As Southwest Airlines cancellations continue, Buttigieg vows to hold airline accountable

CNN – Passengers booked through Southwest Airlines this week will be days away from relief as the embattled airline continues to grapple with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. ) speaks of a complete crash of the system.

As of 5:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, 2,743 flights within, in and out of the U.S. had been canceled, 2,505 of which were operated by Southwest Airlines, according to the flight-tracking website. flight awarenessMeanwhile, the website showed the airline had canceled another 2,348 flights on Thursday.

The airport most affected by Wednesday’s flight cancellations was Denver International Airport, followed by Chicago Midway International Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Nashville International Airport, Dallas Love Field, Las Vegas Harri Reid International Airport and Phoenix Days Airport. Hong Kong International Airport.

Buttigieg said he spoke directly with Southwest CEO Bob Jordan on Tuesday about the thousands of flights that were canceled this week, but gave no immediate indication of when passengers could be rebooked.

“Their system is really completely broken,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

“I’ve made it clear that our department will hold them accountable to their customers, both to help them get through this and ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Tuesday at a Glance

More than 3,200 flights within, into and out of the United States were canceled on Tuesday, according to FlightAware.

Some 2,694 of those canceled flights were Southwest Airlines flights — a staggering 84% of all canceled flights in the United States.

Southwest Airlines ticket counters at several U.S. airports saw long lines of passengers trying to rebook or connect on Tuesday, while no one was around as passengers struggled to retrieve their luggage at Chicago Midway International Airport, Las Harrid Airport and other airports. The piles of claimed luggage keep growing at the William P. Hobby airports in Vegas and Houston.

Passenger Trisha Jones told CNN at the Atlanta airport that she and her partner had been traveling for five days, trying to get home to Wichita, Kansas, after disembarking in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

After her flight was cancelled, she stayed with relatives before being diverted to Atlanta for a connecting flight.

“We were lucky because we were in Fort Lauderdale — my family lives in the Tampa Bay area, so we were able to rent a car and visit my family for Christmas,” Jones said. “It breaks my heart to see a lot of families sleeping on the floor.”

Buttigieg: ‘A lot of cleanup to do’

Southwest blamed several factors for the travel disaster, including winter storm delays, aggressive flight schedules and outdated infrastructure.

“As far as I know, Southwest Airlines can’t even locate where their own crew is, let alone their own passengers, let alone luggage,” Buttigieg said, adding that he also spoke with representatives of flight attendants and pilots. of airline union leaders.

The secretary said he told CEO Jordan that he hoped Southwest would proactively offer refunds and reimbursement of expenses to affected passengers without them asking.

“I communicated to the CEO our expectation that they will go above and beyond to take care of passengers and address this issue,” he said.

Buttigieg told CNN that the Department of Transportation is prepared to fine Southwest if there is evidence the company failed to meet its legal obligations, but added that the department will take a closer look at the airline’s consistent customer service problems.

“While every other part of the airline system is moving in the direction of recovery and getting better every day, this airline is actually moving in the opposite direction,” Buttigieg said.

“Your company here needs to do a lot of cleanup,” he said.

Southwest Airlines CEO issues video apology

Jordan apologizes to passengers and staff video statement The company released Tuesday night.

“We’re doing everything we can to get back to normal operations, and please hear me say I’m really sorry,” Jordan said.

While Jordan acknowledged problems with the company’s response, the statement suggested he didn’t foresee major changes to Southwest’s procedures due to the mass cancellation.

“The tools we use to recover from outages serve us well 99% of the time, but clearly we need to double down on our existing plans for upgrading systems to handle these edge cases so we never Face what’s going on now,” Jordan said.

“We are optimistic about getting back on track by next week.”

Is there anything passengers can do?

Southwest Airlines warned that this week’s cancellations and delays are expected to last for several days.

So what should customers do?

“First and foremost, travelers who are still waiting on Southwest and need to get somewhere should try to book a flight on another airline as soon as possible … now, really,” said Kyle Porter, executive editor of the travel advice website. frugal traveler, in an email to CNN Travel late Tuesday afternoon.

“Every airline in this country is packed right now, so your odds of finding a seat — let alone at halfway prices — are getting smaller every hour,” Porter said.

“Travellers who are in the middle of it should make sure they save all their receipts: other flights, car rentals, hotel stays, meals, etc,” Porter said.

If you’re stuck and efforts to contact a customer service agent are going nowhere, the founders Cheap flights to Scott It is recommended to try an international number.

“American Airlines’ main hotline will be jammed with other rebooked passengers. To reach an agent quickly, call any of the airline’s dozens of international offices,” Scott Keyes said.

“Agents can process your reservations just like US agents, but with virtually no wait to get through.”

Click here Get the international number previously issued by Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines: “Keep Your Receipt”

Southwest Airlines spokesman Jay McVay said at a news conference Monday night at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport that the airline will do everything possible to address the challenges passengers are experiencing, including “hotels, ride assistance, vans … rental cars. to try and make sure these people get home as soon as possible.”

All customers, even those who have left the airport or made other arrangements of their own, will be taken care of, he promised.

“If you’ve left, take care of yourself, do what you need to do for your family, keep your receipts,” McVeigh relayed. “We’ll make sure they’re taken care of, it’s not a problem.”

What went wrong from the pilot’s point of view

Captain Mike Santoro, vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Southwest’s problems It was the worst disruption he has experienced in his 16 years at the airline.

He described last week’s storm as the catalyst that helped trigger major technical problems.

“What went wrong was that our IT infrastructure for scheduling software was outdated,” he said. “It can’t handle the number of pilots and cabin crew in our system, our complex network of airlines.

“We don’t have the usual hubs that other major airlines have. We fly a point-to-point network, which can allow our crew to be in the wrong place without an aircraft.”

He added: “This is frustrating for the pilots, the flight attendants, and especially our passengers. We are tired of apologizing for Southwest, the airline pilots, and our hearts go out to all the passengers, they really did.”

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