Southwest ‘Imploding’ After Cancellations, Delays

Southwest Airlines Airplane | Image by Tada Images/Shutterstock

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has launched an examination of Southwest Airlines after the Dallas-based carrier canceled and delayed more than 5,000 scheduled flights in recent days.

Travelers were left stranded and fuming after Southwest Airlines canceled 70% — or 2,886 — of its scheduled flights over the holiday weekend, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.

Southwest passengers were offered little reprieve the next day, with FlightAware reporting the airline canceled more than 60% — or 2,400 — of Tuesday’s planned flights.

“Southwest Airlines is basically imploding,” said President of TWU Local 556 Lyn Montgomery, the union that represents Southwest Airlines flight attendants. “It’s really hard on not only Southwest Airlines customers, but also [has] a deep impact on its flight crews.”

“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 department said in a tweet Monday.

In addition, USDOT said it would “closely examine whether cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan as well as all other pertinent DOT rules.”

The Dallas Express visited Dallas Love Field Airport — the home of Southwest Airlines — to better understand the extent of the “unacceptable” winter storm cancellations and how Southwest passengers were holding up, given their circumstances.

To start, the baggage claim section of the airport — where The Dallas Express had its interviews — was almost empty and quiet upon entering, save for the rotating sound of the baggage carousel and the hushed conversations from passengers waiting in line for a customer service representative. Despite their holiday travel frustrations, many standing in line remained stoically silent.

Most noticeable were the seemingly countless pieces of unclaimed luggage scattered around the area.

One Southwest passenger who spoke with The Dallas Express was TCU graduate and former journalist Tad Desai, who described the unfortunate situation he found himself in after Southwest canceled his outgoing flight from Dallas to Phoenix.

Desai said he was scheduled to fly to Arizona on Tuesday ahead of the state’s annual Fiesta Bowl, due to take place on December 31, but only found out that his flight from Dallas to Phoenix was canceled after he had already boarded his plane from Tampa Bay to Dallas.

“My sister was supposed to fly out of New York a few hours after my flight took off, and we were supposed to meet in Phoenix, but her flight got canceled, and they said they wouldn’t be able to reschedule her,” Desai told The Dallas Express. “I haven’t determined if my luggage is missing just yet, or what I am going to do, but I’ve got to figure out how I am getting to Arizona. I have a $500 non-refundable ticket to the football game that I really don’t want to see go to waste,” he said.

As more flights trickled into Dallas Love Field over the next couple of hours, the lines, which started out small, continued to grow as concerned passengers paced the area trying to spot their luggage.

“Any luggage meant for outgoing flights is being held by security, which has nearly 3,000 bags back there right now,” claimed Lisa Reynolds, a retired teacher who had flown in from Denver and, like Desai, had her outgoing Southwest flight canceled.

“This whole thing with missing or lost luggage is ridiculous, and it simply shouldn’t be this hard to figure out,” Reynolds told The Dallas Express.

“Honestly, cleaning this mess would be an organizer’s dream job,” she said in reference to the unclaimed luggage.

While various major U.S. airlines experienced their own share of cancellations and delays this past week, none were nearly as significant as Southwest.

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan released a video update late Tuesday in response to the growing pressure from customers and the media. In his video response, Jordan issued an apology to customers for Southwest’s operational failure and the impact that widespread cancellations and delays have had.

“The tools Southwest uses to recover from disruptions have served us well … but clearly, the company needs to double down on its already existing plans and systems to avoid these extreme circumstances,” he said.

“I reached out to Secretary [of Transportation Pete] Buttigieg earlier today to continue the discussions we’ve been having with the DOT through the holiday — sharing all the things that we’re doing to make things right for our customers,” Jordan continued.

In addition, “teams are working to process refunds” and are proactively reaching out to customers who are dealing with costly detours and reroutes.

“Our plan for the next few days is to fly a reduced schedule and reposition our people and planes. … We’re making headway, and we’re optimistic” about being back on track before next week, Jordan said.

“We have some real work to do in making this right. For now, I want you to know that we’re committed to that,” Jordan concluded.

Southwest’s stock price (NSYE: LUV) took a hit off the news, falling by 5.96% on Tuesday to a closing price of $33.88. The stock opened Wednesday at a price of $33.46. Year-to-date, the stock price has fallen from a high of $50.10 to a low of $30.20.

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  1. Don M

    Go get ‘em Buttigieg!!!!!!
    We know you can do it!!!!!!!!!
    Because we know government bureaucrats can solve any problem, especially when they have no experience.
    Or, as it appears here, even private sector management with experience for that matter.

    • LoWa

      Wasn’t the entire problem caused by employees quitting?

      • M R

        No…..it wasn’t caused by employees quitting. They’re stranded as well. Willing and wanting to get people where they want to be. This implosion is a direct result of poor management. And what kind of “year end bonus” did they receive…reportedly millions.

      • CEA


    • John

      But he is a Minority, so he checked off a box and virtue signalers can support him to give themselves a modicum of superiority over others.


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