DOT ‘concerned’ by Southwest Airline’s ‘unacceptable’ flight cancellations

Winter Weather Denver
Travelers queue up to check in at the Southwest Airlines counter in Denver International Airport after a winter storm swept over the country packing snow combined with Arctic cold, which created chaos for people trying to reach their destinations before the Christmas holiday, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, in Denver. Forecasters predict that warmer weather will be on tap for the week ahead. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) David Zalubowski/AP

DOT ‘concerned’ by Southwest Airline’s ‘unacceptable’ flight cancellations

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The U.S. Department of Transportation announced it would examine Southwest Airlines’s customer service policies after the airline was crippled with widespread disruptions on Monday, noting the agency was “concerned” by the “disproportionate and unacceptable rate” of cancellations and delays.

More than 3,900 flights within, into, or out of the United States were canceled on Monday and another 7,582 were delayed as of 8:45 p.m., according to tracker Flight Aware.

Southwest Airlines topped the list for having both the highest number of cancellations and delays compared to other airlines, accounting for more than half of all canceled flights.

CANCELED AND DELAYED FLIGHTS NEAR 30,000 AMID RARE BOMB CYCLONE

“As more information becomes available the Department will closely examine whether cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan as well as all other pertinent DOT rules,” the agency said in a statement.

Southwest reported 2,876 cancellations on Monday, 70% of its total flights on that day, according to Flight Aware. Additionally, the airline had 681 delayed flights, accounting for another 16% of its schedule.

At one point on Monday, the airline canceled roughly 300 flights within one half-hour period, according to the online tracker. The travel headaches aren’t expected to ease up any time soon, as officials predict scheduling snafus may drag into Tuesday.

More than 2,400 of the airline’s Tuesday flights were already canceled by 8 p.m. on Monday, making up more than 90% of all U.S.-based flights scheduled for that day.

The DOT also criticized the airline after reports emerged employees failed to “properly support customers experiencing a cancellation or delay.” Some customers reported being left on hold for up to 10 hours while trying to reach Southwest representatives with others noting they were separated from their luggage for several days, according to CNN.

Southwest responded to the widespread frustration and travel woes in an emailed statement on Monday, noting several of the disruptions are due to inclement weather in several states.

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“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 statement read. “We’re working with Safety at the forefront to urgently address wide-scale disruption. … On the other side of this, we’ll work to make things right for those we’ve let down, including our Employees.”

It’s not yet clear how long it will take for the airline to sort out all of its cancellations and delays, although some travel experts predict it may take a week for everything to return to normal.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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