Southwest Airlines Flight Cancellations Investigated

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The U.S. Department of Transportation announced it will investigate flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines that left thousands of travelers stranded amid a severe winter storm, The Associated Press reported.

Many airlines were forced to cancel flights due to the bad weather, but Southwest had by far the most. About 4,000 domestic flights were canceled Monday, according to the FlightAware website, of which 2,900 were by Southwest.

Other airlines such as American, United, Delta and JetBlue had to cancel flights as well, but the average percentage was between zero and 2%, while for Southwest Airlines it was 62%, according to FlightAware.

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Southwest spokesman Jay McVay told a news conference in Houston that cancellations spiked as the storm moved across the country, tying up planes and their crews.

“So we’ve been running around, trying to get up to speed and get back to normal as quickly as possible, which is our top priority,” McVay stated. “And that’s precisely how we ended up in the situation we’re in today.”

More than 2,800 additional flights were canceled in the United States by 7 a.m. Tuesday and the problems are expected to continue through at least Wednesday.

Many passengers were waiting in long lines to reschedule their flights. The DOT said on Twitter that it is “concerned about Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and reports of a lack of adequate customer service.” It added that it will probe whether Southwest could have avoided the situation and whether it met its own customer service standards.

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that the airline will operate just over a third of its original flights in order to get crews back to where they need to be.

“We had a tough day today and we’ll probably have another tough day tomorrow as we work through the problem,” Jordan said. “This is the most serious problem I’ve ever seen.”