Southwest Airlines made countless headlines this week after cancelling more than 2,500 flights on Wednesday, after much of the United States was covered with snow from a massive winter storm.
As reported by flight tracking website FlightAware, this amounted to 62% of the day’s total flights— with many on Twitter and elsewhere deeming the situation to be a holiday ‘meltdown’ with customers who planned to fly that day left stressed and stranded.
White House & Pete Buttigieg Face Pressure From Both Parties To Act
Buttigieg sat down for an interview with ABC News this week, and deemed the wave of flight cancellations at Southwest Airlines to be a “shocking and unacceptable level of disruption.”
Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, also told the publication that the problems at Southwest Airlines “go beyond weather.”
On Twitter, Buttigieg and The White House are facing pressure from both Democrat and GOP elected officials as well as political activists who are stressing the importance of holding Southwest Airlines accountable, and helping affected customers receive full refunds for the fiasco.
Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted Wednesday, “Southwest’s flight delays & cancellations are beyond unacceptable,” adding, “This is a company that got a $7 billion taxpayer bailout & will be handing out $428 million in dividends to their wealthy shareholders.”
Sanders went on, “The Department of Transportation must hold Southwest’s CEO accountable for this greed and incompetence.”
National co-chair of Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, Nina Turner, said one major problem had to do with Buttigieg’s overwhelming ambitions for higher office.
“What’s happening with the railroads, airlines & the supply chain is a result of a small city mayor being made the Secretary of Transportation as a means to pad his resume for President,” she tweeted on Tuesday. “Secretary Buttigieg is a prime example of failing up.”
On Tuesday, House Judiciary GOP tweeted, "Where’s @SecretaryPete? #SouthwestAirlines" and he responded soon after, writing, "Good morning! At the moment I’m on Capitol Hill, not far from your offices."
He continued,"We’ll keep getting results for passengers using our authorities & resources as an agency. If you’re calling for policies that would deepen those resources, please be specific - I’d welcome the dialogue."
Southwest Airlines CEO Response
Southwest Airlines uploaded a video on Tuesday, in which its CEO Bob Jordan apologized for the flight delays. "I'm truly sorry," Jordan said. "Our network is highly complex and the operation of the airline counts on all the pieces, especially aircraft and crews remaining in motion to where they're planned to go."
He added, "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."
When contrasting the Southwest delays and 2,500 cancellations to other airlines, FlightAware noted that United Airlines only canceled 11 flights scheduled for Wednesday and American Airlines had canceled 23. Each figure, as ABC reported, accounted for "less than 1% of the respective company's total flights."
Looking Ahead And Southwest's 'Return To Normal Operations'
On Tuesday, Buttigieg vowed that the Department of Transportation would "investigate" the causes of the notable delays and cancellations at Southwest Airlines.
Two days later, Southwest Airlines announced that it plans to return to "normal operations with minimal disruptions" on Friday, after chaos that ensued following the company's cancellation of thousands of its flights, making many passengers all across the nation need alternate forms of transportation.
The airline said in a news release that it's "encouraged by the progress we've made to realign crew, their schedules and our fleet."