Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan made a groveling public apology for the ongoing travel chaos caused by his carrier — hours before more than 2,500 flights were yet again scrapped Wednesday.
“I’m truly sorry … we have some real work to do in making this right,” Jordan said in a video address late Tuesday of the 12,000 flights that had already been scrapped by then since Friday.
The video was posted soon after the federal government confirmed it would investigate why the company lagged so far behind other carriers in recovering from the disruption of the historic “bomb cyclone.”
That chaos continued Wednesday, with Southwest already canceling 2,507 flights, more than 60% of those it had scheduled.
It made up the vast majority of the nearly 2,750 flights already canceled across the US, with more than 700 others also delayed, according to the FlightAware tracker.
The travel chaos will continue for at least through Thursday, with another 2,350 Southwest flights already canceled for then, too.
The beleaguered CEO insisted his staff were “making headway” and were “optimistic to be back on track before next week.”
As well as stranding travelers, the ongoing mass cancelations also led to extraordinary scenes at airports with seemingly endless lines for people trying to pick up luggage from the airline.
One video showed mammoth lines at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) on Monday — taken by a woman who claimed it took her a staggering “60 hours and 15 minutes” to get her bag.
“[A]nd I was by far one of the luckiest people around me. I actually left with my suitcase,” Megan Becker tweeted alongside the clip.
Others waited for hours trying to book new flights, with many sleeping on airport floors while stranded from their destinations –as some vowed to never again fly with the Dallas-based carrier.
In his apology, Jordan blamed the “record, bitter cold” for the initial “challenges for all airlines” — while admitting a breakdown of the carrier’s “highly complex” operation while trying to get back on track.
“The tools we use to recover from disruption service well 99% of the time, but clearly we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so that we never again face what’s happening right now,” he said.
Still, he stood by his “heroic employees caught up in a massive effort to stabilize the airline.”
“I’m apologizing to them daily, and they’ll be hearing more about our specific plans to ensure the challenges that they face the past few days will not be part of our future,” he said.
He also vowed to “lean in and go above and beyond” to “take care of our customers” with refunds and “proactively reaching out and taking care of customers who are dealing with costly detours and reroutes.”
Jordan also confirmed that he met Tuesday with Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who earlier called the chaos a “meltdown” — and one union leaders had been warning about for some time.
“While we all understand that you can’t control the weather, this has clearly crossed the line from what is an uncontrollable weather situation to something that is the airline’s direct responsibility,” Buttigieg told “NBC Nightly News.”
Buttigieg used the meeting with Jordan to “convey the Department’s expectation that Southwest meet its obligations to passengers and workers and take steps to prevent a situation like this from happening again,” his department said.
“Southwest needs to make good on its promise to travelers,” the department tweeted.
In Congress, the Senate Commerce Committee also promised an investigation. Two Senate Democrats called on Southwest to provide “significant” compensation for stranded travelers, saying that the airline has the money because it plans to pay $428 million in dividends next month.
Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said the airline failed to fix problems that caused a similar meltdown in October 2021.
“There is a lot of frustration because this is so preventable,” Murray said. “The airline cannot connect crews to airplanes. The airline didn’t even know where pilots were at.”
No matter the cause, many passengers vowed to never again fly Southwest.
Among them was Danielle Zanin, who said it took four days, several canceled flights and sleeping in the airport before she, her husband and their two young kids got home to Illinois from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
They made stops at airports in Denver and Phoenix and reached Chicago only after ditching Southwest and paying $1,400 for four one-way tickets on American Airlines.
“I remember saying, ‘Oh my God, we’re getting on a plane!’ I was honestly shocked because I thought we were stuck in airports forever,” she said.
Zanin plans to ask Southwest to be reimbursed for part of their original tickets plus the new ones on American, and extra spending on rental cars, parking, an Uber ride and food — about $2,000 in all.
“I don’t have good faith that they will do much of anything,” she said.
With Post wires
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