As Southwest flight cancellations continue, Buttigieg vows to hold airline accountable

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(CNN) — Relief for passengers booked on Southwest Airlines this week is still days away as the beleaguered airline continues to grapple with what U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg called a complete system meltdown. .

As of 3:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Southwest operated 2,504 of the 2,714 canceled flights to and from the United States, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. Meanwhile, the website shows the airline canceled a further 2,356 flights on Thursday.

Denver International Airport was most affected by Wednesday’s cancellations, followed by Chicago Midway International Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Dallas Love Field, Nashville International Airport, Harry Reed International Airport in Las Vegas and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. It follows.

Speaking directly with Southwest CEO Bob Jordan on Tuesday, Buttigieg said he did not immediately indicate when passengers could rebook the thousands of flights that were canceled this week.

“Their system has completely collapsed,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

“Our department has made it clear that we will hold them accountable for their responsibilities to customers in order to work through this situation and ensure it does not happen again.”

Tuesday overview

CNN’s Carlos Suarez reports from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. At this airport, travelers are braving long lines and flight cancellations after a massive winter storm hits the United States.

According to FlightAware, more than 3,200 flights inside and outside the US were canceled on Tuesday.

About 2,693 of the canceled flights were with Southwest Airlines, accounting for 84% of all canceled flights in the US.

The pile of unclaimed bags continues to grow as passengers struggled to retrieve their bags at airports such as Chicago’s Midway International Airport and Russ’ Harry Reid, while multiple airports in the Southwest of the United States on Tuesday. ticket counters witnessed long lines of travelers trying to rebook or connect. William P. Hobby Airports in Las Vegas and Houston.

Passenger Trisha Jones told CNN at the Atlanta airport that she and her partner had been traveling for five days trying to return to Wichita, Kansas after getting off a cruise in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

After her flight was canceled, she stayed at a relative’s house, then rerouted to Atlanta to catch a connecting flight.

“We were lucky because we were in Fort Lauderdale. My family lives in the Tampa Bay Area, so we were able to rent a car to visit them over Christmas,” Jones said. said. “I’ve seen so many families sleeping on the floor and it breaks my heart.”

Buttigieg: ‘We have a lot to do’

Canceled Southwest Airlines flights will appear on information boards at Oakland International Airport in California on Tuesday.

Bloomberg/Bloomberg/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Southwest Airlines attributed the travel disaster to several factors, including winter storm delays, aggressive flight schedules and outdated infrastructure.

“As far as I know, Southwest Airlines has not been able to locate the passengers, baggage, or even the crew.”

A secretary told Jordan that he expects Southwest to proactively provide refunds and cost reimbursements without asking affected passengers.

“I have told the CEO that I expect them to take better care of their passengers and work harder than ever to address this.

Buttigieg told CNN that the Department of Transportation was prepared to fine Southwest Airlines if there was evidence that the company failed to meet its legal obligations. It added that it was looking into the customer service issue that had occurred.

“Every other part of the aviation system is recovering and improving day by day, but it’s actually going in the opposite direction with this airline,” Buttigieg said.

“We have a company here that has a lot of work to do,” he said.

Southwest CEO apologizes in video

Jordan apologized to passengers and employees in a video statement released by the company on Tuesday night.

Jordan said, “We are doing everything we can to return to normal operations, but please also hear that we are truly sorry.

Jordan admitted he had issues with the company’s response, but the statement suggested he didn’t foresee major changes to Southwest’s procedures in response to the mass cancellations.

“The tools you use to recover from chaos will help you 99% of the time, but to avoid facing what’s happening now again, you need to revoke your existing plans to upgrade your systems for these extreme situations. It’s clear that we need to double down,” Jordan said.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll be back on track by next week.”

Is there anything the passenger can do?

Katie Nastro, Scott’s cheap flights spokesperson, tells us what to do if your flight is delayed or cancelled.

Southwest warns that this week’s cancellations and delays are expected to continue for several more days.

So what should the customer do?

“First and foremost, travelers who are still stuck in the Southwest and need to go somewhere should book a flight with another airline as soon as possible…now really,” travel advice said. Editor-in-Chief Kyle Potter said CNN Travel received an email late Tuesday afternoon from the website Thrifty Traveler.

“Right now, every airline in the country is so crowded that the chances of finding a seat, even at half the price, are getting smaller by the hour,” said Potter.

“Travelers in this situation should make sure to keep receipts for all other flights, rental cars, hotel stays, meals, etc.,” Potter said.

If you’re frustrated and left out and your efforts to contact a customer service agent are unsuccessful, the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights suggests trying an international phone number.

“Primary hotlines for U.S. airlines will be congested with rebooking other passengers. To reach an agent immediately, call any of the airline’s dozens of international offices. said Scott Keyes.

“Agents can process bookings just like US-based agencies, but with very little wait to get through.”

To get the international numbers previously posted by Southwest, click here.

Southwest: “Keep your receipt”

After their flight was cancelled, 13 strangers decided to rent a van and drive from Orlando to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Southwest Airlines spokesperson Jay McVay said at a press conference Monday night at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport that the airline will do everything possible to rectify the challenges passengers have experienced. rice field. Please help these people get home as soon as possible. ”

He promised to accommodate all customers, including those who have already left the airport or who have made separate arrangements themselves.

“If you’ve already left home, take care of yourself, do what’s necessary for your family, and keep your receipts,” McVay said. It doesn’t matter.”

What’s Wrong From a Pilot’s Perspective

Passengers search for their luggage at Hollywood Burbank Airport in California on Tuesday.

Passengers search for their luggage at Hollywood Burbank Airport in California on Tuesday.

Robin Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Capt. Mike Santoro, vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told CNN on Tuesday.

He explained that last week’s storm was the catalyst that triggered the major technical issues.

“What hasn’t worked is that our IT infrastructure for scheduling software is significantly outdated,” he said. “Complex route networks cannot handle the number of pilots and flight attendants in the system.

“We don’t have a regular hub like other big airlines do. We operate a point-to-point network, so crew can be misplaced even without planes.”

“It is frustrating for pilots, flight attendants and especially our passengers. They really do.”

CNN’s Andy Rose, Andi Babineau, Adrienne Broaddus, Dave Alsap, Nick Valencia, David Goldman, Leslie Perrot, Carlos Suarez, and Ross Levitt contributed to this article.

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