Buttigieg promises ‘extraordinary effort’ as Southwest Airlines cancels more flights
« In order to restore that relationship with their customers, Southwest is going to have to not only make them financially whole, but find a way to really rebuild trust, » Buttigieg said in a stern appearance that’s a stark departure from his more typically sympathetic demeanor. “They promised me they were going to do it. I want to see exactly what that means.
Late Tuesday, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan made his first appearance on camera about the issues, during which continued bad weather quickly overwhelmed Southwest’s internal planning system, leaving crews stranded and planes parked. as the system struggled to match people to equipment.
“We have reached a decision point to significantly reduce our flights to catch up,” Jordan said. The airline canceled more than 2,500 flights on Wednesday and nearly 2,400 more for Thursday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, just to reset its schedule with flights it knows it can operate.
“We are focused on getting all the pieces back together safely to end this ongoing struggle,” Jordan said.
Just before Labor Day weekend, the DOT released a dashboard showing each airline’s cancellation and refund policies, a move that prompted many airlines to make those policies more customer-friendly. consumers, for example by offering more generous hotel and meal vouchers when flights are canceled or significantly delayed. and more flexibility to reschedule flights. Generally, the compensation owed to airmen depends on whether an event was within the airline’s control — such as an equipment malfunction — or outside of its control, such as the weather.
Leading congressional Democrats such as Sen. Maria Canwell Washington, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, have already said they plan to investigate the matter when lawmakers return next year.
representing Rick Larsen Washington, who will be the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee next year, said Tuesday he had spoken with Southwest officials, who told him the Christmas Eve cancellations were « deemed controllable. « , which means that passengers are entitled to refunds and reimbursements following the collapse of the airline.
Refunds for cancellations since Dec. 24 « will include the full rate and any other unused charges, » Larsen tweeted.
Current House Transportation Committee member Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), who is expected to lead the committee next year, said Wednesday that full access to refunds and reimbursements for Southwest hotels, food and alternative travel costs was the « right thing to do », but did not promise any future action from the committee.
« Southwest has built its reputation on customer service, and I expect them to do everything possible to keep their loyal customers whole, » Graves said in a statement.
Southwest, like other airlines, has received billions of dollars in Covid-19 pandemic aid — about $3 billion in grants and low-interest loans for the airline alone — it being understood that the cash would help keep people working and position the carrier to be ready when travel demand returns.
The DOT has already given passengers a taste of what it can do if needed. In November, he announced he had forced Frontier Airlines, based in Denver and five foreign carriers to reimburse passengers $600 million for canceled flights. He also fined them a total of $7.25 million and said other civil penalties against airlines for consumer protection violations could follow by the end of the year.
The DOT is also working on several regulations intended to bolster protections for airline passengers — but those will take a few months.