Southwest, other airlines cancel thousands of flights: DOT starts review

Passengers waiting for a Southwest Airlines flight at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado on December 22. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

Thousands more flights were canceled Monday as the impact of winter storms and operational challenges continued to affect holiday travel.

The big picture: The Ministry of Transport tweeted that it would investigate the actions of Southwest, which was responsible for a majority of the more than 3,900 flight cancellations and over 8,200 delays within, into or out of the United States, according to FlightAware data late Monday.

A screenshot of a tweet from Southwest Airlines saying they are experiencing high call traffic.
Photo: Southwest Airlines/Twitter
  • The DOT said it was “concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and reports of a lack of prompt customer service” and “will evaluate whether cancellations have been controllable and whether Southwest is adhering to its customer service plan.”

Using the numbers: Southwest has canceled nearly 70% of its 2,886 Monday flights and 60% of some 2,400 scheduled Tuesday flights, according to FlightAware.

  • The Dallas-based airline canceled around 8,000 flights Thursday through Monday, according to the flight-tracking website.

What we observe: Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told The Wall Street Journal Monday night the airline will operate just over a third of its flight schedule Tuesday and Wednesday to ease the situation.

  • The reduced capacity could be extended if necessary as airlines prepare for holiday travel around the turn of the year.
  • “We had a tough day today. In all likelihood we’re going to have another tough day tomorrow as we work our way out,” Jordan told the Journal. “This is the biggest event I’ve ever seen.”

What you say: Southwest issued a statement Monday apologizing for the disruption.

  • “As we weather consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network, the ongoing challenges are affecting our customers and employees in an unacceptable manner,” said Southwest.
  • “We are certainly working on the front lines to urgently address large scale disruptions, rebalancing the airline and repositioning crews and our fleet to ultimately best serve everyone who wishes to travel with us. And our sincere apologies for that is just beginning.”
  • Southwest officials did not immediately respond to Axios’ request for comment.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated throughout with additional details.

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