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- Pete Buttigieg increased pressure on Southwest Airlines to take care of its passengers.
- The airline has cancelled thousands of flights since the Christmas weekend.
- “We will mount an extraordinary effort to make sure that they’re meeting their obligations,” Buttigieg said.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday said his department “will mount an extraordinary effort” to ensure that Southwest Airlines meets its obligations to customers after cancelling thousands of flights during the holiday season.
“We’ve never seen a situation, at least not on my watch, with this volume of disruption,” Buttigieg said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“So this is going to take an extraordinary level of effort by Southwest,” he continued. “And we will mount an extraordinary effort to make sure that they’re meeting their obligations.”
The flight cancelations largely stemmed from a severe winter storm that affected large swaths of the country over the Christmas weekend and upended travel for many airlines. But while many carriers have gone back to business as usual, Southwest Airlines is still experiencing significant disruptions.
More than 2,500 Southwest Airlines flights within, into, or out of the US were cancelled on Wednesday, according to FlightAware, a real-time aviation tracker. That’s around 60% of the airline’s total flights. Almost the same amount has been cancelled for Thursday, according to FlightAware. In total, the airline has cancelled around 11,000 flights since last Thursday.
Buttigieg, calling the debacle a “system failure,” said he spoke with Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan on Tuesday to remind the carrier of their “customer service commitments” and to hold them accountable for the travel meltdown.
“To me, it means that in order to restore that relationship with their customers, Southwest is going to have to not only make them financially whole, but find a way to really rebuild trust and confidence,” Buttigieg said Wednesday.
In addition to refunds for cancelled flights, Buttigieg called for the airline to cover hotels, ground transportation, and meals for stranded passengers “because this is the airline’s responsibility.”
Jordan pledged that Southwest would meet its commitments to its customers, and “we will be watching closely to make sure that actually happens,” Buttigieg said.
In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday evening, Jordan said the airline will “go above and beyond” to take care of its passengers and publicly apologized for the “unacceptable” cancellations.
“With our large fleet of airplanes and flight crews out of position in dozens of locations, and after days of trying to operate as much of our full schedule across the busy holiday weekend, we reached a decision point to significantly reduce our flying to catch up,” Jordan said. “We’re focused on safely getting all of the pieces back into position to end this rolling struggle.”
“We’re optimistic to be back on track before next week,” he added.