Southwest Airlines flights returning to normal amid pressure from feds

Winter Weather Travel Phoenix
Posted at 6:24 AM, Dec 30, 2022

After canceling over 60% of its flights for the last week, it appears things are returning to normal for Southwest Airlines.

The airline said on Thursday it expected it would be able to resume normal operations on Friday. According to Flight Aware, just 1% of its flights scheduled for Friday have been canceled, a far cry from just 24 hours prior when nearly three out of five flights were canceled.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation is continuing to apply pressure on the airline to make amends with its customers. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent a letterThursday to airline CEO Bob Jordan with four priorities for Southwest:

  • Getting stranded passengers to their destinations safely and quickly.
  • Providing or reimbursing passengers for meals, hotels, and ground transportation to or from hotels.
  • Promptly refunding affected passengers for their canceled tickets should the passenger not accept alternative offered such as rebooking.
  • Ensuring that passengers are quickly reunited with their baggage.

“In the coming days, I expect that Southwest will have repositioned its people and aircraft and be on track to resume normal operations. I recognize that Southwest’s employees, from customer service agents to ground staff to flight crews, are working extremely hard, under trying circumstances, to help the airline return to normalcy. These frontline employees are not to blame for mistakes at the leadership level,” Buttigieg wrote.

Southwest has acknowledged that system failures were partially to blame after the airline struggled to resume normal operations after last week’s massive winter storm.

Earlier this week, Southwest Airlines said it would accept reimbursement requests from passengers impacted by the carrier's mass cancellations this week.

The airline posted a link on its website, saying it will honor "reasonable requests" for reimbursement for expenses incurred due to flight cancellations. Among the expenses listed include hotel accommodations, rental cars, other airline tickets and food.

Generally, airlines are not required to pay for expenses incurred due to travel disruptions, such as hotel rooms and meals. However, suppose the delay or cancellation is the airline's fault. In that case, most airlines have plans to offer to pay for expenses, such as meals and hotel rooms, according to a federal government dashboard.