US to review Southwest Airlines cancellations, calls them ‘unacceptable’

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) said late on Monday it would review Southwest Airlines’ large number of canceled and delayed flights in recent days to determine if they were within the airline’s control, calling them of “unacceptable”.

Southwest canceled 2,886 flights on Monday, or 70% of scheduled flights, after canceling 48% on Sunday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. It has also already canceled 60%, or more than 2,400, of its scheduled flights on Tuesday.

“The USDOT is concerned about Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays as well as the failure to properly support customers experiencing cancellations or delays,” the department said.

He said he would “examine closely whether cancellations are controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan as well as all other relevant DOT rules.”

Southwest delayed 48% of flights on Sunday and 16% on Monday.

Southwest declined to comment on the USDOT statement Monday evening, but pointed to a statement it had released earlier offering “sincere apologies” and said “with consecutive days of extreme winter conditions on our network behind us, ongoing challenges are impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable.”

Passengers arrive for their flight on Southwest Airlines as flight cancellations mount during a cold weather front as a weather phenomenon known as the Bomb Cyclone hits the Upper Midwest, at Southwest International Airport Midway in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., December 22, 2022. REUTERS/Matt Marton

The airline added that it was working “to urgently address the large-scale disruption by rebalancing the airline and repositioning crews and our fleet to better serve everyone planning to travel with us”.

Other major US airlines have suffered significant cancellations in recent days, but not at such high rates as Southwest and have now largely recovered.

The USDOT on Monday highlighted Southwest Airlines’ customer service plan, which notes that the airline will provide meal or hotel vouchers for extended delays due to issues within the airline’s control, but not for unforeseen problems like the weather.

In August, major U.S. airlines, including Southwest, told USDOT they would commit to providing meals for customers delayed three hours and hotel rooms for stranded passengers in the event of problems under control. airlines.

Many airlines have already offered vouchers or hotel rooms for the delays they have caused, but have not specified all commitments in customer service plans.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Editing by Tom Hogue and Simon Cameron-Moore)

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