DOT to investigate Southwest flight cancellations that left passengers stranded

The U.S. Department of Transportation said it would investigate cancellations of Southwest Airlines flights that left travelers stranded at airports across the country amid a severe winter storm that killed dozens.

Many airlines have been forced to cancel flights due to the weather, but Southwest is by far the leader in cancellations. About 4,000 domestic U.S. flights were canceled on Monday, including 2,900 with Southwest Airlines, according to tracking site FlightAware.

Other major airlines, including American, United, Delta and JetBlue, have cancellation rates between zero and 2%. According to FlightAware, Southwest has a 62% cancellation rate.

Southwest Airlines spokesman Jay McVeigh said at a news conference in Houston that flight cancellations snowballed as the storm system moved across the country, keeping crews and planes out of position

“So we’ve been chasing our tails, trying to catch up and get back to normal safely, which is our number one priority as quickly as possible,” he said. “And that’s why we’re here.”

Southwest Airlines said it was fully staffed for the holiday weekend.

All airlines operating in the US had canceled more than 2,800 flights as of 7 a.m. Tuesday, and the problem is likely to persist at least until Wednesday.

Southwest Airlines said late Monday that it would continue to reduce its flight schedule to about a third of its scheduled flights over the next few days in order to prevent last-minute disruptions to passengers.

Passengers lined up trying to rebook flights. The Department of Transportation said on Twitter that it was “concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays, as well as reports of a lack of timely customer service.” The tweet said the department would investigate whether Southwest could do anything about the cancellation and whether the airline followed its customer service plan.

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the airline will operate more than a third of its normal schedule to allow crew members to get back to where they need to be.

“We had a tough day today. We’ll probably have another tough day tomorrow because we’re trying to get out of it,” he said Monday night. “It’s the biggest event I’ve ever seen.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.