Transportation Department slams Southwest Airlines, vows probe into thousands of canceled flights

Southwest has canceled more than 5,400 flights over the past two days.

Published: December 27, 2022 7:49am

Updated: December 27, 2022 2:53pm

The U.S. Transportation Department slammed Southwest and pledged to review the airline after thousands of flights were canceled following days of severe winter weather.

"USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service. The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan," the Transportation Department tweeted late Monday evening.

Southwest canceled 71% of its flights on Monday and at least 62% of its flights so far on Tuesday, equaling more than 5,400 flights over the past two days or 78% of all U.S. cancellations, according to FlightAware.

Spirit airlines is the runner-up for cancellations with 10% of flights canceled, data shows.

"With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our Customers and Employees in a significant way that is unacceptable," Southwest said Monday.

The airline said it plans on "flying roughly one third of our schedule for the next several days."

"Just the News, No Noise" co-host Amanda Head was impacted when Southwest canceled the second leg of her flight from Dallas on Friday evening. She decided to rent a car to finish her trip, but four days later and after roughly ten hours spent on hold with Southwest, she still does not have her luggage. 

One Southwest passenger who was on Head's canceled flight from Dallas received an $18 refund from the airline for the second leg of his trip.

"I understand that it was the holidays. I understand that Winter Storm Elliott created even more complications, but Southwest completely abandoned their customers," she said. "I will never fly Southwest again. I mean, this is just such a nightmare."

People slept all over the Dallas airport, Head said. "Everywhere that people could lay down they did," she said.

Southwest has been responding to complaints on Twitter every few minutes on Tuesday. 

"I had 5 flights cancelled — and now number 6! Is this what I get for cheating on @Delta?" NBC reporter Chase Cain tweeted, tagging Southwest. 

Another Twitter user said Southwest's cancellation caused his family to miss a Christmas cruise. "[W]ho do I get a refund of $6,439 from?" he said.

Other users said they were on hold with the airline for more than two hours without a response. 

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