Southwest could have done anything about the cancellations and whether the airline was complying with its customer service plan.
Bryce Burger, his family and a friend were scheduled to embark on a cruise to Mexico on December 24,. However, their flight from Denver was cancelled without notice or warning. They were seated at the gate when the flight was cancelled.
“Just as my kids’ Christmas sucks. It’s terrible,” Burger told me by phone from Salt Lake. The family had given up the cruise and decided to drive. The family’s luggage is still at Denver airport. Burger doesn’t know if Burger can get a refund because he booked the flight to California separately.
Burger has called logs that show numerous unsuccessful attempts to reach Southwest in the space of two days. He sent a tweet and the company responded. He claimed that they gave him and his family a $250 coupon. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Bob Jordan, CEO of
Southwest, stated that the airline would operate a little more than a third its usual schedule to allow crews to get to where they need to be.
” Today was a difficult day. He said Monday evening that it was likely that we will have another difficult day tomorrow as we try to get out of this. “This is the largest scale event that I’ve ever seen.”
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