Brandon Gage news Politics

Senate Democrats Seeking ‘Significant Monetary Compensation’ for Southwest Airlines Customers

Southwest airlines arriving at Austin–Bergstrom International Airport. Picture also depicts Spirit airlines, 2021. Brett Spangler, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Brandon Gage / AlterNet

Southwest Airlines is staring down the barrel of federal and congressional investigations amid the fallout from the more than five thousand flights that it abruptly canceled since Christmas weekend.

The Dallas, Texas-based carrier was crippled by “a combination of bad luck and bad planning,” according to CNN Business. “About 87% of Tuesday’s US flight cancellations are Southwest, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. Southwest canceled more than 2,500 flights. The next highest: Spirit Airlines, with 83.”

CNN Business noted that the massive winter storm that swept across the country over the holiday hit Southwest’s major domestic hubs in Denver, Colorado and Chicago, Illinois especially hard. The report also pointed out that “the storm hit just as the so-called tripledemic surged across America, leaving people and their families sick with Covid, the flu and RSV. Although Southwest says it was fully staffed for the holiday weekend, illness makes adjusting to increased system stress difficult. Many airlines still lack sufficient staff to recover when events like bad weather cause delays or flight crews max out the hours they’re allowed to work under federal safety regulations.”

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The impact of Southwest’s collapse has rippled across the nation, leaving scores of travelers stranded and demanding answers and actions from the government. And the Biden Administration is listening.

“Thousands of flights nationwide have been canceled around the holidays,” President Joe Biden tweeted on Tuesday. “Our Administration is working to ensure airlines are held accountable. If you’ve been affected by cancellations, go to @USDOT’s dashboard to see if you’re entitled to compensation.”

That followed a Monday post by the United States Department of Transportation.

“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” the agency wrote on Twitter. “The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”

Meanwhile, Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety Chairman Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) – along with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connectict) of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation – blasted Southwest for its implosion.

Southwest “is failing consumers,” the lawmakers said. “They must fairly compensate passengers whose flights were canceled, including not only rebooked tickets, ticket refunds, and hotel, meal, and transportation reimbursement, but significant monetary compensation for disruption to holiday plans.”

Southwest addressed the matter in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

“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,” the airline stated. “And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.”

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Brandon Gage

Brandon Gage is a writer at AlterNet.

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