Southwest Airlines. cancellations continue. help days left

(CNN) — For passengers booked on Southwest Airlines this week, a much-needed conclusion to the carrier’s woes is still agonizing days away.

As the beleaguered airline continues to sort out stranded passengers, uncollected luggage and out-of-position planes, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has put the airline into action.

He called the created situation a complete “disintegration” of the system. And that meltdown continues through Wednesday afternoon.

Of the 2,844 cancellations already scheduled for Wednesday for flights departing within, to, or out of the United States as of 2 p.m. ET, about 2,509 of them operated on Southwest, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. That is 88% of all canceled flights in the US. all other airlines together make up the remaining 12%.

In total, Southwest canceled about 15,700 flights as winter weather began to disrupt air travel on Dec. 22. That number includes nearly 2,350 flights already canceled for Thursday.

This is now a Southwest issue

Other US airlines operating flights in similar weather conditions have since recovered from storm disruptions.

In fact, American Airlines and United Airlines are capping prices on some routes served by Southwest Airlines to make their flights more affordable for stranded passengers.

Southwest does not have inter-network agreements with other carriers that would allow its agents to rebook passengers on another airline, leaving travelers with the responsibility to explore other options.

Denver International Airport led the way in cancellations Wednesday, with significant cancellations at Chicago Midway, Dallas Love Field, Las Vegas Harry Reid and Nashville International Airport, among others.

Southwest plans to operate flights on a reduced schedule over the next few days to accommodate crews and aircraft, the airline’s CEO, Bob Jordan, said in a video released by the airline late Tuesday.

“We’re optimistic we’ll be back on track by next week,” he said.

Buttigieg said he spoke directly with Jordan on Tuesday about the thousands of canceled flights this week.

“Their system has really completely melted down,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

“I made it clear that our department will hold them accountable for their responsibilities to customers, both to get them out of this situation and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Those duties include meal vouchers and hotel accommodations for passengers whose flights were disrupted “as a result of Southwest’s decisions and actions,” a Transportation Department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

U.S. airlines are also required to provide cash refunds to passengers whose flights were canceled and chose not to travel, the DOT said.

Tuesday at a Glance

CNN’s Carlos Suarez reports from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, where travelers are braving long lines and flight cancellations as a massive winter storm sweeps the US.

According to FlightAware, 3,211 flights within, into or out of the US were canceled on Tuesday.

Southwest accounted for 2,694 of those canceled flights, a staggering 84% of all canceled flights in the US.

Southwest ticket counters at multiple U.S. airports on Tuesday saw long lines of travelers trying to rebook or connect, while huge piles of unclaimed bags continued to grow as passengers struggled to reclaim their luggage at airports including Chicago’s Midway International , in Harry Reid. Las Vegas and Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport

Passenger Trisha Jones told CNN at the Atlanta airport that she and her partner had been traveling for five days trying to get home to Wichita, Kansas, after disembarking at the Port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

After her flight was canceled, she stayed with relatives and then transferred to Atlanta to catch a connecting flight.

“We were lucky because we were in Fort Lauderdale. my family lives in Tampa Bay, so we were able to rent a car to go with my family for Christmas,” Jones said. “We’ve seen so many families sleeping on the floor and it just breaks my heart.”

Buttigieg. “A lot of cleaning needs to be done”

Hundreds of bags are no longer required at Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) on Dec. 28.

Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Southwest blamed several factors for the travel disaster, including winter storm delays, aggressive flight scheduling and aging infrastructure.

“From what I can tell, Southwest can’t locate their crew, let alone their passengers, let alone their luggage,” Buttigieg said, adding that he also spoke with the airline’s union leaders, who are represented by flight attendants and pilots.

The secretary said he told CEO Jordan that he expects Southwest to proactively offer refunds and reimbursements to affected passengers without them asking.

“I have conveyed to the CEO our expectation that they are going to do everything they can to take care of passengers and resolve this issue,” he said.

Buttigieg told CNN that the Department of Transportation is prepared to impose fines against Southwest if there is evidence that the company has not met its legal obligations, but he added that the department will take a closer look at the airline’s customer service issues.

“While every other part of the aviation system is moving toward recovery and getting better every day, it’s actually moving in the opposite direction with this airline,” Buttigieg said.

“You have a company here that has a lot of cleanup to do,” he said.

Southwest CEO issues video apology

In a video published on Tuesday evening, Jordan apologized to passengers and employees.

“We’re doing everything we can to get back to normal surgery, and please also hear that I’m really sorry,” Jordan said.

He said that because a large number of planes and flight crews were “not out” in dozens of cities, the airline had decided to “significantly reduce our flights to catch up”.

While Jordan acknowledged problems with the company’s response, the statement suggested he doesn’t foresee huge changes to Southwest’s operating plans in response to the mass cancellations.

“The tools we use to recover from an outage serve us well 99% of the time, but it’s clear that we need to redouble our existing plans to update systems for these extreme circumstances so that we never face what happened again.” happening right now. Jordan said.

Passengers can do anything.

Scott’s Cheap Flights spokesperson Kathy Nastro shares her tips for what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled.

Southwest warned that this week’s cancellations and delays are expected to continue for several more days.

So what should customers do?

“First and foremost, travelers who are still waiting on Southwest and need to get somewhere should try to book a flight with another airline as soon as possible … right now, really,” said Kyle Potter of Travel Tips. executive editor. Thrifty Traveler website, in an email to CNN Travel late Tuesday afternoon.

“Every airline in the country is fully booked right now, so your chances of even getting a seat, let alone at a half-decent price, are shrinking by the hour,” Potter said.

“Travelers there should be sure to keep all of their receipts — other flights, rental cars, hotel nights, meals, anything,” Potter said.

If you’re stuck in the dark and your efforts to reach a customer service agent are getting nowhere, the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights suggests trying an international number.

“The main US airline hotline will be jammed with other passengers who will be overbooked. To reach an agent quickly, call any of the airline’s dozens of international offices,” said Scott Keyes. Those agents can handle U.S.-based reservations, Case said.

Click here for the international numbers previously released by Southwest.

Southwest. “Save your receipts”

After their flight was canceled, 13 strangers decided to rent a van and drive all the way from Orlando to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Southwest spokesman Jay McVeigh said Monday night that Houston’s William P. Hobby said at a press conference at the airport that the airline would do everything it could to fix the challenges passengers faced, including “hotels, trip assistance, vans … rental cars to try and create.” Rest assured these people will get home as soon as possible.”

He promised that all subscribers, even those who have already left the airport or made their own arrangements, will also be taken care of.

“If you’ve already left, take care of yourself, do what you need to do for your family, keep your receipts,” McVeigh said. “We will make sure that they take care of it, that is not a question.”

What is wrong from the pilot’s point of view?

Passengers search for their luggage at the Hollywood Burbank Airport in California on Tuesday.

Passengers search for their luggage at the Hollywood Burbank Airport in California on Tuesday.

Robin Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Captain Mike Santoro, vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said the problems facing Southwest are the worst disruptions he has experienced at the airline in 16 years.

He described last week’s storm as the catalyst that helped cause major technical problems.

“The mistake is that our IT infrastructure for planning software is too outdated,” he said. “It cannot cope with the number of pilots, flight attendants that we have in the system, with our complex route network.

“We don’t have the normal hub like other major airlines. We’re flying a point-to-point network that can put our crew in the wrong places without planes.”

He added: “It’s frustrating for pilots, flight attendants and especially our passengers. We are tired of apologizing for Southwest, the airline’s pilots, our hearts go out to all the passengers, they really do.”

CNN’s Gregory Wallace, Andy Rose, Andy Babineau, Adrienne Broadus, Dave Alsap, Nick Valencia, David Goldman, Leslie Perrott, Carlos Suarez and Ross Levitt contributed to this story.


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