Senior Biden administration officials chastised Southwest Airlines for canceling more than 70% of its flights on Monday due to the snowfall that ravaged numerous regions across the country.
Southwest Airlines stated that widespread cancellations and flight delays would continue for the next week. This prompted the Department of Transportation to become concerned about interstate passengers, even though other airlines have previously said that they are gradually recovering from the severe weather that began more than a week ago. For example, Southwest Airlines canceled almost 60% of its flights on Monday, adding that it would only run one-third of its scheduled flights over the following three days.
According to FlightAware, the weather caused more than 17,000 interstate flights to be canceled. The enormous volume of snow, cold air, and ice posed substantial challenges for airport and airline crews. Southwest Airlines revealed plans to restrict the number of flights available during the New Year’s holiday. This might have an impact on carrier pricing and costs. While some airlines showed genuine issues, regulators claim Southwest Airlines is exaggerating its difficulties.
“USDOT is concerned by Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays as well as the failure to support customers experiencing a cancellation or delay properly,” said the Department of Transportation.
“As more information becomes available, the Department will closely examine whether cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan as well as all other pertinent DOT rules.”
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Southwest Airlines scrapped too many flights
Airline companies have indicated that their operations would be impacted over the holidays. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines, and United Airlines are among them. Several of them specified a proportion of canceled flights. However, Southwest Airlines had the highest rate of cancellations among all carriers. For example, Delta Air stated it has canceled around 9% of its flights, United Airlines 5%, and American Airlines 1% of all flights. On the other hand, Southwest Airlines canceled 70% of its scheduled flights.
“It’s all hands on deck to ensure our customers are cared for during the holiday travel season, including when severe weather hits. Critical to our preparations was sizing the airline for the resources we have available and operating conditions we face, as well as being able to react quickly to get our customers on their way once the weather clears,” said American in a press release.
Southwest Airlines COO Andrew Watterson indicated that the carrier is canceling scheduled flights in large numbers in order to stabilize operations. Southwest Airlines had already delayed two-thirds of its flights and canceled one-third of them, according to FlightAware. Many passengers are disappointed by the company’s declaration. As a result, the company’s executives apologized for the inconvenience.
“Part of what we’re suffering is a lack of tools. We’ve talked an awful lot about modernizing the operation and the need to do that. And Crew Scheduling is one of the places that we need to invest in. We need to be able to produce solutions faster,” said Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan.
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Crews are struggling
The crew is one of the most affected stakeholders in the present airline challenges. According to unions, many pilots and flight attendants are already sleeping in airports due to a lack of hotel rooms. Furthermore, airline cancellations compel teams to remain within the airport since they cannot travel appropriately in dire weather circumstances.
“Our customers struggled with it just as our thousands of flight attendants did. Unfortunately, these are issues that you can’t solve with holiday pay; this is time and quality of life that we will never get back,” said Lyn Montgomery, the Transport Workers Union of America Local 556 president.
“Temperatures have fallen so low that our equipment and infrastructure have been impacted, from frozen lav systems and fuel hoses to broken tow bars. Pilots have encountered frozen locks when trying to re-enter the jet bridge after conducting walk arounds,” announced United Airlines.
The bitter weather hampered operations at several airports. Weather delays most flights by an average of 81 minutes. The situation, sometimes known as a bomb cyclone, occurs when an abrupt change in atmospheric pressure affects the air and humidity conditions in the vicinity. This week, New York has been badly impacted, with inches of snow covering the streets. The death toll has risen to 50, as patients needing emergency medical assistance could not be evacuated to a medical institution.
“Bombogenesis, a popular term used by meteorologists, occurs when a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours. A millibar measures atmospheric pressure. This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters. The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is a process called bombogenesis, which creates what is known as a bomb cyclone,” writes the National Ocean Service.
“Some were found in cars, some were found on the street in snowbanks. We know there are people who have been stuck in cars for more than two days,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
Citizens have been fighting the snow storm, frequently stuck inside cars and houses, while hundreds have been left without power as high winds destroy electricity infrastructure.