Southwest Airlines, which has faced increasing criticism for its number of flight cancellations on Monday, has announced that they will operate one-third of its scheduled flights "for the next several days."
Blaming the chaos on their flight schedule on this past week's winter storm, Southwest said in a statement that the winter weather caused disruptions to their full holiday travel plans, causing the catastrophic cancellations.
"We were fully staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when the severe weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S," the airlines' statement read. "These operational conditions forced daily changes to our flight schedule at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to recover the airline operating at capacity."
"This safety-first work is intentional, ongoing, and necessary to return to normal reliability, one that minimizes last-minute inconveniences," the statement continued. "As we continue the work to recover our operation, we have made the decision to continue operating a reduced schedule by flying roughly one third of our schedule for the next several days."
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Southwest spokesman Jay McVay said at a press conference in Houston that cancellations snowballed as storm systems moved across the country, leaving flight crews and planes out of place.
“So we’ve been chasing our tails, trying to catch up and get back to normal safely, which is our number one priority as quickly as we could,” he said. "And that’s exactly how we ended up where we are today.”
U.S. & World
The flight cancellations come at a time when passengers are trying to fly home or to a travel destination following the holiday weekend. The increased headaches caused by Southwest's cancellations led to many customer complaints and scrutiny from the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has said it will look into why there were so many cancellations or delays and whether the airline is "complying with its customer service plan, as well as all other pertinent DOT rules.”
The severe winter weather has caused at least 17,000 flights to be canceled across the country since Wednesday, but Southwest Airlines has faced the height of schedule struggles. While other airlines had a few canceled flights on Monday, Delta with around 300 and United with 130, Southwest had at least 2,893, according to NBC News.
Southwest Airlines continued to apologize for its cancellations.
"We recognize falling short and sincerely apologize," the airline said in its statement.