Buttigieg vows to hold Southwest Airlines ‘accountable’ for meltdown

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg weighed in on Southwest Airlines’ holiday-weekend implosion Tuesday, promising customers that his department will hold the airline accountable.

“Their system really has completely melted down,” Buttigieg said in a CNN interview Tuesday evening. Buttigieg said he had spoken earlier in the day with Southwest Chief Executive Bob Jordan, and “I made clear that our department will be holding them accountable for their responsibilities to customers, both to get them through this situation and to make sure that this can’t happen again.”

“I conveyed to the CEO our expectation that they going to go above and beyond to take care of passengers and to address this,” Buttigieg said.

“Our department will be holding them accountable for their responsibilities to customers.”

— Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

Southwest canceled more than 2,600 flights Tuesday, according to FlightAware data, and has already canceled more than 2,500 on Wednesday and 1,400 on Thursday as it looks to rebuild its shattered flight schedule. That came after the airline canceled thousands of flights Sunday and Monday, stranding tens of thousands of passengers traveling for the Christmas holiday.

In a video Tuesday, Jordan said Southwest hopes to be “back on track before next week” and blamed the weekend’s intense winter storm that struck most of the country. Unions representing Southwest workers, however, put the blame on antiquated scheduling software that left the airline struggling to fill flight-crew positions.

Also see: Southwest’s ‘heartfelt apologies’ to travelers are just beginning amid winter storm Elliott chaos

“From what I can tell, Southwest is unable to locate even where their own crews are, let alone their own passengers, let alone baggage,” Buttigieg told CNN, saying he had spoken to Southwest union leaders.

In a separate interview with NBC News on Tuesday night, Buttigieg said: “This has clearly crossed the line from what’s an uncontrollable weather situation to something that is the airline’s direct responsibility.”

On Monday, the Transportation Department said it would investigate Southwest over “whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”

Southwest shares

sank 6% on Tuesday, and have fallen 21% year to date, compared to the S&P 500’s

0.4% decline Tuesday and 20% retreat this year.

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