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DOT is probing whether Southwest’s schedules were ‘unrealistic’ during holiday meltdown

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A Southwest Airlines passenger jet lands at Chicago Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, on December 28, 2022.

Kamil Krzaczynski | AFP | Getty Images

The Transportation Department said Wednesday that it’s within the initial phase of an investigation of Southwest Airlines‘ holiday meltdown and looking out at whether the carrier’s schedules was unrealistic.

Southwest has said it canceled greater than 16,000 flights between Dec. 21 and Dec. 31 because it struggled to get better from severe winter weather while executives said that they had to cancel much more flights to regular the operation.

The corporate and labor unions have pointed to outmoded scheduling platforms that weren’t designed to handle the variety of flight changes that occurred over that period.

“DOT can be probing whether Southwest executives engaged in unrealistic scheduling of flights which under federal law is taken into account an unfair and deceptive practice,” a DOT spokesperson said. “DOT will leverage the complete extent of its investigative and enforcement power to make sure consumers are protected and this process will proceed to evolve because the Department learns more.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has previously vowed to carry Southwest accountable for the disruptions, which left lots of of 1000’s of travelers stranded.

“Our holiday flight schedule was thoughtfully designed and offered to our Customers with the backing of a solid plan to operate it, and with ample staffing,” Southwest said in an announcement late Wednesday. “We are going to proceed to cooperate with any inquiry or request from government oversight or elected officials. We’re acutely focused on learning from this event, mitigating the chance of a repeat occurrence, and delivering the hospitality and outstanding service our Customers expect from us.”

Southwest is scheduled to report results before the market opens on Thursday.

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