The holiday season didn’t go as planned for many travelers, as countless vacations to see family and friends for Christmas and the New Year were cut short or left people stranded. The U.S. east coast experienced unprecedented weather conditions for the last weeks of December and leading into January, including blizzards, high wind gusts, and fog that led to poor visibility for pilots. As a result, Southwest Airlines canceled roughly 16,700 flights.
Several large airports across the United States experienced hundreds of canceled flights, adding to the total of flights not making their scheduled trips. Both Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Denver’s International Airport left passengers stranded and waiting for updates on flight schedules, with O’Hare canceling more than 500 flights on Thursday, Dec. 24 alone.
Southwest Airlines’s cancellations cost the airline between 725 and 825 million dollars. Southwest not only faced the fury of their passengers, but their shareholders as well. Arthur Teroganesian and multiple other Southwest Airlines Co. shareholders filed lawsuits against the company following the flight cancellations. Shareholders suspect that Southwest may be covering up a problem with their flight scheduling technology. Between the days of Dec. 23, 2022 and Jan. 3, there was a ten percent decrease in Southwest share prices, a loss of two billion dollars in shareholder value. Many disgruntled passengers sued Southwest for unprocessed refunds due to flight cancellations. Of all airlines, 87 percent of the canceled flights belonged to Southwest Airlines.
The United States Department of Transportation is now investigating the issues caused by Southwest’s cancellations. In an interview with CNN, Secretary Pete Buttigieg of the Department of Transportation said, “Their system really has completely melted down.” Buttigieg later stated, “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.”
Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan publicly apologized to all passengers and anyone who was affected by the canceled flights. Jordan stated on behalf of the company, “We’re focused on safely getting all of the pieces back into position to end this rolling struggle.” Southwest Airlines will continue to recover from this holiday disaster and prepare so it does not happen in the future.
(Sources: ABC News, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo)
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