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DOT Probes Southwest Airlines Scheduling After Holiday-Travel Meltdown

DOT Probes Southwest Airlines Scheduling After Holiday-Travel Meltdown

DOT Probes Southwest Airlines Scheduling After Holiday-Travel Meltdown

US Department of Transportation Investigating Southwest Airlines Ltd.

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In the wake of last month’s holiday season meltdown, we investigated whether airline management sold more flights than they could actually operate.

The DOT said it is in the early stages of a comprehensive investigation into the late December debacle. As part of the investigation, the department said it was investigating whether Southwest engaged in “unfair and deceptive practices” by offering unrealistic schedules.

“The DOT will maximize its investigative and enforcement powers to ensure consumer protection. This process will continue to evolve as the department learns more,” the spokesperson said. I’m here.

Southwest did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The DOT also said it is monitoring Southwest to ensure it complies with its rules on providing refunds to affected customers and reimbursing costs.

Southwest Airlines canceled and reset more than 16,700 flights from Dec. 21 to Dec. 31 after struggling to recover from severe winter storms that hit the country before Christmas. has cut flights by nearly two-thirds over three days. .

Southwest Airlines said the airline was staffed and ready for vacation, but widespread severe cold, wind and ice disrupted operations. The sheer number of flight cancellations caused a wave of crew rescheduling, and the software system Southwest Airlines uses to reassign pilots and flight attendants was overwhelmed after the chaos. As a result, airlines have had to revert to tedious manual processes, making it harder to catch up and stay on track, executives said.

The airline is working with provider General Electric Ltd.

On newer versions of that system, among other procedures.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has blamed airlines for their stumbles in recent months, accusing them of planning more flights than they could handle last summer. He promised to implement rules on refunds and other measures to hold carriers accountable.

Some lawmakers are pushing for more drastic consumer protection measures. Senator Maria Cantwell (D, Washington), who heads the Senate Transportation Affairs Committee, said last month that the committee would consider canceling Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan said earlier this month that the airline was processing refunds within about three days of receiving the request and within the deadline imposed by the DOT.

Write to Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com.

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