Pete Buttigieg calls out Southwest Airlines in letter, lays out priorities

Pete Buttigieg calls out Southwest Airlines in letter, lays out priorities

Southwest Airlines Pilots Association vice president Capt. Mike Santoro provides insight into Southwest’s ongoing flight cancellations and what the company can do to improve the situation.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg criticized Southwest for thousands of canceled flights recently and laid out four priorities he has for the airline in a letter Thursday to CEO Bob Jordan.

Buttigieg called the volume of flight disruptions experienced by Southwest Airlines customers over the Christmas weekend and this week “unacceptable,” indicating that he thought weather was not the only reason for delays and cancellations.

He also noted problems that have occurred amid the disruptions, including Southwest customers who “missed time with loved ones on vacation” and those who have been separated from their checked bags for long periods.

Fox News’ Peter Doocy received the letter.


Pete Buttigieg, US transportation secretary, during an announcement at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Nov. 21, 2022. (Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg via Getty Images/Getty Images)

A winter storm that affected large parts of the country caused Southwest and other major US airlines to delay or cancel flights as many people were traveling for the Christmas holiday, something Buttigieg noted in the letter.

Southwest, he suggested, has taken longer than other airlines to return to normal operations, which the Dallas-based company expects to happen on Friday.

Jordan said in a video Tuesday that the airline’s “very complex” network was thrown by the storm, with planes and crew members “in dozens of places” out of position, FOX Business previously reported.

Southwest had canceled more than 2,300 American flights on Thursday and canceled more than 2,500 on Wednesday, according to FlightAware.

A traveler waits outside the Southwest Airlines baggage claim office at Oakland International Airport in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images/Getty Images)

“No amount of financial compensation can fully compensate passengers who lost moments with their families that they can never get back – Christmas, birthdays, weddings and other special events,” Buttigieg wrote in the letter to Southwest’s CEO. “That’s why it’s so critical for Southwest to start by reimbursing passengers for those costs that can be measured in dollars to cents.”


The four priorities Buttigieg outlined for the airline: “Getting stranded passengers to their destinations safely and quickly; providing or reimbursing passengers for meals, hotels and ground transportation to or from hotels; promptly reimbursing passengers affected for their canceled tickets if the passenger does not accept. alternative offers such as booking; and ensuring that passengers are quickly reunited with their luggage.”

A Southwest Airlines plane arrives at Sky Harbor International Airport Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Phoenix, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York/AP Newsroom)

Buttigieg promised that the Department of Transportation would take steps to hold Southwest accountable to its commitments and obligations in those four areas if it failed to meet them.

In response to a request for comment, Southwest directed FOX Business about the update it posted earlier Thursday about its operations expected to return to normal “with minimal disruption” on Friday.


“With another holiday weekend full of important connections for our valued customers and employees, we are eager to get back to normal,” the airline said. “We know that even our deepest apologies – to our customers, to our employees and to everyone affected by their disruption – only go so far.”

Southwest said it created a website for refund and refund requests, baggage tracking and booking. Customers whose flights were canceled between December 24 and January 2 can “request a refund of [their] unused ticket in the original form of payment.”

Southwest passengers with a flight cancellation or significant delay in that time period can also “submit receipts” for other related expenses.

The company will “honor reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotel and alternative transportation,” according to the site.


The airline said in its update on Thursday that it has “a lot of work ahead of us, including investing in new solutions to manage large-scale disruptions”.

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