Senator Cantwell calls for more responses from Southwest Airlines on holiday cancellation chaos

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter to Southwest Airlines on Thursday asking for a “full accounting” of how the airline reimburses customers after mass cancellations over the holiday.

The letter comes after Southwest Airlines COO Andrew Watterson testified before the Senate last week that workforce planning “just couldn’t keep up with the overwhelming amount of changes” during December’s winter storm.

Southwest Airlines canceled nearly 17,000 flights and did not return to normal operations for eight days over the holiday.

A Southwest Airlines jet arrives at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday, December 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt York/AP Newsroom)

Cantwell wrote in Thursday’s letter to Watterson that when asked about the scope of the canceled flights, Watterson “did not give a clear answer.”

“We also learned at the oversight hearing that passengers face too many hurdles in obtaining refunds and accessing information from airlines when airlines cancel their flights,” Cantwell wrote in the letter. “Clarifying the rules for refunds and simplifying the process for receiving a refund are among the sensible reforms we are considering for reapproval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).”


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A Southwest Airlines spokesman said they are reviewing Cantwell’s letter.

“We received the letter and will continue to work with the senator’s office,” the spokesman told Fox Business. “We share a shared commitment to ensure Southwest customers receive great care and hospitality.”


Baggage rows await their owners in Southwest Airlines baggage claim at LAX on Thursday, December 29, 2022. (Christina House/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines reported a net loss of $220 million in the fourth quarter of 2022 following the holiday chaos.


Captain Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association, testified before the Senate last week that officials had sounded the alarm about the airline’s outdated planning operations, but their warnings had fallen on deaf ears.

“Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” Murray told the Senate Commerce Committee. “Southwest has a history of repetition. Unfortunately, despite many opportunities, Southwest Airlines management did not listen to its pilots and frontline staff who saw this meltdown coming.”

Fox Business’s Daniella Genovese and Chris Pandolfo contributed to this report.

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