Southwest, other airlines cancel thousands of flights: DOT launches review

    Ella Silverstein searches for a flight while waiting in line to book a flight outside the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado on Thursday, Dec. 22.

Passengers wait for a Southwest Airlines flight at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado on December 22. Photo: Hioung Chang/The Denver Post

Thousands of new flights were canceled Monday as the effects of winter storms and operational challenges continued to affect holiday travel.

Whole: Department of Transport tweeted that it will examine Southwest’s actions, which accounted for a large number of more than 3,900 flight cancellations and more than 8,200 delays within, in or out of the US as of late Monday, according to FlightAvare data.

A screenshot of a tweet from Southwest Airlines saying it has a high number of calls.
Photo: Southwest Airlines/Twitter
  • The DOT said it was “concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and reports of a lack of prompt customer service” and “will investigate whether cancellations were under control and whether Southwest is adhering to its customer service plan.”

By the numbers: Southwest canceled nearly 70% of its 2,886 flights on Monday and 60% of about 2,400 scheduled for Tuesday, according to FlightAvare.

  • The Dallas-based carrier canceled about 8,000 flights from Thursday through Monday, according to a flight tracking website.

What we’re watching: Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told the Wall Street Journal on Monday night that the airline would work a little more than a third of its schedule on Tuesday and Wednesday to ease the situation.

  • Reduced capacity could be extended for longer if necessary as airlines prepare for New Year’s travel.
  • “We had a tough day today. It looks like we’re going to have another tough day tomorrow as we get out of this,” Jordan told the Journal. “This is the biggest event I’ve ever seen.”

What they say: Southwest issued a statement Monday apologizing for the disruption.

  • “With back-to-back days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, the ongoing challenges are impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” Southwest said.
  • “We are working with safety first to urgently address the large-scale issue by rebalancing the airline and repositioning crew and our fleet, ultimately to best serve everyone who plans to travel with us.” And our sincere apologies for this are just beginning.”
  • Southwest representatives did not immediately respond to Akios’ request for comment.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional details.

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