The Biden administration’s top officials criticize Southwest Airlines for canceling more than 70% of its flights on Monday due to the severe blizzard that is wreaking havoc in numerous areas throughout the nation.
According to Southwest Airlines, more widespread cancellations and delays will occur over the next week. When other airlines have already stated that they are progressively recovering from the terrible weather, which began over a week ago, this has caused the Department of Transportation to become worried about interstate traffic. Southwest Airlines announced Monday that it would only run a third of its regularly planned flights over the coming several days, canceling over 60% of its Monday flights.
Major airlines canceled more than 17,000 interstate flights as a result of the weather, according to FlightAware. The crews of airports and airlines faced severe challenges due to the heavy snowfall, chilly air, and ice. Prior to the New Year’s holiday, Southwest Airlines indicated that it would be limiting the number of flights it would permit. This can have an impact on carrier pricing and expenses. However, officials claimed that even when other airlines have genuine issues, Southwest Airlines exceeds them.
“USDOT is concerned by Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays as well as the failure to support customers experiencing a cancellation or delay properly,” said the Department of Transportation.
“As more information becomes available, the Department will closely examine whether cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan as well as all other pertinent DOT rules.”
Excessive cancelations from Southwest
Air airlines have previously acknowledged that the holidays impacted their business. These include United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, and American Airlines. A few of them disclosed the number of flights that would be canceled. Southwest Airlines, however, had the greatest rate of cancellations out of all the airlines. For instance, American Airlines reported that 1% of all flights were canceled, while United Airlines reported that 5% of flights were canceled. But the management canceled 70% of Southwest Airlines’ planned flights.
“It’s all hands on deck to ensure our customers are cared for during the holiday travel season, including when severe weather hits. Critical to our preparations was sizing the airline for the resources we have available and operating conditions we face, as well as being able to react quickly to get our customers on their way once the weather clears,” said American in a press release.
Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson said the company is canceling scheduled flights in large numbers to stabilize its business. According to FlightAware, Southwest Airlines had already delayed two-thirds of its flights and canceled one-third of them. The news made by the corporation has shocked a lot of people. In light of this, the corporate management expressed their regret.
“Part of what we’re suffering is a lack of tools. We’ve talked an awful lot about modernizing the operation and the need to do that. And Crew Scheduling is one of the places that we need to invest in. We need to be able to produce solutions faster,” said Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan.
Read Also: Snow Storm Kills at Least 34 in the US
The crew is one of the most impacted stakeholders facing the issues facing airlines. According to unions, many pilots and flight attendants are reportedly already sleeping in airports due to a lack of hotel rooms. Additionally, teams must remain in the airport due to flight cancellations since they cannot depart in severe weather.
“Our customers struggled with it just as our thousands of flight attendants did. Unfortunately, these are issues that you can’t solve with holiday pay; this is time and quality of life that we will never get back,” said Lyn Montgomery, the Transport Workers Union of America Local 556 president.
“Temperatures have fallen so low that our equipment and infrastructure have been impacted, from frozen lav systems and fuel hoses to broken tow bars. Pilots have encountered frozen locks when trying to re-enter the jet bridge after conducting walk arounds,” announced United Airlines.
Numerous airports had operational delays due to the intense cold. Weather-related delays on most flights last, on average, 81 minutes. The phenomenon, also known as a bomb cyclone, occurs when an abrupt change in atmospheric pressure modifies the local air and humidity conditions. This week, New York has been badly impacted, with inches of snow covering the streets. The number of fatalities has crossed 50 due to the inability to transfer patients who need emergency care to a facility.
“Bombogenesis, a popular term used by meteorologists, occurs when a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours. A millibar measures atmospheric pressure. This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters. The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is called bombogenesis, which creates what is known as a bomb cyclone,” writes the National Ocean Service.
“Some were found in cars, some were found on the street in snowbanks. We know there are people who have been stuck in cars for more than two days,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
Many people have been left stuck inside cars and homes due to the snowstorm, and thousands of people are without power due to the winds damaging the power infrastructure.
Photo Credit: Demien Henderson for USA Today