‘I’m truly sorry’: Southwest CEO speaks out on holiday cancellations

Southwest’s recent struggles have drawn attention from the Biden administration and U.S. transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Customers wait in line at a Southwest Airlines desk at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

DALLAS: Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan apologized on Tuesday for a series of cancellations and delays amid severe winter weather over Christmas weekend. 

“We’re doing everything we can to return to a normal operation,” Jordan said in a video on Southwest’s newsroom. “Please also hear that I’m truly sorry.”

Jordan attributed complications to Southwest’s flight path system, claiming the airline builds its schedule around communities, not hubs. 

“We are the largest airline in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S., cities where large numbers of scheduled flights simultaneously froze as record bitter cold brought challenges for all airlines,” he added. 

Other major U.S. carriers have already rebounded from the effects of harsh weather conditions. Out of the 2,858 Wednesday cancellations departing to, within or out of the U.S., 2,509 are Southwest flights, according to FlightAware

Jordan said Southwest teams are working on processing refunds and proactively reaching out and taking care of customers who are dealing with costly detours and reroutes, adding “We’re optimistic to be back on track before next week.”

“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. 

According to CNBC, Southwest has also offered to reimburse customers for “reasonable” hotel, meal and alternative transportation expenses if travelers provide receipts. 

A Southwest representative could not be immediately reached for further comment. 

U.S. transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Wednesday that his department “will mount an extraordinary effort” to ensure Southwest meets its obligations to customers, including refunds. 

Buttigieg also urged other airlines to cap fares to alleviate fallout from Southwest’s cancellations. Airlines such as Delta, United and American have since implemented specific measures. 

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden pointed travelers affected by cancellations to the Department of Transportation’s dashboard, to see if they might be eligible for compensation. 

Southwest has cut roughly 15,700 flights since December 22, including more than 2,350 flights already canceled for Thursday, CNN reported

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