Southwest cancels more flights, draws federal investigation

Southwest cancels more flights, draws federal investigation
Southwest cancels more flights, draws federal investigation

Southwest cancels more flights, draws federal investigation

Southwest cancels more flights, draws federal investigation

Southwest Airlines scrubbed thousands of flights again Tuesday in the aftermath of the massive winter storm that wrecked Christmas travel plans across the U.S., and the federal government said it would investigate why the company lagged so far behind other carriers.

A day after most U.S. airlines had recovered from the storm, Southwest called off about 2,600 more flights on the East Coast by late afternoon.

Those flights accounted for more than 80% of the 3,000 trips that got cancelled nationwide Tuesday, according to tracking service FlightAware.

And the chaos seemed certain to continue. The airline also scrubbed 2,500 flights for Wednesday and nearly 1,400 for Thursday as it tried to restore order to its mangled schedule.

At airports with major Southwest operations, customers stood in long lines hoping to find a seat on another flight.

They described waiting hours on hold for help, only to be cut off. Some tried to rent cars to get to their destinations sooner.

Others found spots to sleep on the floor. Luggage piled up in huge heaps.

Conrad Stoll, a 66-year-old retired construction worker in Missouri, planned to fly from Kansas City to Los Angeles for his father’s 90th birthday party until his Southwest flight was cancelled early Tuesday. He said he won’t get to see his 88-year-old mother either.

Stoll hopes to get another chance to see his parents in the spring, when the weather is warmer.

In a video that Southwest posted late Tuesday, CEO Robert Jordan said Southwest would operate a reduced schedule for several days but hoped to be “back on track before next week.”

The problems began over the weekend and snowballed Monday, when Southwest called off more than 70% of its flights.

That was after the worst of the storm had passed. The airline said many pilots and flight attendants were out of position to work their flights.

Leaders of unions representing Southwest pilots and flight attendants blamed antiquated crew-scheduling software and criticized company management.

Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said the airline failed to fix problems that caused a similar meltdown in October 2021.

Murray said managers resorted this week to asking pilots at some airports to report to a central location, where they wrote down the names of pilots who were present and forwarded the lists to headquarters.

Lyn Montgomery, president of the Transport Workers Union representing Southwest flight attendants, said she and other labor leaders have repeatedly told management that the airline’s scheduling technology is not good enough.

The airline is now drawing unwanted attention from Washington.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has criticized airlines for previous disruptions, said his agency would examine the causes of Southwest’s widespread cancellations and whether the airline was meeting its legal obligations to stranded customers.

The size and severity of the storm created havoc for many airlines, although the largest number of canceled flights Tuesday were at airports where Southwest is a major carrier, including Denver, Chicago Midway, Las Vegas, Baltimore and Dallas.

Spirit Airlines and Alaska Airlines both cancelled about 10% of their flights, with much smaller cancellation percentages at American, Delta, United and JetBlue.

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Southwest cancels more flights, draws federal investigation

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