Southwest under scrutiny after wave of storm cancellations

Southwest under scrutiny after wave of storm cancellations
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Major US airlines were criticized for the Massive weekend winter storm that swept across large swaths of the country but had largely recovered by Tuesday, all but one.

The problems at Southwest Airlines seemed to snowball after the worst of the storm passed. It canceled more than 70% of its flights on Monday, more than 60% on Tuesday, and warned that it would operate just over a third of its normal schedule in the coming days to allow crews to get back to where they needed to be.

American, United, Delta and JetBlue all suffered cancellation rates of between none and 2% through Tuesday.

The disparity has prompted a closer look at Southwest’s operations from the US Department of Transportation, which called the cancellation rate “disproportionate and unacceptable” and tried to make sure the Dallas carrier met its mandates. obligations to stranded customers.

The size and severity of the storm created havoc for airlines. Airports were overwhelmed by heavy snowfall and snowdrifts. Airlines canceled up to 20% of their flights on Saturday and Sunday and Buffalo Niagara International Airport, near the epicenter of the storm, remains closed Tuesday.

However, it has become clear that Southwest is suffering disproportionate disruption. Of the approximately 2,950 flight cancellations in the US as of noon Tuesday, 2,549 were canceled by Southwest.

Southwest spokesman Jay McVay told a news conference in Houston that cancellations increased as storm systems moved across the country, leaving crews and planes misplaced.

“So we’ve been chasing our tails, trying to catch up and safely get back on track, which is our number one priority as quickly as we can,” he said. “And that’s exactly how we ended up where we are today.”

Passengers stood in long lines trying to rebook your flights.

The Department of Transportation said on Twitter that it was “concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and reports of a lack of prompt customer service.” The tweet said the department would investigate whether Southwest could have done anything about the cancellations and whether the airline was following through on its customer service plan.

Bryce Burger and his family were supposed to be on a cruise to Mexico leaving San Diego on December 1. February 24, but his flight from Denver was canceled without notice, he said Tuesday. The flight was rebooked through Burbank, California, but that flight was canceled while they were sitting at the gate.

“Like my kids Christmas sucks. It’s horrible,” Burger said by phone from Salt Lake, where the family decided to drive after leaving the cruise.

The family’s luggage is still at the Denver airport and Burger doesn’t know if he can get a refund for the cruise because the flight to California was booked separately.

Burger’s call logs show dozens of unsuccessful attempts to reach Southwest over two days. The company responded a tweet he sent. She said they offered him and his family a voucher for $250 each.

Southwest had no immediate comment Tuesday and information related to the cancellations was last updated on the company’s site Monday.

The president of the union representing Southwest pilots blamed the lack of crews to fly planes on scheduling software written in the 1990s and on management that he said failed to fix things after previous crashes, including a major interruption in October 2021.

“There is a lot of frustration because this is very preventable,” said the union leader, the captain. Casey Murray. “The airline cannot connect crews to planes. I’m worried about this weekend. I’m worried about a month from now.”


Thalia Beaty contributed to this story from New York.

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