The U.S. to Investigate Mass Airline Cancellations from Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines canceled 71 percent of its scheduled flights, far more than other airlines.

Passengers wait in line at the Southwest counter at an airport
Southwest Airlines has made up the majority of holiday cancellations. (Photo by Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) said it will investigate mass flight cancellations from Southwest Airlines, after thousands of passengers were left stranded following a winter storm over the holiday weekend.

“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellation and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” said USDOT in a tweet. “The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”

More than 4,000 flights were cancelled within, into or out of the U.S. on Dec. 26, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. Southwest Airlines accounted for a large portion of these, with 2,900 cancellations consisting of 71 percent of its scheduled flights.

More than half of its planned flights for today (Dec. 27) will also be cancelled, with 2,545 airplanes grounded. Meanwhile, Spirit Airlines, the U.S. airline with the second highest number of cancelled flights, only has 83 planned cancellations.

The disruption in holiday travel comes after a winter storm left 50 dead across the U.S., knocking out power for many and trapping residents inside their homes.

“Our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning,” said Southwest Airlines in a statement. “We’ll work to make things right for those we’ve let down, including our employees.” The Dallas-based airline said the weather conditions forced a reduction in flight volume, and that it will have to continue operating at one third of its schedule for the next few days.

“This is the largest-scale event that I’ve ever seen,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest CEO, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

The cancelations were a result of the weather, Southwest’s flight routes and a faulty new scheduling system, according to the Journal.

Southwest Airlines did not respond to requests for comment from the Observer.

The U.S. to Investigate Mass Airline Cancellations from Southwest Airlines