Buttigieg speaks with Southwest Airlines CEO amid mass cancellations
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke Tuesday with the head of Southwest Airlines after the company canceled thousands of flights, leaving passengers stranded and scrambling for alternative travel plans after Christmas.
Buttigieg spoke with Southwest CEO Bob Jordan amid customer outrage at the airline, the Department of Transportation said in a statement, and the agency noted that it would take further action if Southwest fails to provide required recourse to passengers.
“This afternoon, Secretary Buttigieg spoke with the CEO of Southwest Airlines and conveyed that he expects the airline to live up to the commitments it has made to passengers, including providing meal vouchers, refunds and hotel accommodations for those experiencing significant delays or cancellations that came about as a result of Southwest’s decisions and actions,” the department said. “Southwest, as all airlines, is also obligated to provide a cash refund for passengers whose flights were cancelled and decided not to travel.”
Buttigieg also spoke to union leaders who represent Southwest pilots and flight attendants, some of whom were also stranded and forced to book hotel rooms after cancellations.
“He also conveyed to Southwest CEO that he expects Southwest to do right by their pilots and flight attendants — and all their workers — in these situations,” the department said in a statement.
The department indicated it would continue to work with Southwest “to make sure the airline does not allow a situation like this to happen again.”
In a subsequent interview with CNN, Buttigieg said customers would be able to file consumer protection complaints with the Department of Transportation if Southwest failed to follow its customer service plans for those dealing with delays or cancellations.
Thousands of Americans had their holiday travel upended because of widespread flight cancellations this week in the aftermath of a massive winter storm that has affected much of the country.
Southwest Airlines has been the biggest source of trouble for travelers, canceling more than 60 percent of its flights on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The airline has said it will likely take a few days to get back to its normal flying schedule.
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