Speed Reads

Southwest Stumbles

DOT investigating chaos at Southwest after airline cancels more than 2,500 flights

While most air travel was able to recover by Tuesday from a winter storm pattern across the U.S., passengers on Southwest Airlines had a decisively different experience. 

The low-cost carrier had by far the greatest number of cancellations on Tuesday, with the airline-tracking website FlightAware reporting that more than 2,500 Southwest flights had been axed. This accounted for 63 percent of the airline's total flights, and CNN further reported that 87 percent of all domestic cancellations were from Southwest. 

In comparison, the carrier with the second-most cancellations, Spirit Airlines, grounded just 83 total flights. Other carriers such as American and United were showing cancellation rates between zero and two percent, per FlightAware. 

Part of the reason for the meltdown is that two of Southwest's hubs, Chicago Midway and Denver International, are in cities hit especially hard by the winter weather, stranding flyers in a pair of the airline's most high-traffic airports. An antiquated scheduling system was also pointed to as a significant factor in Southwest's troubles. 

"Operational conditions forced daily changes to our flight schedule at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to recover the airline operating at capacity," Southwest said in a statement

Additionally, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told The Wall Street Journal, "This is the largest-scale event that I've ever seen." He added that the company would be operating a third of its normal schedule to try and make up ground. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation tweeted that it was concerned by "Southwest's unacceptable rate of cancellations" and would investigate "if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan."