January 13, 2023

Wyden, Colleagues Demand Answers from Southwest Airlines for Holiday Meltdown

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden this week joined Senate colleagues to seek answers from Southwest Airlines for its mass flight cancellations in Oregon and nationwide over the holidays in the final week of December.  

“The mass flight cancellations at Southwest Airlines (“Southwest”) during the last week of December ruined the holidays for tens of thousands of travelers, stranding them at gates without their bags and forcing them to miss celebrations with families and friends,” Wyden and colleagues wrote to Southwest Airlines CEO Robert E. Jordan. “Although winter storm Elliott disrupted flights across the country, every other airline operating in the United States managed to return to a regular flight schedule shortly thereafter — except Southwest. Southwest must take all necessary steps to ensure that this debacle never happens again.”

“For consumers across the country, this failure was more than a headache — it was a nightmare. Travelers were stranded across the country for days at a time, forced to spend hours on hold with Southwest customer service representatives or in-line at Southwest service desks at the airport,” the senators continued. “Now that Southwest has returned to a regular travel schedule and has finally begun returning bags to customers, the airline must examine the causes of this disaster and ensure it never happens again.”

Southwest canceled more than 7,500 flights between December 27 and 29 – in the wake of winter storm Elliott – even as all other major airlines cancelled 1,077 flights combined during that period. In the letter, Wyden and colleagues asked Southwest to explain the causes of this holiday debacle, including specific questions around its outdated scheduling software, personnel decisions, ticket refund policies, passenger baggage decisions, and shareholder compensation.

The letter was led by U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. Alongside Wyden, the letter was joined by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

The full letter is here.