Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that his department will look into the Southwest AirlinesSouthwest Airlines scheduling system after thousands of canceled flights raged passengers across the U.S.
Southwest has canceled 70% of its flight schedule Monday and Tuesday due to the difficulty recovering from severe winter weather and staffing problems.
This has clearly crossed the line from an uncontrollable weather situation to something that is the airline's direct responsibility, Buttigieg said Tuesday in an interview on NBC Nightly News. Southwest canceled more than 2,800 flights Monday - the day after Christmas - and around 2,600 Tuesday, according to tracking website FlightAware.
The airline has said it plans to only operate about one-third of its schedule, or roughly 1,500 flights, for several days as it tries to move crews into position.
Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said in a video statement Tuesday that he was truly sorry. He said there was a huge effort to stabilize the airline.
Jordan said that Southwest's network is complex and depends on aircraft and flight crews staying in motion, and that cities with large numbers of flights simultaneously froze.
He said that Southwest had to reduce its flights in order to catch up.
Other airlines seem to have recovered from the severe winter weather, which saw 200 million people under winter alerts or warnings go into the holiday weekend.
Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots AssociationSouthwest Airlines Pilots Association, said Southwest had not prepared adequately for the storm. Large swaths of Southwest crews are still in contract negotiations with the carrier.
Jordan said that it will change the tools it uses to recover from disruptions.
He said that we need to double-down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so that we don't have to face what is happening right now.
Buttigieg said Southwest pledged to take care of impacted customers, and that the Transportation DepartmentTransportation Department will hold the airline accountable for that.
There need to be cash refunds for the canceled flights, and they need to be taking care of passengers who got stuck, with hotels compensation, according to Buttigieg.
Another 2,478 Southwest flights scheduled for Wednesday have been cancelled, according to FlightAware.