Buttigieg chastises Southwest Airlines for ‘unacceptable’ holiday travel disaster in letter

Winter Weather Travel California
Airport employees work to organize hundreds of pieces of luggage that arrived at Oakland International Airport while their owners are stranded somewhere else after almost all of Southwest Airlines flights were cancelled at Oakland International Airport in Oakland, Calif. Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022. (Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP) Jessica Christian/AP

Buttigieg chastises Southwest Airlines for ‘unacceptable’ holiday travel disaster in letter

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tore into Southwest Airlines once again Thursday in a letter to the airline.

The letter, obtained by the Washington Examiner, decried the holiday delays from the airline as “unacceptable,” while lamenting the personal cost to customers.


Buttigieg concluded by going through a list of priorities that Southwest must focus on in efforts to ensure that such a scenario never happens again. The airline remains in dire straights after a catastrophic system failure — 2,358 Southwest flights were canceled Thursday; that’s 57% of the airline’s flights for that day, according to Flight Aware.

“The level of disruption Southwest customers have experienced over the Christmas holiday and into the New Year is unacceptable. I want to reiterate what you have heard me say often: Americans expect when they purchase an airline ticket that they will arrive at their destination safely, reliably, and affordably,” Buttigieg wrote.

“While weather can disrupt flight schedules, the thousands of cancellations by Southwest in recent days have not been because of the weather. Other airlines that experienced weather-related cancellations and delays due to the winter storm recovered relatively quickly, unlike Southwest,” he added.

“Yesterday, Southwest canceled 59 percent of its flights, while other major airlines canceled 3 percent. As Southwest acknowledges, the cancellations and significant delays at least since December 24 are due to circumstances within the airline’s control.”

Buttigieg’s criticisms are mostly ground tread over the past few days, but he added a new element in outlining the personal cost the delays and cancellations had on everyday customers, who will now miss critical time with loved ones.

“For many, Southwest’s severe flight disruptions have resulted in missed time with loved ones during the holidays and in being separated for a prolonged period from their luggage even if they never boarded a flight. … No amount of financial compensation can fully make up for passengers who missed moments with their families that they can never get back — Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and other special events. That’s why it is so critical for Southwest to begin by reimbursing passengers for those costs that can be measured in dollars and cents,” he wrote.

Buttigieg proceeded to list what the airline’s four main priorities should be in rectifying the situation: reuniting passengers with their baggage, getting stranded passengers where they need to go, providing or reimbursing meals, hotel stays, and ground transportation to hotels for stranded passengers, and reimbursement for passengers that don’t accept rebooking. He demanded that all be done as quickly as possible.


Thousands of Southwest flights have been canceled over the past week, and it’s drawn the ire of the United States Department of Transportation, Congress, and President Joe Biden. Company officials admitted that at least part of the problem was caused by outdated scheduling software. CEO Bob Jordan announced Wednesday that the situation would remain tenuous over the next few days, but he hoped to be “back on track” before next week.

“Our plan for the next few days is to fly a reduced schedule and reposition our people and planes,” he said in a video address. “We are making headway, and we are optimistic to be back on track before next week.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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