The US government is demanding scrutiny of Southwest Airlines as to why it lagged behind other airlines in recovering from the impact of the winter storm that swept through the nation.
The airline called off over 12,000 flights around the Christmas holiday weekend in the aftermath of the storm.
This disruption continued for Southwest Airlines even when other airlines rebounded from the calamity’s impact.
As per tracking platform FlightAware, of the nearly 3,200 flights scrubbed for 27 December, almost 2,691 were Southwest flights.
The carrier cancelled 2,500 flights for Wednesday and around 1,400 flights for Thursday, stated AP News.
In order to recover, it is looking to fly only a third of its schedule for the “next several days”.
In a video statement, Southwest Airlines CEO Bob 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.
“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 also highlighted on the carrier’s need to “double down” on plans to upgrade systems for extreme scenarios.
Apologising for the chaos, he said that the airline hopes to be on track before next week.
Meanwhile, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called this a complete meltdown of the airline’s systems, adding that his department will hold the carrier accountable.
In a CNN interview, Buttigieg said: “I made clear that our department will be holding them accountable for their responsibilities to customers, both to get them through this situation and to make sure that this can’t happen again.”
Buttigieg added that his department would look into the factors leading to the widespread cancellations, and whether the airline was complying with its legal obligations.
TWU Local 556, Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants union reiterated this disappointment, saying that the carrier failed its staff due to its refusal to upgrade operations.
“While Southwest COO Andrew Watterson admitted its current systems are “overmatched” by Winter Storm Elliott, the union points to years of neglect in securing and implementing technology that would make the difference for flight crews, employees and also customers,” the union said.