Will Buttigieg Hold Southwest Airlines Accountable?

Between Thursday and Christmas Day, over 15,000 flights were canceled by all airlines because of a massive winter storm. Southwest Airlines accounted for a major number of them, according to CNN. As of Dec. 28, the airline had scrubbed nearly 10,000 flights and warned of thousands more.

The cancellations left passengers stranded and caused havoc with lost luggage and passengers scrambling to find accommodation or alternate transportation. Many passengers expressed their frustration and anger to the media, and others vowed never to fly Southwest again.

Airline workers say that the fiasco was preventable and that they had warned that it would happen months ago.

In an official statement, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said, “The holiday meltdown has been blamed on weather that had been forecast five days prior, but this problem began many years ago when the complexity of our network outgrew its ability to withstand meteorological and technological disruptions.”

On Tuesday, Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan made a public apology saying that he was “truly sorry” and that they had some “real work to do in making this right.” He also promised to “lean in and go above and beyond” by taking care of their customers with refunds and “proactively reaching out and taking care of customers who are dealing with costly detours and reroutes.”

The situation led the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to tweet about the problem on Monday, relaying its “concern” about “the unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service.”

On Tuesday, the Department of Transportation tweeted again, stating that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg had spoken with union leaders and the CEO of Southwest Airlines to convey the Department’s expectation that Southwest would meet its obligations to passengers and workers and take steps to prevent a situation like this from happening again.

Later on Tuesday, Buttigieg himself tweeted from his official Twitter account, emphasizing how it was “an unacceptable situation” and promising to hold “Southwest accountable for making things right with their customers and employees.”

So far, Southwest Airlines has shown little response online to the chaos created by them. Their Twitter account shows a pinned tweet from Dec.27, with an apology to those whose travel was disrupted and a link to explore “self-service options.”