Pete Buttigieg Gives Southwest CEO a Warning

Airline could face fines if legal obligations to customers are not met
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2022 12:04 AM CST
Pete Buttigieg Gives Southwest CEO a Warning
Canceled Southwest Airlines flights are seen in red on the departures flight schedules at the Southwest terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The Department of Transportation had warned it was looking into Southwest Airlines' massive problems over the last few days, and on Tuesday the department's secretary said he's offered a personal warning to the airline's CEO. "I made clear that our department will be holding them accountable for their responsibilities to customers, both to get them through this situation and to make sure that this can't happen again," Pete Buttigieg tells CNN. The situation has so far not improved; of Wednesday's more than 2,680 already-scheduled flight cancellations, Southwest accounts for all of them except about 155. Nearly two-thirds of Southwest's Tuesday flights ended up canceled, after more than two-thirds were canceled Monday; Southwest was responsible for 84% of all canceled US flights Tuesday.

Buttigieg tells NBC News that Southwest will be expected to offer refunds and reimbursements for hotel and other expenses without customers needing to ask, and that if the airline is found to have fallen short of its legal obligations, it could be fined. The DoT will also probe ongoing customer service problems at Southwest beyond the specific recent issues, he says. In a blog post Tuesday, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said he is "truly sorry." "I reached out to Secretary Buttigieg earlier today to continue the discussions we've been having with the DOT through the holiday," Jordan says. "We always take care of our Customers. And we will lean in and go above and beyond as they would expect us to." Jordan says the airline hopes to be "back on track before next week," the AP reports. USA Today has a guide for affected customers here. (More Southwest Airlines stories.)

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