After meltdown, Southwest cancels hundreds of flights into the new year
After its meltdown that had left thousands of passengers and their luggage stranded at airports nationwide last week, Southwest continues to cancel more flights into the new year.
On Monday, a total of 204 Southwest flights, or 4%, were canceled, making it the American carrier with the most cancellations that day, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware. Almost 43% of its flights were delayed. As of Tuesday afternoon, the airline had 59 flights canceled, which account for 1% of its scheduled flights.
"Cancellations and delays from Monday were related to weather and air traffic control-related issues," Southwest Airlines told USA TODAY. "We resumed normal operations from our operational challenges over the Christmas holiday on Friday of last week."
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What happened with Southwest's flights last week?
After severe weather overstretched its technology, the airline had to scale back its flights over Christmas week in order to "catch up." Due to its more outdated technology – which some had internally been flagging for years – Southwest had to turn to manually scheduling crews while other airlines with newer cloud-based technology were able to be more agile and bounce back quickly.
From Dec. 22 to Dec. 29, a busy week for holiday travel, over 15,000 flights were canceled, causing mayhem at airports across the country. People were left stranded for days, often with no idea where their luggage was, and missed big plans like honeymoons, family reunions, birthdays and more.
By last Friday, Dec. 30, Southwest said it was resuming normal operations with only 1% of flights canceled and "minimal disruptions over the weekend."
Southwest said reimbursements are considered for those who had flight disruptions between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2, and can be submitted online.
What was the response from the DOT?
"Southwest Airlines failed its customers. Point blank," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing Tuesday regarding the holidays' massive cancellations. "The Department of Transportation will hold them accountable to their commitments to make their customers whole."
She said the department is watching "very closely" to ensure Southwest will cover flight rebooking charges, hotel rooms, meals and other forms of transportation that were required because of the cancellations and to ensure baggage is returned to customers as quickly as possible.
Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said Tuesday during a "Good Morning America" interview that he has been in conversation with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and they're "aligned." He added that the company will be "taking care of things like rental cars, hotel rooms, meals, booking customers on other airlines, so that will all be part of what we're covering here as we reimburse our customers."
Contributing: Joey Garrison, USA TODAY