DOT Investigating Southwest Airlines Following Thousands of Canceled Flights

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced its intention to investigate Southwest Airlines after thousands of people were left stranded when the airline canceled thousands of flights over Christmas weekend and beyond.

While multiple airlines were affected by the severe winter storm that swept across the U.S. in the days leading up to Christmas, Southwest Airlines has been struggling worse than its competitors — comprising the vast majority of flight cancellations across the country. The airline has also continued to cancel flights even after the devastating storm passed.

Southwest Airlines canceled a total of 1,635 flights on Christmas Day. On Monday, that number increased to 2,909 canceled flights, which meant that the airline had canceled 71% of its flights. On that day, Southwest Airlines comprised 73% of the total U.S.-related flight cancellations — meaning that the airline was somehow being affected much worse than its competitors by the same circumstances.

The major issues and resulting chaos have prompted the Department of Transportation to release a statement announcing its decision to investigate the matter.

“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service. The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan,” the DOT announced.

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines has claimed in a statement that it is simply recovering from “operational challenges,” citing the “extreme winter weather.”

“We’re working with Safety at the forefront to urgently address wide-scale disruption by rebalancing the airline and repositioning Crews and our fleet ultimately to best serve all who plan to travel with us,” the airline wrote, claiming that it was “fully staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when the severe weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S.”

“These operational conditions forced daily changes to our flight schedule at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to recover the airline operating at capacity,” the airline’s statement continued, explaining that it made the decision to work on a “reduced schedule by flying roughly one-third of our schedule for the next several days” in an effort to help return to a state of normalcy.

“With no concern higher than ultimate Safety, the People of Southwest share a goal to take care of each and every Customer. We recognize falling short and sincerely apologize,” the airline added.

As of Tuesday at 11:20 a.m. ET, Southwest Airlines had canceled 2,544 flights or 63% of the airline’s total flights.