Southwest cancels more flights; DOT vows to look at ‘unacceptable’ rate of cancellations

Southwest Airlines canceled 60% of its flights Tuesday morning, saying the severe winter storm that hit the U.S. over the past six days is continuing to wreak havoc for those flying this holiday season.

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“With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our Customers and Employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” a statement issued Monday read.

“And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.”

While the storm has affected all modes of travel, the airline industry has seen thousands of flights canceled or delayed as runways were closed because of accumulating ice and snow.

As of 5:30 a.m. ET Tuesday, more than 2,800 U.S. flights had been canceled with more than 600 others delayed, according to FlightAware.

FlightAware tracks flights, cancellations and delays at airports around the world.

Around 2,500 of the 2,800 flights canceled Tuesday morning are Southwest flights. That number represents 60% of the airlines scheduled flights for the day.

Southwest canceled 2,886 flights on Monday — 70% of its scheduled flights — after canceling 48% of its flights on Sunday, according to FlightAware.

While Southwest’s cancellation numbers have been high, every airline has had to cancel or delay flights since last Thursday when the storm began to move across the country.

In the statement issued Monday, the airlines said that it was “fully staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when the severe weather swept across the continent.

“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.”

On Twitter, Southwest again apologized and offered to help customers through direct messages.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a statement late Monday criticizing Southwest, saying the rate of canceled flights for the airline is “unacceptable.”

“USDOT is concerned by Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays, as well as the failure to properly support customers experiencing a cancellation or delay,” the statement read. “As more information becomes available, the department will closely examine whether cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan, as well as all other pertinent DOT rules.”

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