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Southwest Airlines cancellations continue into Wednesday, DOT pressures airline

Winter Weather Travel
Posted at 8:18 AM, Dec 28, 2022

Most Southwest Airlines flights have been canceled for another day as the airline has struggled to recover from a major winter storm that blasted parts of the U.S. late last week.

According to FlightAware, 62% of all Southwest flights have already been canceled for Wednesday. That’s after the airline canceled 64% of its flights on Tuesday. Of the limited number of flights on Tuesday, most were delayed, FlightAware reported.

Other major domestic airlines, such as Delta, American and United, have all returned to normal operations, with only a handful of flights canceled on Tuesday.

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said the airline intends to return to normal operations by next week. But that announcement comes with little comfort to those traveling this week.

"Our network is highly complex and the operation of the airline counts on all the pieces, especially aircraft and crews remaining in motion to where they're planned to go,” Jordan said. “With our large fleet of airplanes and flight crews out of position in dozens of locations. And after days of trying to operate as much of our full schedule across the busy holiday weekend, we reached a decision point to significantly reduce our flying to catch up.”

The Department of Transportation said it would investigate Southwest Airlines to “examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”

One question is whether the cancellations are because of weather, or could have been prevented by the airline. If the airline is at fault, the Department of Transportation said Southwest Airlines has an obligation to provide additional compensation for customers.

“When you're in the situation and the airline is responsible, which is clearly the case right now, then you can get those kinds of vouchers for hotels, restaurants,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN on Tuesday. “But what I talked about with the Southwest CEO, is that a passenger shouldn't have to request that. They need to be proactively offering that. He pledged that they would. And again, we'll be watching to make sure that they follow through."

The Department of Transportation says that passengers that opt to cancel their trip due to a flight cancellation are entitled to a refund, even for non-refundable tickets. The government says travelers are also entitled to a refund for bag fees and any extras such as a seat assignment.