Thursday, December 29, 2022

The number of flights cancelled by Southwest Airlines is growing

Southwest Airlines flight cancellations continue to snowball


DALLAS: On Wednesday, Southwest Airlines canceled yet another round of flights for travelers who were counting on the airline to get them home. As a result, more pressure was placed on the federal government to assist customers in getting reimbursed for any unanticipated costs that they incurred as a result of the airline's meltdown.

Exhausted Southwest passengers attempted to find seats on other airlines or rent cars to reach their destination, but many of them were left stranded. The CEO of the airline stated that the normal flight schedule might not return until the following week.

Since his Southwest flight was canceled on Saturday, jazz pianist Adontis Barber, 34, from Kansas City, Missouri, had camped out in the city's airport in hopes of getting to a New Year's Eve performance in Washington, DC.

Wednesday, he left his vigil at the airport. "I give up," he declared. I'm beginning to think I'm homeless.

According to the FlightAware tracking service, approximately 90% of all canceled flights on Wednesday in the United States were on Southwest by early afternoon on the East Coast.

While other airlines were able to recover from the severe winter storms that struck large portions of the country over the weekend, Southwest had to cancel 2,500 flights on Wednesday and another 2,300 on Thursday.

A combination of factors led to the airline's demise, including an out-of-date crew scheduling system and a network design that makes it easy for cancellations in one area to quickly spread across the country. These flaws are not new; they contributed to Southwest's similar failure in October 2021.

The incident at Southwest, which transports more passengers within the United States than any other airline, is currently under investigation by the Transportation Department of the United States. A Senate committee has promised to look into it as well.

Southwest CEO Robert Jordan stated in a video that was posted late on Tuesday that the airline would operate on a reduced schedule for several days but hoped to be "back on track before next week."

Jordan, who took over as CEO in February after serving Southwest for 34 years, stated, "We have some real work to do in making this right." I want you to know that we are committed to that for the time being.

Southwest's events this week could only be described as a "meltdown," according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has criticized airlines for previous disruptions. He made the observation that, despite the fact that cancellations decreased to about 4% of scheduled flights in the rest of the industry, they remained above 60% at Southwest.

Buttigieg stated that Southwest's performance has been unacceptable, including the high rate of cancellations and customers' inability to contact the company by phone. He promised to demand reimbursement for passengers and hold the airline accountable.

"They need to ensure that those abandoned travelers get to where they need to go and that they are given sufficient remuneration," including for failed to catch planes, inns and dinners, he expressed Wednesday on ABC's "Great Morning America."

According to Robert Mann, a former airline executive and aviation consultant, the Transportation Department may compel Southwest to reimburse the airline for all flights that were postponed due to factors within its control, such as a lack of crew members. He estimated that up to 6,000 cancellations could result in $300 million in losses for one million customers.

Since Southwest intends to deliver $428 million in investor profits one month from now, "the numbers are not hazardous, despite the fact that brand harm has been finished," Mann said.

Southwest will not be punished by the government, according to some consumer advocates.

The American Economic Liberties Project's travel expert William McGee noted that the Transportation Department fined Frontier Airlines and a number of foreign airlines for slow refunds early in the pandemic, but did not penalize the four largest US airlines.

McGee stated, "Pete Buttigieg should probably do something different from what he will probably do." His group is seeking a modification to federal law that would make it simpler for states and private parties to sue airlines for harming customers.

Southwest advised customers who had flights canceled or delayed between December 24 and January 2 to submit receipts on its website. "We will honor reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotel, and alternate transportation," read the statement from the airline.

Lt Cmdr Manoj Mathew, a Navy physician, said that after spending two days on hold for hours, Southwest reimbursed him for the first leg of his family's trip from Washington to Houston. After the Dec. 23 flight was canceled, they drove through terrible weather. He is now concerned about whether Southwest will operate the Sunday return flight.

"I'm attempting to arrive at different carriers," he said. " We can't afford it, and there are no flights."

Through the weekend, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines announced that they would limit last-minute fares in "select" cities, respectively. Neither gave figures.

Union leaders at Southwest have been warning for a long time that the airline's crew scheduling system, which was developed in the 1990s, was not keeping up with the increasing complexity of the route map.

Randy Barnes, the president of the union that represents ground workers at Southwest, stated on Wednesday, "The fact is this is not the same airline that (Southwest co-founder) Herb Kelleher built where planes went point-to-point." The recent chaos could have been lessened or avoided if airline managers had planned more effectively."

The other major airlines in the United States use "hub and spoke" networks in which flights radiate from a small number of major or hub airports. That aids in limiting the scope of disruptions brought on by bad weather in a portion of the nation.

Southwest, on the other hand, operates a "point-to-point" network of planes that fly across the nation during the day. This can make use of each plane more efficiently, but problems in one area can spread across the country and keep crews out of position. Hub-and-spoke airlines can also leave crews stranded.)

All of the complaints that stranded travelers made about Southwest, such as the inability to contact the airline via phone and the absence of assistance with hotels and meals, are unrelated to those issues.

After their flight to Des Moines, Iowa, was canceled on Christmas Day, Teal Williams, a 48-year-old active-duty Army reservist from Utah, was stuck at the Denver airport with her husband and two teenage children. She claimed that Southwest employees lacked flight information and did not provide food vouchers while elderly passengers sat for hours in wheelchairs and mothers ran out of infant formula.

Williams stated, "It was just imploding, and no one could tell you anything." "It was scary" when the airline workers "were frantically trying to help, but you could tell they were just as clueless as everyone else."

Unfit to see as plane, train or transport seats, Williams and her family felt fortunate to score a rental vehicle. Iowa was reached via a 12-hour drive.

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