Southwest Airlines flight cancellations investigated

The US Department of Transportation announced that it will investigate flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines that left thousands of travelers stranded amid a severe winter storm.

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

Other airlines like 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.

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

“So we’ve been running around trying to catch up and get back to business as soon as possible, which is our top priority,” McVay said. “And that is precisely how we ended up in the situation we are in today.”

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

Many passengers stood in long lines to reschedule their flights. The Department of Transportation said on Twitter that it is “concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and reports of a lack of adequate customer service.” He added that he will look into whether Southwest could have prevented the situation and 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 will likely have another tough day tomorrow as we work through the issue,” Jordan said. “This is the most serious problem I’ve ever seen.”

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